3 Ways Your Staffing Agency Can Support Employees with Disabilities

What if we told you we know about a massive pool of talented, loyal, hardworking individuals that could help your staffing agency grow? I’d be willing to bet your firm is always looking for people fitting that description. 

There are approximately 61 million adults with a disability in the United States. That means that nearly 1 in 4 people have some type of disability. In a labor market that continues to get tighter and tighter, perhaps it’s time for your agency to take a more strategic look at this pool of talent.

You likely have some questions or preconceived notions about what hiring a person with disabilities might mean for your agency. You might think that you or your clients will need to invest significant time or resources into making their worksites more accessible to this type of worker, but that’s not always the case. 

“The tight labor markets like we’re seeing in California and D.C. are a great opportunity for staffing agencies to demonstrate to their clients that candidates with a disability can be great employees with little to no additional cost.” says Calvin Sanders, Founder at Bolt Gigs, an agency Powered by Shiftgig.

In conversations with workers and staffing agencies regarding how to make candidates with disabilities succeed in the on-demand workforce, we found recurring themes around three key areas: building personal connections with the workers, coaching clients on the benefits of hiring employees with a disability, and the use of technology. 

Building Personal Connections 

Part of the draw of working with a staffing agency is feeling supported and having someone in your corner when it comes to your career. I frequently hear from our staffing agency partners that building personal connections and improving peoples’ lives are why they’re in this industry. 

While building a personal connection with a candidate or employee with a disability might be different than other candidates, it is just as impactful. For example, someone who is deaf or hard of hearing might prefer to have an American Sign Language interpreter or use a voice-to-text app as opposed to a verbal discussion with your recruiting team. Ensuring your agency takes the time to understand their goals and help them find a job that they’re qualified for is no different from any other person who applies with your firm. 

Calvin from Bolt Gigs shared, “Our recruiting team serves as advocates and career coaches for all of our workers, with a disability and those without disabilities. We give them advice on new skills to learn and where they can learn these skills, help them refine their resumes, and function as mentors during the job search.” 

Additionally, simple accommodations can often be made for some jobs. “We do our best to accommodate individuals with disabilities and their requests when they pick up shifts in the system,” said Kate Noreen, Program Director at Headway Workforce Solutions, another staffing agency that is Powered by Shiftgig. “For example, many of our conference positions require staff to stand for long periods of time. If staff reach out to us and let us know that this is a concern, we try to find them a comparable “sitting” schedule or ask the client if an exception can be made.“

Coaching Clients 

Some of your clients might be hesitant to hire an employee with disabilities. Title I of the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibits discrimination by employers and employment agencies against applicants, employees, and former employees with disabilities. It is imperative that your agency takes the time to educate your clients about the benefits of considering all qualified candidates that are represented by your agency.

Some clients may assume that all accommodations will be burdensome or expensive, and that is simply not the case. Use this as an opportunity to inform your clients that with modified arrangements they can get access to even more high-quality talent. 

Bolt Gigs encourages their recruiting team to build relationships with their client contacts. “That way, the recruiter, who has lots of face-time with workers themselves, can explain to the client why a worker could be a good fit for the open role,” said Calvin. 

Headway Workforce Solutions also stressed the importance of coordinating with clients. Kate shared, “We have a few clients who require the viewing of training materials for their shifts. Clients have added closed captioning to their training videos for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additionally, those employees always have the option to have an in-person interpreter or Video Remote Interpreter (VRI) if they prefer. We will always try to find something that works for each person; we celebrate diversity in our staff.”

It might feel awkward for account managers or recruiters to have these conversations with clients at first, but taking this extra step will highlight small ways your clients can make their businesses more inclusive. Oftentimes, these accommodations are simple changes that clients are happy to make and go a long way in building your credibility as a trusted partner with your workforce. You can host a training course at your agency for your internal team, individual branches, or for clients who are interested in being inclusive. There are many organizations that offer training and toolkits — some are even free! 

Leveraging Technology 

While there might be an assumption that a candidate with a disability might need expensive or cumbersome accommodations, with the help of technology that isn’t the case. 

Workers at the staffing agencies who use Deploy by Shiftgig have given great feedback about the benefits of using the app. Finding work is easy and fast because you don’t have to sift through thousands of jobs online; you can browse the app to find opportunities that work for you. The feedback functionality in the app also gets great reviews from workers. The ability to leave feedback on jobs and see their agency take action helps them feel like their voice matters. Workers enjoy getting positive feedback from their clients when they do a good job as well! 

Beyond the use of digital staffing apps like Deploy, there are many other services or apps to help facilitate communication or successful job placements. 

For example, if you are considering hiring a candidate who is deaf, one great tool mentioned before is utilizing a Video Remote Interpreter (VRI). VRI is a web-based video technology that is convenient and affordable. The Hearing and Deaf person can be in the same room and the interpreter is remote, helping facilitate communication. Another option is Google Transcribe. This app allows a recruiter, supervisor, or another employee at the job site to speak normally and the app will translate their voice into text for a person who is deaf to read. This is free, easy to use, but does require a mobile phone with a WiFi connection or data plan. 

Another example of relatively low-cost technology that can help low vision candidates are screen readers or screen magnifiers. This technology can be installed on computers at your agency or at your client sites so those with visual impairments can claim those assignments. Additionally, there are Point of Sale (POS) systems that offer specific features for visually impaired or blind employees, so have your hospitality or restaurant clients see if this can be integrated with their current in-house POS system.

Technology is always evolving to improve peoples’ everyday lives. If you are investing in hiring and placing employees with disabilities, there is sure to be a simple technology solution to help them be successful on their assignments. 

Resources 

Becoming educated is the first step towards being inclusive at your agency. If you’re interested in learning more ways that you can better ingrain candidates and employees with disabilities into your staffing agency, we’ve compiled several resources to help get you started. If you have other resources that your agency uses, let us know and we’ll add them here!

Conclusion 

Staffing agencies are always looking for talented workers and candidates with disabilities should not be overlooked. In fact, some agencies find that their workers with a disability are among their most loyal employees, sticking with jobs they’re successful at and enjoy. In an industry where turnover is one of the biggest pain points, actively recruiting in these communities can help change someone’s life while helping connect your clients with a hardworking, dedicated employee. It’s a win-win-win.

About The Author

Stephanie is the Director of Marketing at Shiftgig and a self-proclaimed bar trivia extraordinaire. When she’s not helping transform the way people work, she is on the hunt for the best tacos in Chicago and cheering on the Boston Red Sox. To connect with Stephanie, follow her on Twitter @ShiftgigSteph.