hiring they can do it

No Greatness Without Goodness – 2014 Fast Company’s 10 Books You Need To Read this Year.

Nearly 70% of individuals with disabilities and 95% of people with severe cognitive disabilities such as autism will never hold down a job. The reason is that no matter what they do and how well they do it, we employers rarely give them a chance.

Hiring people with disabilities confirms:

  • People with disabilities perform their job just as well as other workers.
  • May need some accommodations, but are high performing.
  • Are absent less.
  • Do not have a high turnover rate.
  • Work more safely resulting in lower workman’s comp costs.

After watching the world through the eyes of his own child with autism, Randy believed that people with disabilities could do more. He pioneered a disability employment model in Walgreens distribution centers that resulted in 10% of its workforce consisting of people with disabilities. (1000+People With Disabilities) Walgreens new goal is 20% of its workforce. It is now the “gold standard of disability hiring.”

The Walgreens success serves as a model for other small and large employers in the US and abroad including Best Buy, Lowes and P&G.

Walgreen employees with disabilities are part of an inclusive workforce. They are paid the same pay, same benefits, and held to the same standards as any other employee.

In his book, No Greatness Without Goodness, Randy shares with us the principals for successfully hiring people with disabilities.

16 Principals for hiring people with disabilities:

  1. Have a Champion: No champion, no success.
  1. Set a goal and monitor progress relentlessly and conspicuously: “What get’s measured get’s done.”
  1. Go big: Create a clear and elevating goal.
  1. Have a bias for action, not planning: Do not spend much time with what-ifs.
  1. Don’t underestimate the abilities of employees with special needs: Talent and disabilities go in the same sentence.
  1. Apply the same performance standards for all employees: You’re a business, not a charity
  1. Keep your fear in check: The biggest impediment for hiring people with disabilities is fear.
  1. Start in parts of the organization where the leaders have caught the vision: Leaders need to be on board.
  1. Make sure that operations is driving the initiatives: Without a commitment of operations, there’s no success.
  1. Adapt a “consistent in objectives, flexible in means” attitude toward policies: Be open to change when a policy or process gets in the way of your objective.
  1. Manage in the gray: Be willing to overturn or modify rules as particular situations arise.
  1. Provide visible support from the top: Let people know if something goes wrong, you have their backs.
  1. Use community partners: Get help to find, screen, and train people with disabilities.
  1. Develop a transitional work program: Consider creating a transitional work program to give people with disabilities more time to adjust.
  1. Unleash people’s longing to make a difference: Let team members know their part is critical.
  1. When you are successful, give it a way: Once you reach a level of success, share your story with the world,

I asked Randy what happened at the board of directors meeting. There was only one question. “What happens if it doesn’t work,” Randy answered: “We will adjust.” “The board trusted me and knew I would make it work.”

As a board member, executive, or manager, why have power if you don’t use it for doing good and making a difference. Hiring people with disabilities is one way you can make a difference.

This post is based on a conversation with Randy Lewis, a former Senior Vice President of Walgreens, and author of No Greatness Without Goodness. Randy is a pioneer in the disability hiring movement.

Which of the 16 principals resonates with you? Can you share an experience that has had a positive effect on someone being hired with a disability? Does your company have a policy of hiring people with disabilities?

P.S. – Do you need an Outside Director, Advisory Board Member, Trusted Advisor,  or Interim CEO?  Someone who can help you see your business and your goals through “Fresh Eyes.”  Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there.  Sometimes all it takes is someone with a fresh viewpoint, unencumbered by company politics or culture to help find the right solution.

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Larry Putterman
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