Disability Employment Practices Vary, SHRM/Cornell Research Finds

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR April 11, 2012

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has released the first in a series of three studies conducted in collaboration with, and commissioned by, the Cornell University ILR School Employment and Disability Institute.

The first report, released April 5, 2012, covers Practices and Policies Related to Recruiting and Hiring Employees with Disabilities. It was fielded Oct. 19-Dec. 15, 2011, and includes responses from 662 HR professionals, selected randomly from SHRM’s membership. Sixty percent of respondents worked for U.S.-based companies; the rest worked at multinational companies.

Although less than half of respondents said their organization targets people with disabilities in their recruitment efforts (47 percent) or have senior managers who demonstrate a strong commitment to disability employment (40 percent), most engage in one or more practices designed to reach members of this population, such as:

  • Referencing people with disabilities in the organization’s diversity and inclusion plan (61 percent).
  • Requiring contractors and subcontractors to adhere to disability nondiscrimination requirements (59 percent).
  • Training HR professionals and hiring managers on effective practices for interviewing people with disabilities (58 percent).
  • Having relationships with local organizations involved in disability employment (57 percent).

Only about a quarter of organizations (27 percent) said they take advantage of tax incentives available for hiring people with disabilities or set explicit hiring goals for their organizations.

Hiring goals can be difficult to measure, because some individuals choose not to identify themselves as a person with a disability, as SHRM Online has reported.

One in five respondents said they participate in disability-related internship or mentoring programs (20 percent). Few organizations (18 percent) hold senior management accountable (via their performance appraisals) for disability employment goals.

When respondents were asked to evaluate the effectiveness of the practices they use, one stood out from the rest: 45 percent of respondents said training HR staff and supervisors how to interview people with disabilities was “very effective,” and 37 percent said it was a “somewhat effective” practice.

However, 17 percent of companies that provide such training said it was “not effective” for increasing disability employment, which represented the largest percentage who responded negatively about a particular practice.

About a quarter of respondents surveyed who said their organization used a particular practice were unable to offer an opinion as to whether it was an effective practice, suggesting that some organizations might need to explore various ways to measure results.

The research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Information on recruiting, retaining and developing individuals with disabilities, including recruiting sources, can be found on SHRM Online’sbDisability Employment Resource Page.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

How Employers Gain Access to Talent with Brain Injuries, SHRM Online Diversity Discipline, February 2012

New Resource Calculates ROI of Hiring People with Disabilities, SHRM Online Diversity Discipline, October 2011

Turning Disability into Business Advantage, SHRM Online Diversity Discipline, April 2011

Quick Links:

SHRM Disability Employment Resource Page

SHRM’s collection of resources on disability as an element of diversity

SHRM’s collection of resources on disability accommodations

Diversity & Inclusion Group on SHRM Connect

Diversity & Inclusion Monthly E-Newsletter


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