Disability inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a feel-good policy. There are real benefits to both employers and employees.
The janitorial business is competitive, and every move you make is measured. You look at the ROI, the potential for new clients, what a new service will cost you, and how it will help you acquire and retain clients. You want your strategies and policies to make good business sense. So how does disability inclusion in the workplace fit into that?
It sounds nice, sure. The employment rate among those with intellectual or developmental disabilities is dismal. You could make positive changes in the world by hiring people with disabilities. But where do you begin? For that matter, how will that help your business?
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Why disability inclusion in the workplace is both important and profitable for janitorial businesses
Argus Janitorial has served the Spokane, Washington region for over 20 years. They offer the services you would expect from a janitorial company: office cleaning, window cleaning, specialized floor care, carpet shampooing, and more. Argus also centers their business on disability inclusion in the workplace. The results? “Quality scores, on-time delivery, productivity, and customer satisfaction have reached all-time highs.”
Research from Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), found that inclusive workplaces have up to 30% lower staff turnover and are up to four times more likely to outperform their peers. In addition, they report that 78% of consumers will patronize businesses that “take steps to ensure easy access for individuals with disabilities.”
Want more? The IRS offers tax incentives to businesses for following through with a plan for disability inclusion in the workplace. The United States Department of Labor (DOL) cites the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Disabled Access Credit as two primary tax incentives, but there are others, such as the Barrier Removal Tax Credit and individual state tax credits and incentives.
How to plan your disability inclusion program (+ helpful resources to guide your success)
When you’re ready to bring your disability inclusion in the workplace program to life, the DOL has several resources to help you get started. In the meantime, here’s a brief overview of how to get your program up and running.
1. Recruit employees. Get in touch with the vocational rehabilitation agency in your state. These agencies connect employees and employers to help create meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. You can also connect with Disability:IN, a “national nonprofit organization that helps businesses meet and exceed their goals through disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace.”
2. Be open to accommodations. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to revamp your entire commercial cleaning operation. What it does mean is that you may need to be a little flexible here and there. The Center for Workforce Preparation, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reports that the most requested accommodation is a flexible schedule. However, they also note that 73% of employers found that “their workers with disabilities did not require accommodations.” And to be honest, you probably already accommodate employees all the time with schedule or assignment requests or using a janitorial app that lets workers view and read checklists in their native language.
3. Use People First Language (PFL). This one is pretty simple. It just means that you put the person first. For example, you hire people with disabilities rather than disabled people.
4. Institute a mentorship program. A mentor can be helpful for many reasons. For your business, a mentorship program can help create a more inclusive workplace, reduce turnover, and help you develop skilled employees. The mentor can build leadership skills, and the mentee may feel more welcome and appreciated in a new job.
5. Train your team. Disability inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a catchphrase or a box to check off. For true inclusiveness, your entire team needs to be on board. Mentoring programs are one way to do that. But it’s also important to be open with your team about what to expect and what your expectations are. Get them excited by sharing how an inclusive environment is better for everyone.
6. Maintain high expectations. There’s a theory about performance that, to paraphrase, states that people will perform to the level you expect of them. Teachers who believe their students are intelligent and can learn tend to have stronger students. Similarly, it’s fair to maintain the expectation of high-quality work from everyone on your team. That may require some of those previously mentioned accommodations, but having different expectations for different employees won’t help anyone.
7. Talk. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to your new employees. They’re the experts on this. Focus on the abilities and not the disabilities. Get in touch with any of these resources below and ask questions.
For more guidance and help, check out any of these resources:
The Campaign for Disability Employment: “Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the CDE is a highly collaborative effort among several disability and business organizations working to change attitudes about disability and employment.”
Job Accommodation Network: JAN “is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.”
Disability:IN: ” Disability:IN is the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide.”
Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion: EARN “is a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities.”
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