This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

January 23, 2008

Hiring People with Disabilities Makes Business Sense

As the labor market tightens and employers begin considering overlooked population segments, they will find a gold mine in people with disabilities. According to Alexis Herman, former United States Secretary of Labor, "only one-third of disabled Americans are employed, even though more than two-thirds of unemployed people with disabilities say they would like to work".

Unfortunately, discrimination is alive and well. Mostly, this prejudice is rooted in fear and misunderstanding: fear of not knowing how to relate to people with disabilities, fear that accommodations will be costly, fear that "once hired, never fired", and fear of potential lawsuits. However, as companies and organizations that hire people with disabilities will tell you---these fears are often groundless and easily can be overcome.

An organization of business leaders, the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN®) ( is having a major impact on this situation. Representing over 5000 businesses networking together, members share best practices and look for innovative solutions for recruiting and retaining workers with disabilities. In the spirit of cooperation, they work together, dedicated to educating each other on the business imperative of hiring individuals with disabilities---and the Return on Investment this socially responsible effort brings to the table.

One major USBLN® initiative is its Annual Career Fair, held in conjunction with its Annual Conference, which provides an opportunity for businesses to meet with high school and college students about career choices. As reported by Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (, about 45 percent of college graduates with disabilities are unemployed or underemployed. USBLN is working to fix this disconnect.

Beyond connecting businesses to youth, the USBLN® markets the business case for hiring people with disabilities. Aside from doing "the right thing", hiring people with disabilities enhances a company's bottom line by creating a more varied workforce with true diversity of thought in meeting workplace challenges. Surveys have shown that people with disabilities have lower absenteeism rates, which correspond to additional dollars going to a company's bottom line.

Hiring people with disabilities will attract customers with disabilities to your products and services as they'll see, through your employees, your commitment to their community. From a Gallup poll, we also know that 88 percent of American people would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disabilities. The time is overdue for companies to overcome their fears and increase the employment of people with disabilities within their ranks.

According to Katherine McCary, USBLN's President, and a loaned executive from SunTrust Bank, "Hiring people with disabilities requires CEO commitment; when CEOs get disability as a diversity case, they often get the business case".

Our forecast: business leaders worldwide will embrace the profitability of hiring people with disabilities to help them address the growing, critical skilled labor shortages.

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