Tips for Retaining Employees With Disabilities

Published November 9, 2021

The world is in the middle of a Great Resignation. Employees across countless industries and skill levels are leaving their jobs in order to find work that pays better, offers more perks, and provides job flexibility and stability. According to a survey of 30,000 people across 31 countries by Mercer, a record-high 41 percent of workers plan to leave their jobs this year.

Even before this mass resignation trend started, retention was a sore spot for employers. It costs an average of six to nine months’ salary to replace an employee, so a worker who earns $60,000 will cost the company up to $45,000 in lost productivity, recruitment fees, and training expenses.

The key to employee retention is to create an environment where people want to stay. Employers need to create channels where their team members can thrive and give back to a company that has invested in them.

Follow these steps to create an environment where employees with disabilities can succeed so they don’t look for better employment elsewhere.

Follow through with your Onboarding promises

During the hiring and interviewing process, your team members sell an idealized version of your company. They want to make your organization seem appealing so your candidates accept your job offers. Unfortunately, problems arise when the ideal version that your human resources team presented in the training strays too far from reality.

For example, some companies promise flexible work options and claim to understand when employees need to attend therapy or doctors’ appointments during the day. This lasts for a few weeks until an employee seemingly becomes a burden because they need to attend these appointments. Also, employees with disabilities often find that buildings are less accessible than they were promised or that their employers lack the assistive technology they use.

False promises will drive employees with disabilities to quit. However, they can also lead to legal trouble. Lawsuits against employers who make false promises are increasingly common, as former workers highlight negligent misrepresentation and other illegal activities by organizations. An employee may have a claim if you fail to follow through with everything you promised during their hiring period.

Establish disability-focused resource groups

Resource groups allow people to work toward professional development, advocate for more inclusive environments, and network with others within their organization. These groups typically meet during lunch hours or in the evenings depending on the work schedule of employees. Some resource groups meet monthly, while others set a weekly time where anyone who wants to connect or needs help can attend.

However, language matters in the resource groups you create. A resource group for employees with disabilities might seem inclusive, but it could actually isolate some potential members. Instead, consider developing a disability-focused resource group. The purpose of this group is to help the company better accommodate people with disabilities, while also welcoming different members in.

By making the group disability-focused, workers who have invisible disabilities can feel more comfortable attending. The group can also gain support from employees who want to learn more about disability advocacy and inclusion.

Create accessible networking opportunities

There’s a common phrase that the best networking happens on the golf course, but this idea is often rooted in truth. In some offices, employees form friendships and tight bonds over after-work drinks or through recreational kickball and basketball teams. These group activities aren’t always accessible and can even be hostile for people with disabilities.

Strive to make your company-sanctioned networking and team-building events accessible to all employees. This means hosting the company holiday party during work hours so your employees don’t need to arrange later transportation. This could also mean creating lunch events and mid-day activities for your team.

Also, remember that beer and business don’t mix. Alcohol-based networking events exclude non-drinkers and can create an unwelcome environment for people who have experienced trauma due to alcoholism.

These networking opportunities extend beyond internal and local connections. Your employees with disabilities also want to attend conferences, leadership development programs, and other professional events that might require travel. Not only should these employees feel welcome to attend these events, but your travel planning team should know how to book transportation and lodging that accommodates their needs.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of virtual training opportunities and networking groups available, many people still prefer to connect in person. Your employees with disabilities don’t want to be limited to these virtual events when they could travel to live ones.

Listen to your employees

Adopting a healthy company culture is one of the best ways to win over employees with disabilities and create an environment they want to stay in. When your employee feels like their voice is heard and valued, they can provide solutions and ideas to increase accessibility. They can feel safe advocating for themselves without fearing repercussions.

One study by Dr. Chris Mullen, executive director of The Workforce Institute at UKG, found that 86 percent of employees feel like they aren’t fairly heard by their employers.

“Embracing employee feedback may mean the difference between retaining a high performer and recruiting someone to fill their vacancy,” says Mullen. “Employees who do not feel heard may also feel undervalued which can lead to distrust and disengagement.”

Actively listening to your team members – and taking action based on their ideas and concerns – can have a significant impact on your retention rates.

Constantly work to create an inclusive environment

Every year there are new innovations in accessibility and inclusivity. New assistive technologies let people interact with the world. Greater awareness about accessibility allows companies to improve their day-to-day operations. This is all great news, but only if your company hears about it and implements the new tools and ideas.

Challenge your team members to stay on top of assistive technology and accessibility best practices. Dedicate an HR resource to keeping your company modern and leading inclusivity training.

Your company has come so far in creating an accessible environment for your employees. If you want to retain them, you can’t rest on your laurels.

Track your retention efforts

As you implement these inclusive retention efforts, take steps to track your progress. You can monitor the quit rate of employees and conduct meaningful exit interviews to understand what pushes people away. If these efforts don’t change your employee retention, there may be other reasons why your staff members don’t stay.

Employee retention efforts improve your bottom line, but they also create a healthy work environment for employees. They allow people to feel like their work is meaningful and their job is stable. Considering your team members spend most of their waking hours in the workplace, creating a safe environment is the human thing to do, from the newest intern to the most-seasoned executive.

To learn more about accessibility in the workplace, turn to the resources at Accessibility.com. You can also check out our Accessibility Matters video series to learn how accessibility intersects with business.

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