Southwest Washington has a wealth of talented, skillful job seekers who are eager to work for you. Among them are people with developmental disabilities – a population that is more than 75 percent unemployed. When you hire one of these job seekers you will get individuals who have much better attendance than average employees, are extraordinarily committed to being a good employee and have a focus on working hard throughout their scheduled shift. Simply put, these will be some of the most loyal and reliable employees you can find.
For some employers, and individual employees, there can be a social barrier that needs to be addressed. Thoughts like, “we can’t have one of ‘those’ people working here and creating a distraction;” or “we aren’t equipped to support someone with a disability,” are just a few of the prejudices that may prevent you from improving your workforce. The research is overwhelmingly positive: when an employer has employed someone with special needs, along with utilizing appropriate professional assistance to make this transition, the employer recognizes a significant improvement in overall performance from this employee as well as the overall workforce of the company.
Having an employee with special needs does not translate to granting special privileges. An employer shouldn’t lower their expectations for someone with special needs, but they do need to be consistent, fair and reasonable with all of their employees and many of these social barriers will disappear. A quality supported employment organization can help the employer identify appropriate positions for employees with developmental disabilities and navigate through these minor adjustments, to help the employer gain access to this talent-rich workforce.
Often times a job seeker with developmental disabilities will need some type of assistance to complete the application and hiring process, as well as the initial training for their position. This “job coaching” can be provided by an employment organization at no cost to the employer. The job coach provides the employee with initial on-the-job training as well as ongoing training and follow up as needed, diminishing their involvement as the employee gains greater stability with their workplace responsibilities. The job coach also works with the employer, and their other employees, to help them understand how to create an environment that will improve their overall work place and that of their co-worker with developmental disabilities.
Within Clark County, there are countless examples of companies that could not see how a supported employee would “fit” into their current structure, only to realize that once they tapped into this workforce they couldn’t imagine not having such a talented and diverse employee as part of their team. I urge you to contact a qualified employment organization today to at least discuss the benefits you are missing by not exploring this part of our local workforce.
John Vanderkin is the president of Employers Overload. He can be reached at 503.603.2053.