Disability Business Roundtable | NOD’s Chairman and Corporate Partners Featured in USDOL Blog
Blog by Patricia A. Shiu, the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
Inclusive, diverse workplaces are good for business. But how can businesses find qualified workers of diverse backgrounds and abilities? How does creating a culture of inclusion affect this and other diversity issues in the modern workplace? How can government and business work together to achieve common goals of equal employment opportunity, increased productivity and success?
These were some of the issues the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs raised when it hosted a disability business roundtable this October, “Best Practices and Strategies for Success.” The first of its kind for OFCCP, the event attracted 60 individuals from the federal contractor community, such as Northrop Grumman, 3M, CVS, Sprint, Raytheon and Sodexo, as well as representatives from colleges, universities and disability organizations. As contractors heard and learned from others in the business community, the discussions were open and frank.
OFCCP strengthened its regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in September 2013, by, among other things, creating a 7 percent aspirational goal for contractors, and focusing on data collection and data-based decision making. Since that time OFCCP has engaged in a continuing dialogue with contractors. We have listened and learned about the challenges they face in meeting that aspirational goal.
First, contractors state that they experience difficulty finding individuals with disabilities who have the skills and training necessary to fill existing job vacancies. Second, contractors have reported that they find that individuals with disabilities seldom self-identify unless reasonable accommodation is needed. Despite this, many contractors and other employers shared innovative and time-tested approaches that they have used to address these important issues.
The roundtable provided a forum for businesses to share best practices, effective strategies, experiences and lessons learned. It tapped into the knowledge and experience of corporate leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to opening the doors of opportunity and fostering a welcoming workplace.
The half-day event featured two panels of corporate leaders from different sectors, who shared their companies’ successes and promising approaches for fostering voluntary self-identification, and for increasing the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities.
- Prudential, PNC and Merck increased self-identification rates by developing comprehensive self-identification strategies, and creating an inclusive culture in every line of business.
- First Bank of Omaha increased its employee response rate for its self-identification campaign to nearly 70 percent through high employee engagement strategies.
- Boston Scientific and General Motors focused on creating strategic partnerships with colleges and universities to identify students with disabilities in STEM programs.
- Giant Eagle and Toys R Us used job coaches and other means to recruit, hire, train, promote and retain more workers with disabilities.
An executive from United Technologies Corp. also shared why recruiting individuals with disabilities is good for business, and described the company’s challenges and successes in its efforts to recruit and retain individuals with disabilities.
The roundtable is part of our larger strategy to expand direct engagement with federal contractors to help them successfully implement Section 503 and other agency regulations. It confirmed that many employers are interested in doing more to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities, and that business and government can work together to make this happen.
It also affirmed a recent statement by Gov. Tom Ridge, chair of the National Organization for Disability, when describing the impact of the Section 503 regulations: “[W]e are already beginning to see the signs of progress. Slow and incremental for sure, but progress nonetheless.”
We look forward to building on that progress in the future. For more information about the agency and its outreach efforts, visit dol.gov/ofccp.