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Rutgers Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series | Kristine Foss


Disability Solutions' Managing Director, Kristine Foss, was recently invited to speak at the Rutgers Developmental Disabilities Lecture Series on November 8, 2018.

Presentation Overview:

Working with Employers: Changing Minds and Changing Lives through Disability Inclusion

November 8, 2018- Duration 2.75 hrs

Kristine Foss, MA, SPHR

Managing Director Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond Bethel, CT

Employment professionals, leaders, advocates, and jobseekers have a shared mission based on the belief that people with disabilities can and should work, and bring talent, perspective, and innovation to the workforce. As a former HR Professional, now working nationally with Fortune 500 companies as a disability inclusion consultant, Kris has seen the common disconnects, misperceptions, and conflicting priorities that keep us from achieving our mission. She will discuss her Top 5 secrets to working with employers, including avoiding the pitfalls and traps of disability inclusion well intentioned employers, jobseekers, and providers often encounter. Strategies will be shared for daily employment service delivery, proactively creating talent partnerships with employers, working collaboratively to form networks for success, and addressing risk or misperceptions.

Full Audio Presentation:

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Rutgers DDLS Presentation Audio Table of Contents:

  1. Part One: Introducing Kris Foss, Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond

  2. Part Two: The Current Landscape of Disability Inclusion

  3. Part Three: The Value Proposition of People with Disabilities in the Workplace

  4. Part Four: Talent Trends in Demand

  5. Part Five: Compliance and Self-Identification

  6. Part Six: Top Barriers to Disability Employment

  7. Part Seven: Disability Hiring Best Practices, Results and Actions

  8. Part Eight: Disability Inclusion Success Stories - Synchrony & Pepsi

  9. Part Nine: Building a Model for Success to Prepare Candidates with Disabilities

Audio Transcript:

Part One: Introducing Kris Foss, Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond

Margaret Gilbride: Good morning. My name is Margaret Gilbride. I am the Director of Transition and Employment at the Boggs Center, which is part of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. I would like to welcome you to the 279th session of the DD Lecture Series. We would like to gratefully acknowledge support for the series from the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Today's presentation will focus on ways we can help employers understand their businesses can thrive through disability inclusion. Despite the low unemployment rate, employers continue not to avail themselves of this untapped pool of job applicants, the applicants with disabilities. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to overrepresent this large untapped resource in today's workforce.

Only 26% of New Jerseyans with a cognitive disability were employed in 2017. Those with a non-cognitive disability fared better. They had a 37% rate of employment. In comparison, the employment rate was 74% for New Jerseyans with no disability. Despite research that continues to show employees with IDD are consistently rated as good to very good on almost all performance measures, employment professionals struggle to move the needle on employment first.

We're fortunate today to have Kristine Foss, a former generalist HR leader, now working nationally with Fortune 500 companies as a disability inclusion consultant. Kris' career U-turn provides a unique perspective that we can benefit from today, understanding the pressures and goals of the HR professional, as well as the experiences and barriers encountered by jobseekers and employees with disabilities. She has shared lens into the common disconnects that often keep employers from recruiting, hiring, and promoting talent with disabilities within their workforce.

Kris leads the Disability Solutions team, drawing from a combined 20 years of strategic leadership experience in human resources, workforce development, project management, and sales and marketing. Kris and her team worked nationally with Fortune 500 clients, including PepsiCo, Synchrony Financial, American Express, AEON, and Aeromark.

During her career, Kris has developed workforce development strategies aligned with business goals and she has implemented several leadership and diversity initiatives. She currently served on several boards, including for The Bridge to Independence and Career Options, the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals, and Elsevier's College of Direct Support National Advisory Board.

Well, I have not worked directly with Kris myself. I have had the pleasure of working with several members of her team over the years, and they never disappoint. Please join me in welcoming Kristine Foss to New Jersey.

Kris Foss: Thank you. That's a lot to live up to. Thank you. Thank you all for coming out today. I know that you're all very busy. I know the work we do day-to-day keeps us very focused on helping jobseekers find work, navigating staffing, funding. I know that it keeps us all very busy, so it really is an honor that you all chose to come and spend the morning here with all of us and to talk with me a little bit about employment for people with disabilities.

Part Two: The Current Landscape of Disability Inclusion

Kris Foss: Going back to the current landscape, one thing I can say that is really, really exciting, and it gets my team very excited, and we've seen a lot of this and I bet a lot of you are seeing this, whether it's on social media or reading articles or watching television, people with disabilities, we're finding our voice. People with disabilities, the last two years, like never before had been involved with impacting policy and politics. I mean the last presidential election was the first time I ever remember that a person with a disability was on stage talking at both the Democratic and the Republican National Convention. I've never seen that before.

Groups like RespectAbility were putting out guides to talk about what each candidate, local and national, was talking about and what their platform around disability was. I don't remember us being part of any platform before. That's a big change.

I don't know if any of you follow [Emily Liddell 00:17:10]. She's a social activist, she's a person with a disability herself. She's just an incredible writer, blogger. She's all over social media. She talks about issues with accessibility. She shares her personal experiences with everything from dating to getting through a train station and everything in between. She's incredible.

Diversabilty. We're seeing people when we're worried about healthcare policy and changes being put forward in Congress. We see National ADAPT protesting, signs. We've found our voice, and that's exciting. That's the first time I can remember, except back with the passage of the ADA, and it's been a while.

We're expanding our visibility. How many people are seeing more and more television shows or advertising either including a person with a disability or even starring a person with a disability character? We're seeing a lot of that, right? Yeah. There's some reasons for that. One is that we're finding our voice. The CDC just last month put out new numbers that said that one in four, not just one in five, as it's been for years, but one in four people in our country have some type of disability. It's a large group, 25% of our population.

Entertainment, pop culture is starting to come around. What's exciting to me is that we're not just seeing ... We've got a long way to go, but we're not just seeing a character with a disability in television shows and in movies. But Hollywood's getting a little better, it's coming along at authentic casting where, believe it or not, a person with a disability. An actor with a disability is actually playing a character with a disability. A lot of big changes, and there's a reason for this, the reason that we're seeing more advertising and besides the pure numbers, and that's that we're wielding our spending power.

This is pretty amazing to me. When we started this journey, we thought that the burning platform that companies would pay attention to, especially federal contractors with their compliance obligations, we thought, "Well, maybe if they saw that they had some high turnover areas and that this was an untapped talent, they might pay attention to this." This is opening up doors, and companies are paying attention to this.

I know it's a little small, so I'll go over this. But in the US alone, people with disabilities themselves represent $645 billion in annual spending power buying services, going on trips, spending their dollars day-to-day in stores. That's a huge customer market. Then if you add in friends and family, allies, people that are paying attention to what companies are doing in hiring people with disabilities and making products and services accessible, many of us in this room that are paying attention to what companies are doing and voting with our pocketbook, $4 trillion annual spending power. It's huge numbers, and companies love a new market, so they're paying attention.

The broader market is I think pretty amazing, too. It's the concept that if companies are designing their products and services or the experience for their customers using universal design and designing for everyone, that there's these additional benefits and market that they capture. A great example is Disney. When they design their parks, they make the thoroughfares much wider than most areas. They do that, one, for people with disabilities, but also they've got families coming through with strollers, and so they want to make sure the walkways are wide. They could have jumbled them up more with more prizes to win and food vendors, but they chose to do that. They wanted to focus on people having a good experience coming through the park.

Designing it that way was based on experience, but as a result, their studies, and they found that, wow! You know what? We're getting more people through the park every day. What is that? More money. More people coming through the park. More people, more money. That's what that broader category is. But just looking at people with disabilities and friends and family, it's a huge customer market. You're all part of that $4 trillion customer market, and companies are starting to pay attention.

When I talked to diversity executives and HR executives in these companies, they're making the connection as well with saying, "Oh, if we hire people with disabilities and we make this an inclusive culture where people feel like they can bring their whole selves to work and talk about their disabilities, they could also lend their perspective to informing our advertising, our products and services design and development, and even recruiting other people."

Everybody's an individual. Not one person's experience is the same, but it's like an aha moment that what they're trying to do with the general diversity efforts across other dimensions of diversity is the more people we bring in with diverse perspectives, the better we're going to be able to reach customer markets. They're realizing that if they hire people with disabilities, they're going to be better able to capture this customer market. It's really exciting.

I'm going to pivot a little bit from some of those factors to talk a little bit about generation next. I know that you're all working with people that have transitioned out of high school in the past couple of years, or they're getting ready to, or within this generation. One thing we're seeing a lot is that it feels like the schools are a little ahead of the game when it comes to inclusion than our workplaces.

I know everybody in this room has probably had an experience and saying, "Well, the school, I don't know. My son or daughter, it's not so great." But in general, I think back to the dark ages when I was in school and think about the fact that I never saw a person with a disability, not in my classroom, not even in my school. I mean maybe it's some years there was a special classroom, but most of the time it was a completely different school.

As a result, when I grew up, I had a cousin with IDD, and I always felt uncomfortable, like I don't know if I'm going to say the wrong thing to him or if I'm going to do the wrong thing. That's the generation that our managers and executives and running some of the organizations and doing some of the hiring. There's still that fear factor.

When I think about the continuum, that you learn how the continuum of inclusion from exclusion to heroes and holidays. We just celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness month, and then representation. In the school systems, we've got representation. That's just numbers. Diversity is just numbers. It's who's at the table. It doesn't mean they're actually getting to participate or play.

I think the schools are a little past that into participation and, in some points, inclusion. The workforce is just not there. We're still in charity, nice to do. That's a real comfort space for companies, "We want to do something around disability, we're not ready to hire people. We'll do something in the community to sponsor Special Olympics."

Don't get me wrong, we benefit our parent company. We benefit from that kind of philanthropy, and that's important that companies are giving to the community that way, but it shouldn't be part of their talent message. It should be part of their social responsibility. They need to hire people. They need to take action in hiring. Then compliance, the have to do. We see there are two pieces. It's the charity or the nice to do.

The school systems, I mean I think about ... I'll tell you a real brief story. My daughter is now 24. When she was a senior in high school and she was starting to look at colleges, she came home really upset one day. She was a senior in high school so she was upset a lot of days, but this day, she was really, really mad.

She came in and I was like, "Paige, what's the matter?" She said, Mrs. So and So, her guidance counselor, had written her a college referral letter and reference letter and had sat down with her to share a draft of it. She's like, "I don't get it. She's going to have to redo this. I don't know how to ask her. I don't know what I'm going to do. This is ridiculous." She was upset because the woman had written that Paige sat with her friend, Sean, at lunch every day. Paige was like, "What does that have to do with anything?" She's like, "I sit with Jackie and Heather, too, and she didn't say anything about that. I don't get it."

Her friend, Sean, has Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, and they've been friends since second grade. Paige and Sean fight like brother and sister. They love each other like brother and sister. They sat together at lunch with Heather and Jackie whenever they could. She really didn't get it.

I tried to explain where the lady might be coming from. She thought it was maybe a positive reflection of her character or something like that. The more I talked, the more I realized she was really not getting it. Then I had one of those moments where as a parent, there's a lot of times you're like, "Oh, that's going to be talked about in counseling in 10 years," but this was one of those moments where I went, "Oh, she really doesn't get it. That's so cool." Then because of the work I do, it was like, "That's inclusion." They're all friends. They don't get it.

What's cool about this is that this is the generation that these companies are trying to attract. They might complain about millennials and blah, blah, blah, but this is the group they're trying to attract. They're getting on the job and they're like, "Where are my friends?" They don't have that fear factor, "I'm going to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing." I mean Paige and Sean, they go at each. They don't worry about hurting each other's feelings at all.

That gives me hope, but the companies have to realize the people that are making these decisions and hiring decisions are more like my age, and so there's still this fear factor. But that's what I see is going on.

I want to talk a little bit about two perspectives, but one goal, so the goal being employment. Companies need top talent. Because of the low general unemployment rate right now, they're all scrambling. They're picking employees off from one another. They're trying to find new ways to attract top talent. They're going, "Hey. Hey, over here. We've got a great untapped or underutilized talent pool." They're trying to hire people and we're all trying to get people to work. But we're coming at it from two different perspectives and we have different priorities, and so I want to share a little bit about that.

The community partner. When we're working with companies, we refer to provider organizations, workforce agencies, voc rehab agencies, veterans groups, anywhere that they're going to connect with great talent, we refer to them as talent partners, because that seems to resonate with them. We need talent partner.

What are some of our priorities? Well, our main priority is the person with the disability that we're working with, but it's also the company we work for, the agency we work for, and our family. If we're a family member, our family. We want to support the person, or we are the person, and we're seeking to obtain and maintain employment. That's our goal. We want to assist people and increase independence and financial security.

We've got roles. We're an advocate, we're family, we're friends. We've got a board of directors maybe that we're reporting to, but we're mostly reporting ... We need the outcomes and we want to help people. That's why we're in this business. That's our top priority.

The employers. Their priorities are the shareholders or the owners and the board, if they have a board of directors, and the customer, because why? Happy customers, more customers, profit. They're in business to make money or to stay afloat at least, because whether you're a small business and you want to feed your family from your business or you're a large corporation and you need to report to shareholders, who keep expecting more and more profits, that's what they're dealing with. Their goals are to increase profit or shareholder value, increase customer market share, which is why they're paying attention to those numbers we looked at before, broaden the talent pipeline and hire great employees.

Most companies, I'll say most, get the connection between hiring good people and happy customers and, therefore, more customers and profit. Most of them get it. Some don't, but most of them do. They want to reduce expenses, again increase profit. Something like turnover payroll is always one of if not the highest line item in a budget, whether you're a nonprofit, whether you're profit payroll. It's one of the highest.

If they can reduce turnover ... And we all know about turnover, we all struggle with it. I mean that was my whole other world was the DSP workforce. We're trying to reduce turnover. We know it's important to providing quality services. Companies know it's important to providing quality customer service and continuity. They've got to comply with regulations and reduce risk. Again, risk means money. They're very conscious of risk. Their role is as employer, employee, family member.

They also see that it's important to give back to the community and be part of the communities where they work. Part of that is customers and part of that is just they realize that engaging their own employees, because people are working for companies. They spend a lot of time on the job, and they want their companies to reflect the values that they reflect and give back to the community.

These are some of the things. We're just looking at it from two different perspectives. Just part of our role at Disability Solutions is trying to bridge those two perspectives together. I hope that as I share some of the things they're concerned about, my goal today is that that will help all of you in flipping that around and getting doors open, because you can catch their attention and talk about how hiring a person with a disability is going to help them with their goals.

Part Three: The Value Proposition of People with Disabilities in the Workplace

Kris Foss: When we talk about the current landscape, specifically around disability employment, we're usually talking ... Again, I'd say we started very much talking all business to the companies. Then we realized we lost a little bit of that. This is also a good thing to do. These are people, and people are important. Companies do get that their people are important. But we flipped the script and talk about the value proposition of hiring people with disabilities for companies because, again, when you think about their priorities, that's where we have to talk to them. That's where we have to work within.

We talk about market value, talent value, corporate value, and compliance value. This was very different for our organization. When we started talking like this, our parent company, people are like, "What are you talking about, money and compliance? We're here for people." That is true. At the end of the day, we're here for people. But this is a strategy for companies to understand that they can have high-performing companies and they can increase their profits by hiring good people, and we have a talent pool for them.

Kevin Cox, he's incredible, Chief Human Resource Officer with American Express. He made this statement. This was in the next frontier. This was back in '15. I hope we're not a frontier anymore, but, "Next frontier from both the brand and workforce perspective. Ensuring that people with disabilities see themselves and their needs in our products and services and what we offer is important. It's important to our customers," as well as their workforce.

They have an awful lot of people in their workforce. First of all, if one in four people in our country has a disability, there's an awful lot of people in every workforce with some type of disability. Now whether they want to disclose that or not, it's a whole other story. Then they've got a lot of family members who have a son or a daughter or a brother or a sister, a mom or dad with some type of disability. They realize that they need to engage their workforce as well.

The market, we've been seeing some really cool things happen because, again, connecting to this customer market. Royal Caribbean. Has anybody taken a cruise on a Royal Caribbean boat? I haven't, but you should. It's on the list. But I've been talking to Royal Caribbean, and there's a gentleman there, Ron Pettit, whose incredible. He's done a lot about the shipboard, the customer experience around disability, everything from signage to making sure that the ship is accessible. Then they've got autism-friendly ships. They're doing this to respond to a market that they see. People are traveling, and they want to get that customer market.

Guinness has had ... This is a little dated, but they had the wheelchair basketball advertisement on television, one of the first ads I saw back a few years ago that featured anybody with a disability. Starbucks just last week opened up their first US sign language store with murals and tech pads. That was incredible. For Starbucks, it's not a nice thing to do. It's a response to getting in a market.

Barclays. The gentleman in the middle of that picture on the New York Stock Exchange is Rich Donovan. He's an incredible finance guy. I'm sure he wouldn't like being described like that. I'm sure there's more to his job, but I think finance guy. He was on Wall Street for years and years. He's a gentleman with cerebral palsy. He changed his career and he takes his background in finances and stocks and indexes and he launched a business called the Return on Disability group. Those numbers that I shared with you before, actually he's one of the sources for those. He analyzes what companies are doing in the space of hiring people and how that can impact their market and their market share.

He launched with Barclays about four years ago the Return on Disability index on the New York Stock Exchange. It's a group of companies that he's now, over several years and seen results, measuring what they're doing and hiring people with disabilities, what they're doing in making products and services accessible. Then the third bucket that they're measured by is how they're leveraging technology and other tools to keep people on the job longer and to get people back to work after an illness or injury.

Where that group is concerned is the large, large population in our country who are aging into some type of disability for the first time. He's correlating those three buckets of action to increase shareholder value, and they're seeing that their shareholder value is going up.

That is so cool. I mean one of these days, I'm going to get on there and try to ... If I have some spare dollars, I don't ever, but if I do, invest in some of those companies. But definitely, as you said, we can shop with those companies. This has been really, really exciting to see. That's the market.

Talent. We're seeing again, as I said, that companies see the correlation between hiring talent with disabilities and how that helps them to attract new customers. Here's Margaret Keane, who is the CEO for Synchrony. She made a statement that by having employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences, it helps them better meet the needs of their clients and their customers. "They share different perspectives that factor into better solutions for our partners and customers."

They have a good part of their business is directly to each of us as individual borrowers, so they might be like the care credit if you need some healthcare loan or something like that. But also a big part of their business is with other businesses because they're the bank behind the Target credit card and the retail credit cards. They have people directly and partners.

PepsiCo, "Building a strong talent base that includes people with disabilities positions us to better connect with all types of consumers or customers, which is definitely a business objective of our diversity inclusion platform."

Companies get this. The challenge has been how do we get people in the door even when they want to? I'll talk a little bit about that in the second half of the morning with the case study. I want to pivot a little bit away from a more traditional employment, getting hired by a company, earning that every week or every two-week paycheck, to a trend that I'm sure a lot of you are seeing as well where people with disabilities and their family are taking upon themselves to say, "Okay. Let's create something."

A lot of businesses have been popping up that are entrepreneurial enterprises, and so we definitely see that trend. It's not for everybody. I mean a lot of people are more comfortable with their paycheck or don't have the dollars and resources to launching a new business. It's not for everyone, but we're definitely seeing more of this crop up.

I don't know. Are you following Bitty and Beau, the coffee shops, on social media? Anybody? Yeah, it's so cool. A mom has two children with Down syndrome, Beau and Bitty. I think she just opened her third coffee shop. Charleston, South Carolina, there's one in Savannah, and I can't remember the other location. But she's primarily hiring employees with Down syndrome. If you look for them on social media, you can see videos. They celebrate every time someone gets hired. It's really exciting.

I met Austin down in Fort Lauderdale. He and his mom were there talking about the food truck that he launched, and it's been booming. He's a big hot dog fan, and so he created four different versions of hot dogs, and that's his menu. It's going through the roof. He's doing great. Then John's Crazy Socks. I just like his socks. I don't know much about John, but it seems like he's picked up a lot of steam.

That's happening, so that's pretty cool. If you'll bear with me for a minute, this has just been something that with different trends we're seeing has been circulating in my brain, and I felt like this is the perfect place with all this brain power in the room and everybody doing the work that we do every day, for you to think about and go back and talk to your teams about. I don't know. Maybe there's nothing to it, but bear with me a minute.

We've got this trend with the entrepreneur. At the same time, how many people have gone to a company that you've had a relationship with before that's in your community with somebody, who's interested in either starting a career in maybe facilities maintenance or as entry-level admin, or that's their career interest and been told, "Oh, we don't hire for those jobs anymore"? Has that been happening?

We don't have those jobs anymore. We use a contractor for them. We outsource it. That's happening a lot. I know I'm hearing it from our employment team and companies are telling us, "Yeah, we don't have those jobs. We get approached by organizations all the time, and we outsource vendors and use vendors."

There's been some surveys here that say that was the hottest trend for larger organizations to farm out any activities that don't offer people working in them, opportunities for advancement into management, and they don't see this changing any time soon because it's the number one expense saver for companies. It's much cheaper to contract and have another company worry about hiring people and paying them a paycheck and benefits and all of that stuff than to hire people directly.

Here's what started turning around in my head. We've got this happening. At the same time, the diversity executives that I'm talking with about bringing in talent and hiring people are often also responsible for making sure their supply chain, their vendor lists are diverse, or they have a colleague that's responsible for making sure their supply chain is diverse. Here's what I thought. Has anybody heard of the DOBE's, the DOBE certification?

Audience: Yeah.

Kris Foss: USBLN now, I believe, Disability:IN, is that right? They just relaunched their brand, has a certification where if a business is at least 51% owned, operated, controlled, or managed by a person with a disability, they can be certified as a disability-owned business enterprise. Companies need to show supply chain diversity. When you look at those lists, they might have veteran-owned businesses on the list, they might have women-owned businesses, they might have minority-owned businesses. There are hardly any disability-owned business enterprises.

If somebody is interested in starting their own business, whether it's ... I mean this is the supply list for everything from purchasing toilet paper to office supplies to the tchotchkes that they throw out at conferences or giveaway at conferences and outsourcing services like janitorial and admin and mail room group. If owning your own business or working with a person with a disability, wants to start their own business, I mean this just might be something.

I know we function within procedures and policy and our funding dictates sometimes the actions that we can take, but I feel like this may be something we could figure out for an option for some people. It's not going to be for everybody, but it's just a thought.

Part Four: Talent Trends in Demand

Kris Foss: So, talent trends in demand. Looking at the Bureau of Labor statistics projections, you can see actually the first top five fastest growing are in the healthcare field or in our field, so there's that. Also, computer and mathematical occupations, construction and extraction occupations. But the Bureau of Labor statistics will put out their 10-year projection about the fastest growing careers. I think that's part of the picture, but I think that the numbers lag a little bit, so the Bureau of Labor statistics is not the whole picture.

We often approach a company when we have a jobseeker with us that's interested in a job at that company. We're going in for a very specific purpose and we're asking somebody to give somebody an interview or inquire about the job, or oftentimes somebody in our organization or in our companies are going to a company to ask about a fundraiser or a sponsorship opportunity.

I think we need to talk to companies way before that happens. I think there's an opportunity here to ask the companies, and this is where we start when we're working with them. We don't start talking about talent right away. We want to know what their pain points are. What jobs are you having trouble sourcing for, like finding talent for? Do you have some growth plans? Are you expanding and you're going to need certain types of roles? Are you opening a new store in a specific location? Are you going to be laying people off? What's keeping you up at night?

I think there's an opportunity to invite companies in and have a very not intimidating conversation when it's not a direct ask. Just say, "We want to hear from you. It'll help us make sure we're preparing a workforce that you need. Maybe you can hear about our talent pool and we can come together," very much like the conversation we had way back with Pepsi. I think it's a really important conversation. What do you see as your top talent needs over the next five years? The next 10?

I mean they know. They're talking about this. I hear from companies talking about, "Well, we can never find people for data analytics. We're farming that out overseas. We can't find people in certain geographies." They have pain points and they'll tell you about them. To me, it's becoming a trusted partner not just with each individual that you bring, but that again and again they see you as a resource to go to, a talent partner. I think having these kinds of conversations opens up a lot of opportunity. Some other talent surveys to look at upcoming talent financial and business services, technology, media, and telecommunications, and manufacturing.

I think now pretty much all over the country, every town and city has their own Facebook page. Sometimes it's really dramatic like ours. It's like don't want to look half the time. But I see a lot of tradesmen trying to find help a lot. I've been reading a lot of articles about where a lot of the general population, a good portion of the population, has been pushed into college right after high school, and we've neglected the trades.

I don't know that we were all going to be flying cars and robots and everything by this point, so we thought, "Who's going to need a plumber? Who's going to need an electrician? That's just going all work automatically." But the need is there, and I hear from people that they can't beg, borrow, or steal people to come to work for them, small businesses and large businesses. Maybe that's something.

I bring this up because I just think ... I don't remember a lot about high school economics, but the one thing that's always stuck with me is this concept of supply and demand, that when the supply is low and the demand is high, that's going to breakdown barriers faster than anything any of us individually can do any day. I have just a very short clip for you. How many people have seen the movie Hidden Figures?

Female: Hidden Figures? Yeah. Oh, I love that movie.

Kris Foss: There is a great scene just for everyone that hasn't seen it, and I don't think it's a spoiler alert. But it's the story of three African American women who worked for NASA during the space race in the '60s. This was a time that it was very unusual for women, and especially African American women, to be working in NASA.

You see as the movie goes on that there is a pool of white women who are called on for assignments within NASA and there's a pool of African American women that are pooled for assignments. They're not getting the best assignments and there's things going. The bathrooms are still separate. You really see the times and what's been happening.

These three women are all really extremely bright. Their roles are computers. It was before really computers. They were hand-calculating trajectory for the rockets and how are they getting back down safely, doing this all by hand.

My favorite scene is, and I'll just share it with you, is a scene where Octavia Spencer, the actress who plays Dorothy Vaughan, is walking down, really marching down the hall with her whole team of women who are going to meet NASA's talent need, because they had a big need. They brought in and invested a lot of money in a big IBM, they called it the IBM or big mainframe. I laugh. We've got our phones now. This takes up a whole room, and nobody could get it to work. They're doing the manual calculations, and they've invested a lot of money and they're under tremendous pressure to get this IBM to work.

Dorothy Vaughan's character self-teaches herself the code to get the computer to work. Somebody's got to operate that thing. She sees that, "Oh, they're not going to need us anymore. Everybody else is wringing their hands. We're not going to have jobs because they're going to have this computer." She taught herself. She's like, "Somebody's going to have to operate it." She taught herself and then she taught her team on the side how to code. I'll show you and then we'll wrap it up.

Speaker 5: I’ve never seen a mind like the one your daughter has. You have to see what she becomes.

Speaker 6: Come on.

Kris Foss: This is the scene.

Octavia Spencer: Hello. I'm Octavia Spencer, and I play Dorothy Vaughan in the upcoming film Hidden Figures. I sincerely hope that you will be inspired by Dorothy's story.

Speaker 8: We're just on our way to work at NASA.

Children: I had no idea they hired.

Octavia Spencer: There are quite a few women working in the Space Program. You can start learning the skills necessary to launch your own future right now through the [hour 00:52:31] code. In just one hour, you can take the first step to teaching yourself how to program with a computer and the first step to changing your life and the world.

Children: [inaudible 00:52:43].

Kris Foss: That scene when she's leading the whole team down to the room where the IBM was because they realized not only did she get it to work, but they were going to need about 30 more people that knew how to do that, and that workforce didn't exist. If that workforce existed, and I'm not a ... Take this with a grain of salt, but if that workforce had existed within NASA and they had white men to do that job, those women wouldn't have gotten that job.

I think about what that means for people with disabilities. We are often behind the eight ball preparing people for yesterday's jobs. I know we're trying to prepare people for today's jobs, but I think collectively we need to have those conversations with companies and figure out what tomorrow's jobs are and get ahead of it, so that there's no question about hiring people with disabilities, because the need is going to be there and they're going to be ready with the skills. Just something to throw out there, but I think that having these conversations, staying on top of trends, what companies are doing and what they're looking for so we can get ahead of it is going to be really important to just moving the needle on employment for people with disabilities.

Part Five: Compliance and Self-Identification

Kris Foss: This is a really hard segue from a nice movie clip to compliance, but I'm sure most people have heard about the different compliance obligations that federal contractors have. This is like 2014. Some new regulations are updated, regulations came down. For most companies, it was tied to their affirmative action plan start date, so it was January 1, 2015 for them.

There are over 200,000 more now federal contractors in the US. In February, this past February, over 1,000 scheduling letters went out to tell these companies that their audits are coming. This is something that is continual and that they're concerned about. It's not necessarily a concern of the HR person or the recruiter that you talk to each day. They might have heard of it, but there's somebody usually somewhere else in their organization that's losing sleep over it. It's not necessarily on the talent acquisition person's radar. If you've brought that up in interviews or when you're talking with companies, that's why there's a little bit of a disconnect there. But somebody in their company is staying up at night about this.

Just a quick review, because I know that we run into in our travels some misunderstandings about what the obligations are and what they aren't. The first one that's most pertinent to us is Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That's what went in place for most companies 1115. It says that companies with 100 or fewer employees need to have a representation number or a utilization goal of 7% people with disabilities across their whole organization.

This isn't a hiring goal. Again, with one in four people in our country have some type of disability, companies know they must have people with some type of disability in their work force. It's just that people have not necessarily wanted to or needed to disclose a disability. They're focusing on how do we get people engaged to feel comfortable disclosing. Then we also know we have to hire more people.

But it's an even greater obligation for companies who have 101 or more employees, which is most of the federal contractors. They have to have 7% utilization for across each job group across each location. When HR looks at all the jobs in a company, we group them up with other like jobs, like responsibilities or scope of work or accountability or approval level within the organization. We group jobs into job groups for our affirmative action plans, for compensation, for a lot of different purposes.

The Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Programs, OFCCP, looks to say not only do you need 7% across your whole organization, no. We're saying 7% across each of your job groups. If you have 500 locations across the US, we're looking across each location. It's a big obligation goal. There are some data collection responsibilities.

Self-ID is a big change for companies. People have always been asked, or not always but more ... The thing that was the biggest change for HR professionals was the obligation to give people an opportunity to self-ID on application, not just after the job was offered. For HR people, this was a big change because as a former HR person, you're worried about risk all the time.

It was almost like that don't ask, don't tell policy, because if we don't know, then somebody can't come back and say, "Oh, I wasn't hired because I have a disability," or the person you're supporting wasn't hired because they have a disability. I didn't know that. Now there's this opportunity that they might know that ahead of time. That was a big change for companies, and they're getting more used to it, but there's still not a large number of people self-IDing, and we know there's many reasons for that.

Equal opportunity clause, some changes in mandated language, and some other definition changes. It's not a hiring goal, 503. It doesn't mean they have to hire 7% more people. It means that across their organization or across their job groups, they have to have a total of 7%.

A big part of what they need to do with that is partnership. Being a talent partner, and you've probably all gotten those letters or ... It's funny. In our organization, the letters come to HR. Then HR is like, "I don't know who to give this to." It doesn't go to the employment surfaces where it really should. But companies just send out letters that say, "Hey, we're interested in hiring people with disabilities. We're under obligation," blah, blah, blah, blah, and somebody files away the letter and they feel like, "Check. We did what we were supposed to."

But now the auditors are coming out and saying, "No, no, no. That's nice that you posted your jobs here. That's great. Did you get any results? That's nice you sent those letters. Do you have a relationship with that community organization? Really? Irene? You talked to Irene? I'm going to call Irene and see if Irene knows you." They're really starting to get a lot of pressure that partnerships are not just ... They're trying to in good faith, but the partnerships are effective and that people are getting outcomes. That's a change for them. Again, they need to evaluate the partnership's effectiveness and they need to post out and show that they're trying, but they also have to show results now.

There is a ... I call it the companion regulation that came out about the same time, VEVRRA. It's Section 4212 of, this is a mouthful, the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act. We love our acronyms, don't we? VEVRRA. It's very similar in a lot of the reporting, in some of the other obligations. The biggest difference is that it's updated annually based on the population of working-age veterans. This year, it's 6.7%. I think that's the current one, 6.7%.

That is a hiring benchmark. That's not an overall who you have in your organization. It's a hiring benchmark. It's across the whole organization. Just a little different approach, and so just sometimes you'll hear 503 lumped up with 4212.

Part Six: Top Barriers to Disability Employment

Kris Foss: So I hate talking about barriers, but I think it's also another important piece to kind of understanding how do we break them down, is to understand that they're there and what's going on with them. So I know a couple of these slides, it'll start feeling like when is she going to get to something positive? But I promise we'll turn it around a little bit, so bear with me.

The top four barriers that I'm seeing and I'll go into these a little bit is, and that my team seeing is communication, lack of information and understanding, distressed, and that the big picture kind of gets forgotten a lot. So we'll look at them because we really need to knock these down. Back to that seek first to understand communication, I mean, I made a comment about acronyms before, right?

We have a ton of acronyms in our business and we have a lot of funding streams and policies, and practices, and we've got DDD and OPWDD and VR and people living in SAL and ICF Scenarios and companies are going, "What?" And at the same time they've got their buzzwords and we hear them all the time. Sometimes my team will kind of laugh about, you know, we'll all decide that we're going to talk a little buzzed speak, and it'll be like, "Well, I was going to leverage that, but I need to make sure that we close that switch first before we move onto the next topic and we're going to disrupt HR." There's all these buzzwords and so sometimes we're like, "What?"

But one thing I can say that I've seen, and I'm really envious of this, is that a lot of the executives that we're working with have a really great way, they're busy, they've got a lot of priorities but they have a really great way of taking a really complex issue and distilling it down into one sentence. And I grew up with the mantra that why say in five words, which you can say in 20. So I don't understand that, but I really envy it, and been trying to do that myself and my team has been trying to. Because people, we need to meet each other in the middle and they need to understand where we're coming from and what we're doing and the talent that people bring to the table.

And we need to talk their speak in able to do that. We have complex funding and we feel the need all the time. And I'm saying we, because my parent organization and I've worked again for 18 years with them and I've worked in different roles. When we start talking to an employer, we feel the need to explain to them exactly about the funding streams and this person qualifies for this, and this person can only work these hours or they have these benefits and this.

And they're like, "Whoa, okay, I'm going to hire this guy," because it's complex and at the same time that we're trying to explain the complexities there are under great pressure to, they've got a hiring manager over their shoulder saying, "When are you going to hire somebody for me? When are you gonna hire somebody for me?" So a lot of times they're going to do the path of least resistance and hire the person that they can get in the door quickly with little trouble. And if we're trying to explain to them still, we're back here talking to them about the funding and where somebody lives and what they ... they're going to tune out. So there's that part.

We've seen in our work, so a big part of our model is we're not going in and working with a company in a certain location. Like if we were working with a company and they said, "Hey, we're hiring, we want you to pilot something in South Jersey." We don't come in and try to be the job coach, provide the services to, what we do is we're trying to connect them with already existing resources and talent partners and be that kind of bridge that gap and help them develop those relationships then they sustained with all of you.

So that's a big part of our approach. And some of these things we've seen in and we understand the reasons a lot of times for it is that, we'll communicate out that Pepsi is hiring and they're having an open house or they're having an opportunity for hands on interviews. So you got people that can't get through that behavioral based interview, they want to see people in action doing the job and here's an opportunity to interview that way, and we get two people in the room, we get no response.

And so then Pepsi's like, "See, there's nobody out there." And so we've seen that happen time and time, and so that's frustrating for the employer and I'm going to flip that around because I know we have our own frustration sometimes at what we've seen. So then I'm gonna pivot to challenging perceptions. So part of this is that companies aren't sure who we're talking about. So we might be going in and most of the audience in this room is going in and supporting somebody and their employment search with IDD.

Companies tend to think of the person they know in their lives with a disability, and that's who they're thinking of when they're trying to hire. So if they're hiring for, if the person that they know what the disability utilizes a wheelchair and has significant mobility challenges and they're hiring for, and I'm just going to use a really whole other end of the world, a roofer. They're thinking, "Oh, we can't hire for people with disabilities. We can't do that." I get that from pharmaceutical companies off and they're like, "Oh, we've got a lot of safety issues in the lab, we can't hire people with disabilities."

But the reality is we're talking about a really wide range of people, and so we need to challenge this perception, this is the question I get asked the most often, what kinds of jobs can a person with a disability do? And I promised you that I answer it nicely, but I do sometimes, I don't know I grew up valuing sarcasm. So sometimes it comes out. And so more frequently I find my response is, "Well, that's as broad as asking what kinds of job can a 5'3 woman with freckles and red hair do?" And they get it, they understand that, "Oh yeah, okay, let's talk about this diverse group."

So sometimes we get caught up in wanting to answer that question in a way that says, "Oh, well they can do this entry level job or this entry level job or whatever you got." And we have to flip that around and increase people's perspective on who we're talking about and the wide, wide range of disability out there. But then the even wider range of abilities, knowledge, skills, work experience, interests, education level, because that's how we're going to make change for everybody is if they start thinking that about this as a broader talent pool.

So there's training needed and there's a lot of changes needed for community partners, for talent partners. Again, we're unfamiliar with the business language, operations and we don't have a lot of experience with the outreach initiatives. So when I say that, it's incredible that recruiting industry that's out there, I mean, I was in HR and I saw some of it, but we're nonprofit so we didn't always have the latest and greatest techniques for recruiting. But with working with these companies and because we're helping at times companies not just to connect with community partners and talent partners, but sometimes depending on the roles and the response they're getting, we help them go out directly to job seekers on social media, and job boards, and we're partnering with other types of job boards. And I mean, they're using AI virtual job fairs.

They're definitely using social media and LinkedIn and a lot of sources to hire people. And so we need to better understand where they're finding talent now, just in general, where are you finding great talent? And let's just make sure that as people who are supporting people in their job search that we're making sure that we're utilizing and leveraging those same tools and making sure our job seekers are in those, using those methodologies so they get seen and they get in front of hiring managers.

Businesses or I'm familiar with our language, with the social service language and our operations, and they really want to get this right. It's not that believe me the people I'm talking with, they want to do this, they want to do it right and they're very nervous. They're going to do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, ask the wrong question.

And so there's a lot of training that's needed to kind of take the fear factor out of it, if you will and the fear in stigma. There's sometimes, and this I think goes back to why we get the low response sometimes from the community, but there's negative past experiences, sometimes the businesses, again have sent out requests to, "We'd like to hire people, we'd like to talk to you, do you have job seekers?" And they've gotten crickets in response or it didn't work out.

This is another thing, sometimes I hear like, "We tried this before and it didn't work out," and of course my sarcastic response is, "Well, did you ever have a woman with red hair not workout? Do you not hire women with red hair anymore? Of course you don't, you do, you hire them." So like we have to kind of bring it down to common sense, but people really want to get it right, but there are sometimes that have had past experiences that didn't work out, or we've really tried to set up really complex ways that our job seekers can work within their company and it doesn't work for them.

We can't build a whole other community or infrastructure just within their companies and make that work. We have to work within their systems and we have to find, yes, we can put alternate approaches to people being able to showcase their talent so that they get in the door, but we can't create all these extra initiatives. It's just confusing to them and they've had bad experiences with it.

As a community partner, sometimes we've approached companies over and over and over again who have said, we'd like to hire people with disabilities and we know nobody's gotten through the door. And so we're busy, we have limited funding, limited resources, we're not going to keep going back to that well if it's dry.

So but what I can tell you is we have a lot of turnover in our business, right? They have a ton of turnover in their business, so why not give each other a break and keep trying to have that conversation both ways because factors change in a business, people change and we can reestablish and say, "Okay, what didn't work before, what did work? And let's do more of that." So we need to still have these conversations and challenge perceptions about the talent that can come to their companies and how people, how they can benefit and what people bring.

So there is kind of this sometimes negative history between partners and businesses, but I'm sorry we do it among ourselves too. This is one of the greatest barriers we've seen going across the country and they're trying to help companies hire people with disabilities is we kind of tank ourselves. And I get it because we always have that funding crisis every year with our organization. We're always trying to do more with less and we all have HR teams and benefits and payroll, and we have infrastructures to support. And we're competing with each other for funds and for delivering services.

So we don't always work well together and our funding doesn't always allow us to find ways to collaborate easily together. And it becomes one of those when we're in the day to day, it's hard to think about getting out of that day to day and trying to do something together with another organization, because we're all busy. But I feel like we really have to try to do that more and where we've seen the most success in a geography, helping a company hire people with disabilities is when we help them cast a wide net and we bring all the providers who want to participate and who have talent that meet the qualifications and that want to talk to that employer to the table.

We've really gotten away from that single point of contact because the other thing is, as an HR professional, I don't source all my talent for the whole organization from one source. I don't look for all the women that I want to hire from one source, I look at different sources when I'm hiring DSPs than I do to find an IT professional, right? So why would we insist on companies having to find all their talent from one point of contact in a given geography or community?

We've gotta find ways to work together and play in the sandbox better because if one of us wins, we all win, and that's true, not just organization, organization, agency within the IDD community, but across disability groups. And like I said, I get it. The funding, there's a lot of structure in place, but I feel like we have to do better at working together and make it easier for employers.

The big forgotten picture, we get caught up in a lot of the logistics and for businesses sometimes they're worried that they're going to have to put unnecessary accommodations in place, unnecessary or they're asked to put things in place proactively that might not be needed. And so it feels like a big ask. One of those areas is I've seen some initiatives start where there's the assumption that everybody that's going to come into the organization with a disability is going to need a job coach.

So they're approached about embedding job coaches into the organization, so that if the first time a person with a disability comes in, they have a coach, well, do they need a coach? They might need a coach, but to me we changed the conversation to that of any other type of accommodation request is, it's by individual, by individual. It's not everybody have the disability. I will tell you, I've only started expressing this publicly and identifying publicly about three weeks ago, but I have a hidden disability.

And I don't need a coach so if I had self-identified on an application that I was a person with a disability and I showed up for my first day of work and they assigned me a coach, I wouldn't know what was going on, and it's overkill. They've got better things to do. So we have to make sure that we're not layering unnecessary accommodations or, and that we're talking more about the reality that most accommodation requests cost under $500 and most of them don't cost anything.

I've had companies say, "Well, we don't have the budget to bring on special computers to buy special computers." I don't know what a special computer is, I really don't. I mean I have friends that are diehard Mac users, so I think they think those are special computers, but there's not special computers and the reality is there's a ton ... We're all in the field and I guarantee you that if you started looking at the accessibility features on the operating system of your phone or your computer, there's stuff there that we don't even know about.

That's just a simple switch it on and use it. And most people come and the people that you're working with, the best thing you can do to coach someone in the interview process or to get ready for the interview process or if you're helping them and assisting them in the communication with a hiring manager is to talk about the accommodations and the tools that they already have in place that have worked for them.

This is what I've used throughout school, it means that I can do X, Y, and Z and I just need to have this in place. I've already got it solved, you don't have to worry about it, but I need this on the job to be productive, just like I need these and I know that's simplifying it and I don't mean to be insulting, but it's a tool. And so we talk a lot of times about accommodations with companies' productivity tools, because the other thing is some of the things they put in place have helped the rest of their workforce.

PepsiCo, for their merchandisers, we had a gentleman in Texas who got the job, he was going from it. These are the guys that go and create those cool super bowl displays of Pepsi when you walk into the stores which is amazing to me but they go to store to store and he was on a performance plan about three months into the job and we were like, "What happened? This guy was a rock star," and he was leaving a store with some items unfinished and going to the next store. So he was getting in some performance trouble.

And we went back and connected him back to his provider that he had worked with his coach, and he had used previously an iPad with a checklist and that really helped him in school. And so Pepsi was like, "Great, we'll give them an iPad." So he had an iPad with all the tasks he had to complete before he goes to the next store.

Well guess what? They ended up adopting that for all of their merchandisers because they realized that it was helping with everyone's performance and they were getting to more stores in the day because they had something to prompt. So we talk about accommodations that way and I think that's important to make sure. Again, it's all about taking the scary out of it, and relating it to things that we're already doing in the workplace.

Businesses lose patience they have time to feel pressures, they really trying to fill those jobs quickly. At the same time, we focused sometimes on the one or two people that we're working with and go to an employer. And missed the conversation about they're getting ready to hire 100 people or 10 people, and so we need ways that you can look on their websites, see what's going on. Again, following those trends, if we know that we can go back to our teams and strategize amongst ourselves about going to them to fill all 10 of those positions.

So that's one kind of big picture thing and we lose patients again, sometimes it feels like two steps forward, three steps back. And of course we know there's time and money and funding investments.

Part Seven: Disability Hiring Best Practices, Results and Actions

So I want to go through a couple best practices. Again, I think some of these will be preaching to the choir, I think some of you were already doing this, you've been doing this for years.

Hopefully, there's a different twist on some of this that you'll find and hopefully there'll be some new things in here as well. Knowing the business, I just started talking about that following trends, before I make a call to a company and basically what I'm doing at this point are sales calls because I'm selling our solutions and our services to help them hire talent.

So there's a sales process before I get on the phone, I don't just look at what job opportunities they have in their career page, I look at that, but I also look at what they're in the news section and you can hear that they're about to merge with another company, or they just acquired a company. They're expanding, they just launched a new product and that all helps you to understand where they're coming from and it also helps you to support the person you're working with, with having a couple talking points, we'll talk about that, that will really set them apart.

Dressed for the occasion, so following our own advice, right? So we always tell job seekers dress for the interview and make sure you're dressed appropriately, but then we don't always do that in going with them to the employer. And I've had team members, Margaret mentioned working with some of my team members, one of my team members Bree went in for a warehouse visit with her heels on and realize that, she really wish she had her steel toe boots because they put steel toed shields over her really nice heels and it wasn't a comfortable day.

So my team all own steel toed shoes now too, but you need to go in and when you're working with someone, you're a reflection. Companies don't really understand why somebody is coming with the person that's already making them a little like, "I'm not sure, should I talk to you or do I talk to him?" It's a little uncomfortable, right? Because you're used to interviewing one on one.

So make sure that if that person's going in dressed for success, you're going in dressed for success too and appropriately. It's a really important part of the whole reflection of the person. Learn about the, the more you can learn about the job, the hiring process shifts and we'll talk a little bit more about some of these processes and systems.

Focus on the business needs, so looking at those open positions, positioning yourself as a talent partner. I'm here with Joe today, he's applied for this job, but I can be your resource going forward, I want to partner with you. I want to understand your pain points. Talking about that tapped talent pool, talking about the customer market. I mean I shared some of those numbers and the trends and I hope that you use them in your conversations with companies because the more we position the people we're working with as a talent that's going to help their business and the talent that they bring individually to the roles and less on this is a nice thing to do, or I know you got that pesky section 503.

You better be doing this. The more we're positioning this as a people and the whole outreach of hiring people with disabilities as a positive, the better.

Money savings, so I'm going to show you the case studies, but people are staying longer. We have actual data back from the companies and they're seeing that at a high rate, so that's money in their pocket and that's less time spent on trying to hire and train a person all over again. So use those statistics and use those numbers. It's not anecdotal anymore.

We've got real data and other companies have some real data.

And then the other thing I want that I've seen that I think is really important for all of us as subject matter experts when we're talking to companies is, there seems to be a lot of confusion and kind of mixed messages around hiring people directly onto their payrolls, and some of the opportunities we have where they can stay on a third party payroll for a while, while they try out a job or even a little longer term sometimes.

We need to be very upfront with companies that only by hiring someone onto their payroll, are they going to meet compliance obligations if that's something that they're worried about? If we're talking to them about federal work opportunity tax credits, we can't mixed messages if they have to understand that that's not going to happen, if our organizations are still payrolling people and they're just showing up to work at their location.

They need people on their team getting a paycheck from them if they want to access those tax credits, and that's something that we're seeing where people are getting advice where they're going, "Oh, you can get all these tax credits." "Oh no, we'll keep them on payroll here, you don't have to have any of the risk," and that's wrong. And so we need to make sure that we're giving good information and after all, that's what we want, we want people working and being part of those teams and part of their work community, not kind of in kind of out.

So remembering the big picture, thousands of federal contractors and subcontractors out there that again, it's not going to be their burning issue, but it's a good place to look at and see who's in your area. There's federal contractors out there, I always think of the big ones like, the defense contractors that we all know, like Northrop Grumman and Raytheon and all these. But there's companies out there that I'm getting to know that I'm like, I've never heard of you before. I'm so sorry, I don't say that.

There's a ton of companies out there and we kind of tend to all go to the ones that we know the brands. Remembering the compliance goals. Again, one community partner cannot supply all the talent needed, we've got to play together, we've got to work together, we've got to look at the customer, the business as a customer as well.

And we're working for the person with the disability, we're working to get them employed. But by positioning ourselves as a resource and treating employers as our customer as well, we're going to build really great relationships that will pay off with employment. It's a learning curve for everyone and you get in, you get out what you put in.

One thing I did want to mention that I was reminded of, and it is something that we were seeing a lot of is we do work within oftentimes funding constraints, staffing restraints, transportation is a huge issue. And so the other part of being responsive and being a good talent partner is we can't expect companies to hire people then be okay if on certain days there's no staffing to get them to work and they don't come to work, or they're late because they're using public transportation that's not reliable, or we couldn't get them to work that day, we were short staffed. We got to figure that out.

And I mean, I know again, funding restraints I used to, I've had a lot of jobs that ability beyond, at some point I was the fleet manager over 60 assessable buses. So I know the pressure I can change oil and fix lifts too, but I know the pressures of that, but the business community, they have a lot of employees who have trouble getting to work.

They've got their kids out the door, they've got multiple priorities, their car broke down, they expect them at work and so we have to position people better. And so if we want those good relationships with employers, we have to figure that out. Synchrony, one of the companies we've been working with, they brought us over to India to see what they were doing with disability hiring in their India location, which was really cool.

And they've got transportation figured out. I mean they just decided, well for some, for safety purposes of where people lived, but also just to make sure that they were offering, they were getting people to work. They had shuttle buses and they pick, they had door to door service for all their employees to get to work, all of them, not just people with disabilities, everybody.

So I know that companies, that's a big ask for companies, but I don't know, a couple of times we've had where we were working with another company and there was a bus strike in the area and all of a sudden they're like, "How are these people going to get to work?" They're all using public transportation and it was so cool because it came right into the company, but people can't go to work. Uber, Lyft, I mean, I know there's a cost, but if we can figure that out, if I couldn't get to work one day and I called Uber to get to work because I couldn't get somebody to get me to work, I'd get to work. So we have to figure that out.

Here's some numbers, this is from our across the clients we've worked with, the companies we've worked with. So of all the people that they've hired, one thing companies are concerned about is diverse hiring. So very early on, I used to get asked, the only thing is I've got a lot of people to worry about, a lot of different dimensions of diversity that we're hiring for.

If I focus on disability and we put our resources into that, I got to make sure I'm getting everybody. Well, people with disabilities, I mean we all know this, but now we have numbers to show them and say, "Look, there's a lot of diversity within disability. People with disabilities, disability does not discriminate. We cut across all those other dimensions of diversity, 42% black, 36% white, 19% Hispanic, 3% other." I love the affirmative action numbers, other, I'm not sure.

With those same number 65% were men, 35% were women, 21% were also veterans. So there's a lot of diversity within disability, so that's another talking point with companies. And like I said, companies want to do this right, they're very concerned. And so where we're seeing the most, as far as a barrier is kind of that analysis paralysis.

We want to make sure that we have a welcoming culture, we want to make sure people are going to have a good experience, this is a reflection on us as a company, as a brand. And so what we're helping companies do in the recommendations were putting in places. Let's look at this like any other thing initiative you're looking at in your organization. Let's take a deep dive of where you're finding great talent, what's working, what's not? Let's look at the applicant experience coming through your system.

A lot of companies have had mergers, they've had new systems merged with old systems, they have different vendors like you might apply for a job and you don't know it, but behind the scenes four different vendors have touched your application, that handle parts of the application process. And sometimes there's barriers along the way, and companies don't realize that because when was the last time any of us was able to kind of go out externally and apply for our own physicians or look at what that experience is like.

Companies haven't done that, so we take a lot of time going through their applicant tracking system and making sure that there's not barriers. And then we say, "Okay, we looked at all this, this is what you can tweak a little, this is working great, let's go out and find more people and you're ready." And then just like anything else, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to do some things right and then you had your course correct, you adjust and keep going.

So that's the recommendation that we're putting forward with companies, and I think that as you're building relationship with employers, kind of get letting them off the hook a little bit and understanding that, "Hey, we can help you kind of figure this out. Let's look at this in a way that you feel prepared, but let's try this, you do this with other things. Let's pilot it."

Some of the things that we look at and what we're talking about are the talent acquisition process, we want to look at policies and procedures. A mentor of mine who was a diversity executive for a company, he told me once, "Kris, these things like live or die with systems, not a sexy topic at all, but if people can't get through the pipeline, it doesn't matter how much a company wants to hire people, they're not going to get in and get considered."

And so I took that to heart, and so we do a lot of work in systems and looking at policies, we've had companies say, "Oh, we can't hire someone that utilizes a wheelchair for the night shift, only the day shift." "Why?" Well, the back door where the security officer is, that's the only door, that's the door with the wheelchair ramp closes at 5:00, we don't have security on there, it's locked. Okay. Can we change that? Okay. So sometimes it's just things that we've been doing for all of us too, in our own companies. Right. It's just stuff that's been happening for a long time, so we just need to look at policies and practices and go, "That's an easy fix. We can do this."

So we're looking at their marketing materials, their career websites, their webpage, the online application, the accommodation request process. We're doing some talent advisor and hiring manager interview, training, and looking at their onboarding and a new employee. So they feel prepared and we can also communicate that out to the job seeker community and providers working with job seekers so people know what to expect.

This has been an interesting area. Again, I said, you know, we started the top of the day with people are more visible, but when you look at company career sites, a lot of times the only mention of a person with a disability on a career site is that, we're an affirmative action veterans/women/minority/disability legal ease. And so companies are starting to pay attention and go, "Yeah, we need pictures of people, images of people with

disabilities on our career sites. We need to spotlight employees with disabilities."

So, some of this you can help companies with and it's also something that you can look for as you're looking for inclusive employer. So we're seeing more and more companies take a look at their websites and make sure they're inclusive. And so here's two examples that again, we want companies to separate their talent message from their charity message, so they might have things that they're doing that are great in the community, but that should be with social responsibility or corporate responsibility or their community giving page, talent to attract talent.

And for people that you're working with to say, "Oh yeah, they value me for what I bring to the table, they need to show that their talent messages that people have value in our workforce." So the one on the far left, this is two different employers and I blacked out the names to protect the innocent.

The one page had, this woman is, you can tell just dynamite, right? She's a VP of retail sales for all of North America, she's being recognized and spotlighted on their career site for her role as a leader in the LGBTQ community, there were a lot of profiles like that, a very like high level employees being recognized for their leadership. The only mention of disability on the same page, right next to her was a nice story about a young man with down syndrome who found his voice through his participation in Special Olympics.

It was a great story, this company sponsored Special Olympics, it was a great story, but it was on the talent page and that was the only mention. So to me, that has to be separate so that, that says to me, "Did you not have anybody that works in your company with a disability that you could have featured?" That's the best thing I'm thinking, and the worst thing I'm thinking is, I don't think they value me for the skills I bring to the workforce, there's still talking about this as a nice thing to do.

And so they need to separate this out and so this other company over here, they started, they've made some progress, so they included again, they had some high level profiles of employees. Now they mentioned of disability was that, you know, Acme Inc. has made accessibility and integral function of its designed thinking, helping designers develop a real empathy for users.

So this is good, they're starting to think about the market of customers and end users with disabilities, they want to be responsive to that. What I'd like to see and I think the next step for that is an employee with a disability profile there that says, Joe brought his perspective to help inform our design thinking, which makes us better able to make our products and services assessable for our end user. That's the next step there, but they're at least starting to think the customer market. So these are the kinds of conversations we're having with companies and I think as a collective voice, the more we can expect this from companies, the more we reward the companies who are getting it, and we're applying there and we say, "Hey, I saw your website, that was great." The more we're going to see other companies follow suit.

This is just more about the legal ease, we've been counseling companies to use real employees at work, no stock photos. Now, the reality of where we are right now as a disability community and talent pool is that we don't even have a lot of great stock photos of people at work. They tend to be more in the athletic space or like socially or leisure time. So it's getting there.

So I would really like to see that we start taking great photos of people on the job and that we have more photos available for companies to start, including in their imagery and their recruiting materials.

Part Eight: Disability Inclusion Success Stories - Synchrony & Pepsi

I want to show you, Synchrony has been a company that we started with a pilot outside of Dayton, Ohio and Kettering with them, as I said, they're retail card business.

I think the most incredible company that we've worked with because they really, I mean when you walk into any location in the country where they work, they really believe in inclusion and that by having people bring their whole selves to work, they're getting, people are bringing their whole selves to their job.

And I mean they have employee networks, seven different employee networks and you walk in and people are displaying how proud they are to be part of different employee networks, they've got a lot of stuff going on, people are smiling at work. And this is in large business operation centers, so they're making sometimes calls about people not paying their bills, their credit card bills, so that's a tough job. They're answering questions for incoming calls, they're doing IT work and people are smiling.

So it's a really great place to work, so this was a video that they made with us right after, I would say about three quarters away through their pilot. Now they've hired people throughout the country, but I just wanted to share it with you.

[start video]

Anthony Walker: The biggest challenge I faced in the past when looking for employment was whether or not they were going to give me a fair shake.

Mark Lang: I couldn't get interviews I couldn't get in the door.

Julie Cuesta: You just couldn't almost see it on the employer space when I come roll again, they just, all of a sudden they've already decided she's not going to fit.

Brenda Pope: People don't tend to give you a chance to prove yourself.

Julie Cuesta: It was so awesome to come here just Synchrony and find out that you know, they're overlooking that.

Keith Meadows: Synchrony is great example of a company that doesn't pay lip service to an idea.

Liz Heitner: First and foremost, Synchrony's commitment to ensuring we have a diverse and inclusive culture and body of employees that represent our marketplace. It's not only an altruistic pursuit, we do this because it's good business.

A lot of the mistakes I thought we were going to make, we avoid it because we were guided by experts. We hired disability solutions and they were really able to shepherd us to engage in the community.

Julie Sowash: It's companies like Synchrony that provide us the disability community with the opportunity to showcase our talent and our values.

Brenda Pope: At Disibility Solutions they trained me into finding out how to apply myself at a job.

Julie Cuesta: That made me feel like I wasn't alone. Maybe for like there's other people out there that it's not just me, not happening to just me.

Mark Lang: Keith Meadows his great coaching told me, helped me with the interview process, gave you confidence...because he showed that I had an ability not a disability.

Keith Meadows: It's a welcoming culture and they feel that they're being evaluated based on their merits and their abilities, which is huge.

Mark Lang: I have a learning disability, so I call it more of a learning ability because I think different than others. So I learned different in different ways. When somebody gives you just a little bit of confidence and even she doesn't look at negative performance but it looks at positive. That's what gives you confidence.

Anthony Walker: Yeah. They're gonna look at you and say, "Okay, who's in this tier?" But if I portray confidence, maybe not look at me in that manner.

Holly Studebaker: It's been very inspiring, honestly. It's inspired me just seeing the work ethic and the drive and the type of employees that we're recruiting through this program.

Liz Heitner: The next phase of our project I think will really shift to getting people hired to ensuring that we have an environment where people are growing and getting promoted.

Mark Lang: My goal is to go up the ladder and show that you can be successful.

Julie Cuesta: And even if I get on this chair, which is my goal, that's my goal, was to get out of this chair. [inaudible 00:41:33] chair but even at that, I think I still would stay here.

Mark Lang: I'm still working years, so I must be doing something right still.

Brenda Pope: I never would have thought that I will be in a position that I am now. I never even thought that I will be able to make a paycheck again.

Julie Cuesta: So if you're struggling and you get the same, you know, deer in the headlight look, every time that you go into an employer being deaf, blind wheelchairs or some of their sort of disability. Here's your chance.

Anthony Walker: The main thing is never give up on yourself. Whatever job or employment that you want to go for it, believe that you can get it, that's the first step.

Brenda Pope: No matter if you have a disability or not, you still have hope and you can still accomplish whatever you set your mind to. [end video]

Kris Foss: So Mark Lang, the gentlemen with all the KISS, he's a big KISS fan, he's been with them now a while and he's doing great. He actually got employee of the month award and his productivity is among some of the highest and Synchrony does a lot of things with their employees. And we were really excited because he sent us a video, he participated in a employee talent show, and we had no idea he could play the drums. Like, I mean, this guy should be pro and oh, it was great.

So he's been doing well and they've hired, I'll share some of the results and then I'll flip back to some of the slides that I missed. But so since we started with Synchrony, which was just about two years ago, again, they had a start in Dayton, Ohio and they said, "Okay, we're going to hire 400 people is what we're projecting for this next year." And so we'd like to start out with saying like, "Let's at least try to hit 10%, that's a goal. And it wasn't anything for compliance it was just like any other project, let's put something out there and meet it or beat it."

And so they exceeded, they hired in their first year about 70 people and then they had us go into Phoenix, Arizona to a large business operations center there. This year we've expanded with them and they're hiring in Orlando, Florida, Merriam, Kansas and some of my team is actually in Charlotte, North Carolina today launching there with Synchrony. And more excitedly, in 2018, they had us looking at their brand and their website and helping them to attract talent for their managerial positions and their IT positions.

In 2019 we just have conversations with them, that's where we're going to be focusing on as well. So they've been terrific and they really get it. And what we're seeing is now over this almost two years, the people are staying longer, so 16% better than their average retention in the same roles, in the same locations. So again, these are numbers that it's not just saying, "Oh, you know what, and we think people will stay a little longer." No, they are. And so please feel free to use these numbers and talk to companies and refer back to that people are staying longer.

We've also seen other HR metrics that they wanted to improve, go through the roof, they wanted to decrease their time to hire and they wanted to decrease their interview to higher ratio. So for HR professionals, that means that if they decrease that interview to higher ratios and they cut it in half, meaning that they're getting people in the door for interview ready to work, so they're selecting that. And so that's more time that their recruiters have to fill other positions that they're trying to fill.

So that is time savings and money savings as well. So we work with companies on those HR metrics. Again, the more we can show the business value, the more doors are opening up. I'll share a Pepsi and then I'll go back. So Pepsi, as I said, bless you, has been doing this for, I would say they had been actively hiring because a lot of our first year and a half, almost two years with them was kind of getting to know them, getting to build a model, because this was before we even had disability solutions. This was the first time we were doing this.

So over about the last three, three and a half years, they've hired now actually over 1100 people. We've worked with them in 10 different geographies across the country. But more importantly, they used that achieving change together brand to represent both internally and externally. They're hiring commitment to people with disabilities.

We always talk about these systems and how hard it is to get through systems, and they've been very flexible at times depending on the roles with having hands on type of interviews instead of traditional interviews. The other thing that we referred, we recommended to them and they did was we were seeing that not enough people were getting through, we'll look at the funnel to the hiring manager interview.

So they were willing to open up an additional spots on their slate of final candidates. So instead of, usually maybe they put forth four candidates, four finalists, they expanded it to six. So if there is a person with a disability coming through, they'll make sure to add them. If not, they still do the four. But that's really made a difference in people getting in front of hiring managers and getting hired.

And the other thing for everybody to know is that Pepsi has actually two talent acquisition systems, one for their salaried positions and one for their hourly positions. We've primarily worked with them to set up their hourly system. So if you have job seekers anywhere in Jersey or anywhere across the country who are interested in a position, an hourly position at PepsiCo, when they get to the part of the online application where it says if there's a referral source, like how did you hear about this job.

If they click the box they dropped down midway through the list, there is a referral code called Pepsi Act. And so we did that as another recommendation saying, "Hey, we can work location by location, location with you and help you reach out to the community and get great partners." But what if we had some things in place that got ahead of where we could be?

So this becomes expanded across the country and that was one of the tools. So if you have jobs seekers and they select that, it cuts out a couple of the pieces along the way and it'll get them, it doesn't guarantee anything, but it just gets a little more attention because this is a commitment they've made.

Again, 14% higher retention over people in the same roles, and this is year after year after year now. Jobs primarily three lines of business, warehousing and merchandising. They're certified center sales and customer service, they've hired in at least 10 unique roles from entry level to salaried managers. Again, for them this was a great way to say, "Hey, we're hiring people and we also want to reach out to that customer market of people with disabilities and their families." So it's been a great journey with them and so it's the same reason I choose Pepsi over Coke if I'm going to drink soda now, because they've made a brand ambassador out of me.

Part Nine: Building a Model for Success to Prepare Candidates with Disabilities

Kris Foss: This is a little bit about our model and I just share it because again, we don't want to reinvent the wheel, we want to come in and help companies just pick up with what's working and what's not. And if they're already working with some great talent partners in their community, we want to make sure we're not reinventing something and not including that partner group, If they need new partners or additional partners, we want to reach out to the community and invite more people in.

If they have employee resource groups, we want to invite them to the table and say, "What's been your experience, if there's people with disabilities in the workforce, we want to hear from them." So we do kind of an overall assessment and then we help companies with managing relationships, getting those relationships, talent partners established, attracting great talent. You heard on the video, I think it was Mark or somebody mentioned that Keith Meadows trained him for my team.

Again, we're not providing direct services, but what happened there was what I referred to earlier when we started piloting in Dayton, we put out all these emails and Synchrony put out all this to the community providers that were really have a commitment into hiring people. Come to this open house and it was crickets. And we had a provider that really, I'll be honest, I wasn't sure what we were up to, or are you here to kind of take our dollars or provide services instead of us.

We've had this relationship with this company and so held back a little, and so we had that, well I told you we're not finding anybody. So we started going directly out to the community of job seekers, ourselves and helped Synchrony with some ads, advertisement and social media that attracted job seekers who weren't getting supports or in that network and that built the momentum and then the partners came because they saw that Synchrony really wanted to do this.

So that's why you heard the training part, but most of our training is for the HR teams, for the managers, for talent acquisition to make sure. And we don't focus so much on general awareness, but we talk about that talent value because that just changes the discussion with everybody in the organization about the value people are bringing. Training people, leaders, big thing is that accommodations process and approvals. We work with companies and you can ask them what the accommodation process is.

Sometimes we've got these global companies with hundreds of thousands of employees and one person is responsible for all the accommodation requests. But companies are really starting to find ways to make that kind of a decentralized process where hiring managers, if there's simple requests that are easy and they've been approved before, to be able to have that authority to approve them and just document them in a centralized place.

So we've been helping companies with that, so you might see more and more hopefully of that. Here's that funnel that I was talking about. As HR professionals, we were trained to mitigate risk, and one way you mitigate risk is you try to treat everybody exactly the same, and you also try to not touch anybody and use the computer to look at keywords and narrow, narrow, narrow, narrow until you get the final list. Because that hopefully takes out some of the guesswork is the theory.

So sometimes we see that people aren't getting through those systems, so we work with companies to say, "Where are people falling out?" Some of the biggest things in that, that we see are things like not completing an application or not meeting the basic qualifications, or keywords aren't there to indicate that the person does meet the basic qualifications. We'll talk about that. I'm gonna skip over that.

Again, building partners in the community takes time. This was one of the Synchrony first, I think this was about the fourth open house. And so I think the more you hear, if you hear companies asking you to come in, find the time to do it, even if you feel like they weren't responsive before, maybe something's changed and we need to give each other the opportunity.

Personas, I just want to spend few minutes on this because this is something that's been really, really helpful. Has anybody, if maybe you've seen like with marketing or recruiting ever seen the use of personas? Anybody? So it's something that social media people are using and marketing people are using, fundraising, people are doing fundraising and we started using it a little bit and companies are starting to use it in their recruitment process.

It's basically trying to personalize and put examples of your target audience down on paper, so that you make it a real person so that as you're deciding how to communicate or what you're putting in direct marketing, or what you're trying to sell them, for example, you have in mind what's important to them, what really kind of gets them motivated.

And so we've used this as a tool to both help hiring managers and talent acquisition, understand about people with a variety of two different types of disabilities. And I don't love this word, but to really start to normalize disability, it's just taking the fear factor out of it. At the same time, not pigeon holing, they're special people for special jobs kind of thing. We want people to look more at what people bring to the table individually. And here's some examples of someone and here's some characteristics and what motivates them and here's what you're saying is, is essential to being successful in this role, the characteristics of this role and look, they match.

But here's some of the challenges, so this is an example, we get a little goofy with the names, like hidden potential Harry. But, Harry's strengths are, he's positive, he eager to learn, he's committed, he's willing to put in the time to get it right, he's analytical, he's got a strong desire to fix problems, his challenges is new social interactions and interviewing is a huge, huge challenge for him and time to test.

And so, but at the same time, the company is looking for someone who's analytical, engaging, positive. And we talked about what motivates Henry. And so this was both a great tool to work with community providers and talent partners to show this is what it takes to do this job because you get this job descriptions and they don't really always tell, well, what are the skills like the transferable skills that are characteristics somebody has to do, needs to do this job.

So this helps with that, but it also helps recruiter start to see that, "Oh, some of the red flags I've been trained to look for," this person might be setting off all those red flags, but is that really important to being successful in this role and starting to change that conversation a little. So it's been kind of cool, but you're really kind of just taking different disability types if you will, and some characteristics and creating people and putting a face and a story to something to take to make it more real, and make people more real and start to match qualifications or characteristics of success in the role with the characteristics and interests and skills that that person has.

So this has been an interesting way to do that, I'll get past the video and Pepsi. The other thing with Pepsi, again, they're seeing an increase in disclosure. Huge. This is a really dark slide, I apologize for that, I'm not sure what I did there. But they're seeing a huge increase in people self-disclosing as a person with a disability and as a veteran. So that's been a huge win for them because it's not just about compliance, but it also means that people feel more comfortable that Pepsi is really committed to doing this. And so that's been a great outcome. So again, the advice we're giving employers, my colleague Julie has started saying to people your actions are your brand.

There's a lot of employers out there that are putting awards up and they're doing some good starting activities, but really hiring, really taking action is going to get them a lot further on the brand. And our job as talent partners is to really seek to understand what they need so that we can help get people in the door and make that happen.

And so again, the messages are cast a wide net, you're not going to find all the talent you need from one source. So cast a wide net talent, brand messaging, focusing on value and impact to the workforce. We look at the systems, like I said, be ready to centralize and simplify the accommodations process, empower your people leaders. Somebody can't wait two weeks to find out whether they can be accommodated for something they need for an interview.

And companies can't wait for two weeks to figure that out to get somebody in the door. So, that's some of the things that we've been doing, as recruiting partners as talent partners offer career fairs or an interview day, we're asking companies to do that. You can ask companies if they would do that. "Hey, can you host today? We know you might not have positions open today, but we see you have some growth coming up. Can we come in and learn more about your company? It'll be a way that we can. And can we ask you some questions about what you need and what's important to you?"

We're telling companies to provide clear and constructive feedback on candidates, which is difficult because HR they have to protect information about candidates. But if you can ask for just some overall feedback on the candidates that you're putting forward, the job seekers you're putting forward that helps you understand a little more about like who they're looking for.

And so it's a balancing act because companies really have to be protective of information, but if you can get them to feel again, it's building that trust over the long term where they feel comfortable sharing something with you, that helps you get better at bringing forward the next person for the job.

And we all have to not expect perfection because this is a journey and we're all learning. So focus on the common goal being employed, employer feedback that we're getting just in general. This is not about talent with disabilities. What we're hearing is candidates are coming, not prepared. They don't know anything about the company or the position they're applying for. They're not interview ready. They're not qualified. They're underdressed. Again, this is not a just talent with disabilities, this is what they're getting.

So for me, I read that and I go, "Hmm, that's kind of negative, but I see that's a huge opportunity for us," because if people can differentiate themselves and hit all those markers, they're going to have a foot up over a lot of other candidates that are coming in the door, underdressed not prepared.

And so if we prepare job seekers to know their worth, talk to their worth, into their value, be confident, know his or her work history, that's an important part. Speaking to what's on the resume and being able to say, "This is what I've done and this is what I want to do," and be able to talk about themselves. That's going to differentiate themselves right off the bat from a lot of the candidates that companies are seeing.

We've got to get away from any job, what do you have? Any job will do to, what do you want to do? And this is the type of work I want to do and why. I remember my son with his first job was asked why he wanted to work at that store. And he answered very, very honestly that, because I need money, I want to buy a car. And it wasn't exactly the answer that the person was looking for, they wanted to hear about how the store was so wonderful and blah, blah, blah. But he was being honest and he knew his answer. That's why he wanted to work.

So indecision about the industry or the job that people want, so we need to prepare people, we need to coach people for success in landing the right job, paired with their skills and interest. And again, I know this is preaching to the choir, but we are on under such tremendous pressure to outcomes, outcomes, outcomes. And sometimes it just feels good to be like, "Okay, I got a job," any job, but we have to take a step back and look at what is someone interested in, because if they're not interested and it doesn't match what they want to do, they're not going to stay there long and we're going to be right back at it.

And then that employer is also going to feel like, "Oh, that person barely stayed, I don't know what they're talking about that, increased retention, I'm not seeing it." So we've got to look at skills and interest and we've got to help people be prepared to talk about their skills and interests and what they bring to the company.

So networking, some of the tips, networking and resources, you know, research, social media, the resume, don't let people get lost in the hunt and how to help conquer the application. So I'm going to quickly go through some of these, but I'm going to pull out some of the ones that I think are a little different twist on what you're probably doing already.

So networking, we know that the majority of the jobs are filled by who you know and somebody knows somebody who got somebody a foot in the door. But the way that we're structured, the way we work in employment services is kind of that 8:00 to 4:30, Monday through Friday. Most networking happens after hours or on weekends at community events and different things.

And so if somebody is getting residential services, they're going home on their off hours and working with staff, residential staff and sometimes the focus there is on like all of us want to do something fun and leisure, and getting out in the community. We kind of put employment here, home and fund here. And then if they're returning home to mom or dad or to family members, the same thing, it's kind of like, "Okay, we're all relaxing together." I think we have to find a way in our employment plans to include those off hours and get people out and go to Chamber of Commerce meetings and go to cocktail parties, and go to museum openings or other places.

There's a lot depending on people's age groups, I know there's often like young professionals, groups that get together monthly in different locations. I think we have to think about it a little wider and not think of employment is 8:00 to 4:30, Monday through Friday, even know that's where we're working.

We have to get people out into more opportunities where they're networking. So that's what I would say, that's kinda jumps out to me. That's a little unusual. LinkedIn and other social networks. LinkedIn has become my best friend and with understanding where people are. We've all had this, right? You're working with a company, even talking to the person, you're so close. They're like they get it and then they're not there the next day, they moved on somewhere else.

Well thanks to LinkedIn, that's usually the first thing they update. So before that company even tells you that that person you had been building a relationship with for a year left their employment, you're going to see them update their LinkedIn profile.

So now there's an opportunity to say, "Hey, congratulations. Do you have somebody who filled your position or somebody else at your old company that you could connect me with? And by the way, once you get settled, let's talk." So now you have two companies.

People move so quickly, we turn over a lot, but in business people are taking the next opportunity. So we need to use LinkedIn to help us stay connected to contacts and to do networking. Job fairs and visiting local workforce office, and I would say look beyond the traditional job fairs and look at individual companies career pages and their websites because sometimes they're announcing events that they're holding, that we don't hear about.

So look outside that, look at the workforce agencies. There's a lot of other, the group I'm on the board with TBICO, The Bridge to Independence & Career Opportunities. They offer free job training in our part of Connecticut for anybody that needs it on computers, on interviewing, on communication skills. And it was only recently that some of the organizations including ours with working with people with disabilities took advantage of that. It's another resource.

So I think we have to look outside of kind of our usual sphere for networking opportunities. Research, Google is a job seeker's best friend. Again, if for the employers are saying people don't come prepare, they don't know anything about the company, the best way to differentiate ourselves or to prepare someone to differentiate themselves is to come prepared with a couple of bullet points, they Googled, you know, PepsiCo, well what's going on? Well, the longtime CEO just stepped down, they have a new CEO. Well, maybe they merged with another company, maybe they're about to launch a new product.

If the person can include that in a couple statements in their interview, they're going to be way over other candidates. So Google see what's going on in a company, they're merging with somebody, they're opening a new store. Search openings that fit the person's background. Stay away from the generals, I really like your company. Do those specifics what's going on with the company.

Applying, the biggest thing here I think is making sure that resumes are tailored to the position, changing keywords to match the job opening or the qualifications of the role is really important. And I know it's a pain because anybody that's gone through it themselves, we know it's a pain to tailor the resume, but just make sure if the keywords are correct and truthful, that they're included in the resume, because again, there's this huge funnel, the system, the computer is looking at whether the resume matches the basic qualifications.

Computer is not as good as we are as humans, they're picking up and saying, "Oh," what they meant there was they've got this experience. So we need to put the keywords so it matches and we get people through those in personal funnels to get people in front of job seekers. And this is something I just told my son the other day, so I thought I'd throw it in there, but keep a log or journal of the jobs that you apply for.

So with the easy click, we click for job, apply, apply, apply, apply, write it down because if somebody calls you about one of those jobs, the worst thing you can do is be like, "What's this about again?" So, and that happened, so keep a journal date, the title, the company, if there was a contact person in a couple key things about the job. Applicant tracking systems like I said, they're used by most, most companies. Keyword is important, allow proper time to complete it.

That's where we see in the most fallout is people just don't get through the funnel because they don't complete it or they miss some of the application. Make sure all the information is correct, double check, make sure it's complete. These are all things that you can help the job seekers you're working with. Get them through the application process previously.

Online assessments, I'm terrible at standardized tests so this was really funny to me and then I think about, we're all kind of humbled. But if you pick, if job seekers pick the most extreme positive answer, they get the most points on these online assessments. Just a little tip. So like here's a great example, how often do you do great work?

A) All the time. Most of the time. Almost never, never. Most of us would say, most of the time because we're being humble but the most points is if you check all the time. So just an interesting thing that we've seen and I don't know if this is the truth with online assessments, but with the ones we've been working with, that's where the points are.

So just interesting and oh, another point is some of them don't work the online job applications, the assessments don't work really well with phones. So trying to stick to laptops and computers as much as possible, as handy as our phones are. Not all sites are mobile optimized and so you can get some funky results or miss pieces. Self-disclosure, we went through the compliance reason why companies have a really vested interest in having someone self-identify as a person with a disability.

It's definitely an individual decision and we've had a lot of generations come up hearing if you don't need to disclose and you don't need an accommodation, don't. And I really want, I've been trying to encourage, my team has been trying to encourage, I think just something to talk about with your teams, but encouraging people to disclose because companies have more and more are expressing. We want to hire people with disabilities.

So putting it out there not only will get their attention, but hopefully it still offers more opportunities for more conversations and discussions and we, that's how we change things. Social media, if you're working with a job seeker and they'll give you permission to, if you're already friends with them on social media, check out social media or ask them to have a family member or a friend, do it for them from a hiring manager's perspective, work with them on security, making sure the security is what it should be.

But HR is looking, one of the biggest things I've seen recently is if people have their job history on LinkedIn and they have it on their application, companies are looking to see if the dates and every entitles matchup, because they figure if they don't, what's going on there, they don't know when they worked there or is that not truthful?

So make sure things line up and just make sure that people are putting appropriate things and staying away from the heavy political. If there are a job seeker and people can see their posts, sometimes that can be an issue. Resumes again, just keep them simple so they're easy to format and sometimes systems don't do well with really fancy resumes. So the simpler and the cleaner, the better. And one page is preferred unless it's a professional field or a lot of years of experience where that's a little trickier and a big thing, make sure email and email addresses are appropriate.

Like hotpants@gmail.com, I've seen some real in my HR work, I saw some, not from people with disabilities necessarily just across the board. I saw some really like, "Ooh, that's concerning right off the bat." So most emailed setups are free, so do a separate one for, if you have to keep the hot pants' address keep the separate one for job seeking. Again, simple and this ... The STAR Method, do you guys use this already and preparing people to answer behavioral based questions? Am I preaching to the choir? You guys know this one already?

Okay. So it's just going through and I think this gives a really good structure for preparing people and it's how companies are kind of using their rubric to kind of score how somebody answers behavioral based questions. So they're looking for you to set the scene and tell a story, what was the situation when I worked for company X, what's the task? what did I have to do? What needed to be done? What did I do to solve the problem? So it's not I had my manager fix it, but what did I do to solve the problem? And then what happened as a result?

So it's kinda like what we do with behavior with ABC's and the A-Zs, the better we are and the better we prepare people to tell a story and tell it clearly and be able to give examples of things they did. It doesn't have to be saving the world just day-to-day tasks that people solve the problem. And that's going to score the highest on the behavioral based questions. Make sure the answers are authentic and truthful. Paint a picture, turning the negative into a positive is the whole trick in answering these questions and keeping it short and brief and relevant.

So I think the best coaching we can do is to keep people kind of on track and staying to their answers and not going off in different directions. Phone interviews, something like 75% of your message and your communication on a phone is tone. So coaching people on, and so it's the silliest old piece of advice, but smiling when you're on the phone because it comes through.

I think that really does help the tone sets the whole, there's no body language as you can't see the person, more and more companies are doing initial phone screens. So I would say make sure that if there's a scheduled phone interview that the person's ready with their resume, they've got a couple of key questions to ask, they've got a couple of key statements to make about the company. And one thing I don't have on here, but more and more is those phone interviews, initially or a lot of times salary screen.

So have people be prepared with what their salary expectations are, what their hourly expectations are, because there's nothing worse than being asked that and being like ... I'm not sure, they're really just looking to see if you're fitting into the expectations for that compensation for that role. If you're looking for $50,000 and it's a part time $25,000 job, they're moving on to the next person. So it's a salary screen. So make sure people feel prepared to answer that question.

And interview etiquette, making sure dresses appropriately, acts appropriately, arrives early, still a really valued skill I will say because we don't all do it. Arriving early, having some printed resumes available, any paperwork that was requested and a couple of questions to ask. These are all things I know you know. I like email because I have to say, I'm really bad, like I go into the office every couple of weeks and I forget to check my mailbox.

I can't remember the last time I checked my mailbox. So if somebody sent me a thank you card, I probably would've hired 20 people by then. So emailing someone if they want to send a handwritten note, it is a nice touch, but I think definitely following up by email and saying, not only thank you, but here's why I think I'm perfect for the job. And by the way, I really love the job, is important.

And most importantly, you know, the whole plane thing, that's why they tell us to give oxygen to ourselves first before turning in assisting other passengers. We need to do that. We don't have easy jobs, we put other people first, often. So please, thank you for being here and taking time out for an opportunity to talk with each other and network. And also take care of yourself. So thank you.

Thank you.

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