EY sees to it that their recruiters are well prepared to find viable candidates with differing abilities. The firm’s nontraditional recruiting methods can be used at any company trying to recruit and retain people with disabilities.
By Tamika Cody
As baby boomers retire in droves and millennials venture out every two to three years for a new opportunity, filling the void in the employment gap has become more challenging than ever. But it’s a challenge that can be easily conquered if companies consider recruiting candidates with disabilities.
The talent is there. According to the 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Labor Force Characteristics Summary, the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities was 64.6 percent. And over the past 25 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the unemployment rate for the group has only decreased by 5.4 percent. It’s a number that companies should pay more attention to, especially those scrambling to figure out how to replenish the dwindling talent pool.
One company that has stayed on top of tapping into the disabled workforce is EY. The accounting firm currently holds the No. 1 spot on DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities (and the No. 4 spot on the Top 50 Companies for Diversity). It’s a position that the firm earned by communicating its priorities from the executive level. “Part of my job is to set the right tone from the top,” EY’s managing partner, Steve Howe, said during an interview with DiversityInc. Howe also expressed the importance of educating team leaders on how to be inclusive with people with varying abilities. “We are doing all of those things in terms of communication, awareness, changes to the workplace and educating our leaders to be inclusive.”
The firm tapped several individuals within its diversity recruiting area to focus on veterans and people with disabilities. “Their focus is really strategic,” said Lori Golden, EY’s abilities strategy leader. “It’s not that they are the individuals who interview people with disabilities that happen to come our way. They are the people who spend time thinking about new and creative ways for us to find partnerships with organizations, for us to continually educate our recruiters so that our recruiters understand our commitment and themselves feel comfortable interacting with people who have differing abilities.”
One of the interesting new things EY has done is take the initiative and seek out opportunities, rather than wait until a prospect makes his or her way to the firm. “We proactively look for opportunities for our recruiters to get out into the marketplace where they are helping guide students and job candidates with disabilities,” said Golden.
The recruiters assist potential candidates with résumé review, attend networking events and sit on panel discussions throughout the year. “This gives us an opportunity to meet candidates,” shared Golden. “It also gives us an opportunity to give that recruiter direct interaction with a lot of students with disabilities. When [a recruiter] comes back and starts recruiting, it’s easier for the recruiter because he or she is more comfortable.” She added that it’s also a way to get recruiters out in the field to give back and invest in the pipeline: “The other benefit is that we are educating [recruiters] through direct experience. That is one of the practices that I think is unusual, which we’re proud of.”
Training and educating EY recruiters is an ongoing, multilayered process. “We don’t believe in one shots. We don’t do just one training and say we’re done,” Golden explained. On a quarterly basis, EY recruiters receive updates on what’s taking shape in the marketplace around issues of diversity, what the firm is doing that’s new and different and what some of the success stories are within the firm.
The firm has recruiters, managers and those higher up than managers go through inclusive leadership training. “Disabilities is woven into the fabric,” said Golden. “We have case studies in almost every area of diversity, including disabilities,” which Golden noted is part of the foundation.
Although EY exemplifies best practices on recruiting and retaining employees with differing abilities, other companies are also really getting it. “There are more companies focusing on the culture, the leadership and driving inclusion throughout all aspects of the organization rather than simply going out and recruiting,” Golden said. “To me, that’s what’s really exciting.”
Take a Second Look
Recruiting people with disabilities has been important to EY approach since its founding thanks to its co-founder, Arthur Young, who was deaf and had impaired vision. But Golden who admits the firm has had to re-evaluate its approach over the years. “What we hadn’t done, until about 10 years ago, is to take a step back and ask, ‘Is our culture as welcoming as it needs to be? Is our environment welcoming?’”
Golden said the firm didn’t just look at the physical space, education or accessibility. Rather, EY took all business processes into consideration. “Are your business processes really inclusive for all of your people? Do you do things like caption routinely? Do you take into account that people may need information in different formats and that you need to create transcriptions of [documents] that needs to be available seamlessly? … Are you thinking through how it is to participate with someone with different abilities at social events? More and more companies are doing that.”
Click here to see the 2015 DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities.