Category marketing and job development

How Should Job Developers Spend Their Time?


The link mentioned at the end of this video
is in the yellow block on the right at the TRN Web Site.


Overcoming the Multi-Tasking Bias of Employers in Hiring

In my previous post, commenters noted the benefits of my proposed supported employment process of Plan-Match-Support, but worried about a commonly reported hiring issue – the preference of employers to hire a person who can do multiple tasks. This perception can throw a roadblock into hiring a worker with a disability who might be considered capable of completing fewer kinds of tasks than others.
Let’s analyze the situation closely. First, it’s important to acknowledge that we have no research evidence on employer hiring preferences when workers with disabilities are in the equation. We have only studies of general employer attitudes toward hiring people with disabilities, and the anecdotal reports of job developers.
Unfortunately, this means that our understanding of employer thinking here is weak. It also means that if a job developer hears an employer say, “No thanks, I have a candidate who can perform more tasks,” we have no way of knowing how that actual job development process was performed to that point. Nor do we know how the job developer reacted. We also don’t know whether the employer has been educated about a specific job applicant with a disability, or whether the employer has had previous experience with workers with disabilities.
Why are these factors so important? Simply saying employers prefer multi-task-capable applicants oversimplifies the issue. Everyone would prefer Superman over Clark Kent in theory, unless you happen to just need a good reporter. For example, several research articles have found that employers who had previous positive experiences with workers with severe disabilities actually reported more favorable attitudes toward hiring individuals with severe disabilities in the workplace, despite any comparisons to multi-tasking candidates.
The comfort level with the job developer, and his or her credibility, also can influence decision-making. And most importantly, the employer personally meeting and assessing the skills of the job applicant with the disability can be crucial in overcoming bias, rather than considering a pitch about a “theoretical” applicant with a disability (thus increasing the probability of a discriminatory stereotype). And finally, the notion that workers with disabilities can’t expand their skill repertoire with training, accommodation, and support is wrong.
Further, the notion of multi-tasking actually can be detrimental to business performance. Recent studies of workers performing numerous tasks found that all performance suffers when trying to do too many things, not to mention increasing everyone’s stress level.
So, yes, the multi-task hiring preference can present job development issues, depending on the employers’ experiences (or lack of) and bias. But it can be mitigated by how the job development process occurs, and how well we educate employers about real productivity, the benefits of a diverse workforce, and the process of talent matching, a concept I will talk about in a future post.
The reality is that when workers with disabilities are well-matched to tasks that need completing, those tasks are completed reliably and productively. This is the most salient factor in hiring, whether those tasks represent all the business tasks or not. And there are many other non-task contributions workers with disabilities make to the workplace as well. How well we develop our employer engagement so that we overcome any multi-task hiring bias is key.

Mixed Marketing: How Job Development Can Be Hindered by Typical Agency Communications

Recruiting for an Intensive Behavioral Group Home
Having visited and consulted with many disability employment organizations over the years, I believe the single skill most in need of training is in the area of marketing and job development. A major component of job development is the communication that agencies do within their communities. Marketing is all about communication, and there are a number of areas that contribute to a solid marketing approach. But one key at the start is to ensure that the organization does not offer competing and confusing messages about the individuals they serve.
What do I mean by a competing message? First, consider the marketing message that employers should be receiving about potential workers with disabilities. It should focus on business success, capability, and productivity. People should be presented positively and as a benefit to any business that includes someone with a disability in its workforce.
There are at least several areas I have observed where competing messages can occur.

1. Staff Hiring Ads that Convey Negative Messages about People with Disabilities
I recently read an hiring ad of an agency that included the following: “Work with people with developmental disabilities. Must be able to handle aggressive behavior.” The recruitment ad pictured above labels the residents as “intensive” and “behavioral.”
Intensive? Behavioral? Aggressive? Anyone reading the ad would likely feel fear, not competence. This kind of public description should be banned by law.
2. Logos and Program Names Based on Disability, Hope, or Helping
Agency logos often symbolize disability, sometimes in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. I have seen wheelchairs, crutches, and even bandaids in the logos of disability agencies that provide employment services. This defines the labor force you represent to employers by their deficit, not their capabilities.
3. Charity Appeals
A lot of agency fundraising can link charity to pity. Walk-a-thons, golf charity days, and the like often include a communication of need related to the disability. A message goes something like this: “Without your help, this person’s life will be miserable.” Agencies that run thrift stores also use the theme that “Your donation = jobs for people with disabilities.” This has several issues. It equates employment with charity, and can imply the jobs relate only to within the stores themselves, an idea that could limit employers thinking about what types of jobs people with disabilities can do.
4. Misguided Awareness Campaigns
Many agencies or advocacy groups attempt a well-meaning effort to build awareness of a disability label by marketing campaigns or holding special events. But sometimes subtle fear or pity messages are included. Note the use of fear in this ad at left about Asperger Syndrome.
5. Workshop Marketing for Sub-contract work
Sheltered workshops rely on businesses providing sub-contract work to them, and often give them the message that the provider agency offers cheaper labor by the business sending the work out rather than hiring within. This actually competes directly against job placement marketing, and gives a message about a lower value for workers with disabilities.
There is a good deal more analysis we can explore that relates to principles of communication and marketing. It would require us to research disability stereotypes, and analyze communication approaches that have been researched and proven successful with business. We can’t cover that here, but if your agency is interested in this topic, join our online Job Development Web Course scheduled for October 2.