When the unemployment rate dips below five percent, that’s great for the Texas economy, but finding qualified job candidates becomes increasingly difficult for employers. When the unemployment rate falls below four percent, Texas employers must begin redoubling recruiting efforts. That means finding new ways to identify those great people who are not already working.
There’s a hidden pool of qualified, enthusiastic, eager and skilled job candidates in every market who have been continually overlooked. This overlooked employee pool is comprised of people who have a disability.
In 2009, the U.S. Congress broadened the definition of disability to include millions more Americans. Far beyond those in wheelchairs or those with developmental disabilities, the definition of what constitutes a disability has expanded under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), ranging from diabetes to asthma to even sleep disorders. Given this broader definition, chances are most companies have already hired someone with a disabling condition and they just don’t know it.
Why should a company proactively hire people with disabling conditions? Smart employers looking for new ways to compete will recognize assumptions about employees with disabilities are rarely accurate. For example, many employees with disabilities acquired their conditions as adults, either from an illness injury or from military service. That means they’ve attained education, often with advanced degrees – such as MBAs – and certifications and have experience working for businesses of all sizes. Most of these employees often do not consider themselves “disabled.”
In the Texas business community, it’s par for the course to expend substantial time and money recruiting employees from outside the country because employers believe there are not enough candidates in the U.S. to fill open roles. Most companies aren’t even aware of the competitive edge they could give themselves if just a fraction of those resources were dedicated to seeking qualified talent among employees with disabilities right here in Texas.
How can employers tap into this motivated, talented pool of employees while being sensitive to a candidate’s condition? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), job candidates cannot be asked if they have a disability before they have been offered the job. However, they have issued guidance and avenues for employers to actively recruit job candidates that have disabilities. Here are a few steps to take:
Keep in mind that incorporating these suggestions does not mean a company should surrender its standards of performance or conduct to which all employees are held accountable. An employer should look for all the talent that matches the roles the company needs – and then fill them with people who are ready and willing to go to work.
The battle for talent is fierce and those who employ the same old strategies will get the same old results. However, those who think differently and find valuable candidates where others fear to go are the competitors who will come out on top.
Charlie Graham is CEO of Texas-based Peak Performers.
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