Disability-Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring Practices and Policies: Who Has Them and What Difference Does it Really Make?

The employment rate of individuals with a disability in the United States is less than half that of employees without disabilities. To help reduce that gap, this study by researchers at the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University, in collaboration with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), examined the prevalence and effectiveness of practices and policies implemented in private sector organizations to increase recruitment and hiring of persons with disabilities (PWDs). As conditions they examined in U.S. are likely similar to those in Canada, the study findings would be applicable in this country as well.

This study was based on data collected by a national survey of U.S. human resource (HR) professionals knowledgeable about their organization’s disability policies and practices as well as their hiring and recruitment strategies.

The results indicate that about three-quarters of surveyed HR professionals said that their organizations had implemented at least one of eight disability-inclusive hiring and recruitment policies/practices. The two most commonly introduced policies or practices were forming a relationship with community organizations and including persons with disabilities in the organization’s diversity and inclusion plan—approximately half the surveyed organizations implemented one or both of these approaches. Only about 40% of respondents said their organization actively recruited PWDs, and only about a third reported having strong senior management commitment to hiring more inclusively. Types of organizations most strongly committed to inclusive hiring practices included larger ones, federal contractors, and non-profit organizations.

The researchers measured the effectiveness of disability recruitment and hiring practices as the likelihood an organization that has implemented a particular practice has a PWD on staff, compared to those without this practice. Using this measure, the disability recruitment and hiring practices the researchers found to be the most effective were the following:

  1. Providing internships for PWDs;
  2. Having a strong senior management commitment to PWDs; and
  3. Having explicit organizational goals regarding PWDs.

Organizations with one of the above practices were over four times more likely to have hired a PWD than those without that practice. Other practices that increased chances of hiring a PWD, but to a lesser extent, included, in order: actively recruiting PWDs, including them in diversity/inclusion plans, considering PWD goals in management performance assessment, and establishing relationships with community PWD organizations. The authors conclude that if the more effective practices were implemented in a greater number of organizations, this could significantly improve the employment of persons with disabilities.

This brief would be of great use to both practitioners and employers interested in increasing the representation of persons with disabilities in the workplace.