We all know about the hiring chain—if we have a positive
employee experience, it’s more likely we will refer people from our networks to
work for the organization too.
This scenario is among the many stories told about the
positive domino effect of inclusive hiring practices in a study published by
the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) in partnership with Best Buddies International.
A featured case study in The
Inclusive Talent Pool: Employing People with Disabilities, is that of KellyConnect, which
found that hiring workers with disabilities to staff their virtual customer
service call center sparked its talent pipeline to the extent that there’s no
need to create a specific disability recruitment initiative. “We have a great
referral base of our current employees and I think it’s because the word has
spread through word of mouth that we hire and are able to really support people
who have disabilities,” Melissa Turansky, PHR Senior Director at KellyConnect told
The core message of the Hiring Chain is that by hiring someone
with Down syndrome, “a virtuous chain is started—the more that people with Down
syndrome are seen at work, the more they’ll be recognized as valuable
employees, and the more they’ll be hired.” And everyone benefits—employer, employee,
customers, and ultimately the community.
The i4cp and Best Buddies study found that among employers
that hire workers with disabilities, the top two benefits by far that were
cited were the addition of highly motivated employees (59%) and that resulting inclusive
culture is attractive to their talent pools (59%). But we also found that the
diversity, equity, and inclusion conversation in some organizations often
overlooks some dimensions of diversity, most significantly, disability
“When we talk about disability, it’s natural to talk—and
think—in terms of limitations rather than possibilities,” says Madeline Borkin,
i4cp’s Vice President of Member Development.
we shared that news with others, the first thing everyone always said was ‘I’m
sorry.’ For a few months I accepted this, but then we were introduced to Best
Buddies and I got involved in advocacy and this became my life’s purpose—both
personally and professionally, because I’ve always worked in and around HR.
advocacy work, I met people with many different types of disabilities—including
intellectual and developmental disabilities and people on the Autism spectrum.
I met people with Down syndrome who were in college or holding jobs, getting
married, starting their own businesses. They were doing public speaking on huge
stages in front of thousands of people, educating others and advocating for
I realized that through
these experiences, my thinking had changed. I was thinking about possibilities
instead of limitations. And that my hopes and dreams for Jacob are about what
he wants versus what I as his mom want.”
“As a person born with a physical birth defect, my own
experiences growing up definitely influence how I think and talk about
inclusion. My parents did the total opposite of what was recommended at the
time—they included me in absolutely everything. I wasn’t treated differently—I
was always front-and-center, and this made me very confident. I thrived, and
I’m where I am today as a result of that,” says Madeline.
Organizations may be slow to explore inclusive hiring
practices because they’re unsure of how to start. And as Madeline points out,
some organizations don’t know what to do with people who have different
abilities because they simply haven’t experienced it yet.
The good news is that there are nonprofit supportive jobs
programs in most communities, such as the Best Buddies Jobs Program, which matches
skilled and qualified individuals with intellectual and developmental
disabilities with businesses seeking enthusiastic and dedicated employees.
Through the program, Best Buddies develops partnerships with employers, assists
with the hiring process, and provides training and ongoing support to the
employee and employer.
Madeline says that hiring people with Down syndrome helps
organizations start the positive hiring chain that results in a win-win for
“Down syndrome is a very visibly obvious disability. And we
make assumptions when we see someone with a disability—those assumptions are
about limits rather than opportunities. But given a chance and the proper
support, the possibilities are as endless for a person with a disability as
they are for anyone else.”
is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), a global awareness day that has been
officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. There’s significance in
the date—it was chosen to denote the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st
chromosome, which causes Down syndrome.
The Best Buddies Jobs Program represents one of the Best Buddies organization’s four
key mission pillars, Integrated Employment. This program secures jobs for
people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), allowing them to
earn an income, pay taxes, and continuously and independently support
themselves. The program places focus beyond the typical jobs in which a person
with IDD might be placed. Best Buddies focuses on finding work that
matches the job seeker’s interests and talents.
Lorrie Lykins is i4cp’s
Vice President of Research