HR Leads Business

Jan 8, 2019 | Ginny Engholm

Is Your Training Program Inclusive of People with Disabilities?

Hiring managers increasingly realize that recruitment and retention need to be part of the same effort. But many companies concentrate their efforts almost exclusively on making sure their recruitment processes are inclusive of people with disabilities, then drop the ball after their first day..

And that costs money. A 2017 study found that replacing a worker costs an organization one-third of that employee’s salary, which adds up quickly with high employee turnover. A Census Bureau report in 2012 said nearly 1 in 5 individuals in the U.S. have a disability, and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said that 17.5 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2015 had a disability, so focusing on the retention of employees with disabilities can certainly have an impact on an organization’s bottom line.

One of the often-overlooked aspects of retention is training. When organizations don’t make an effort to ensure that their training programs and avenues for professional development are inclusive, they signal to employees with disabilities that the organization isn’t invested in their career growth.

“Without professional development opportunities through inclusive and accessible training, individuals with disabilities will leave. And that's what we've seen,” says Derek Shields, a consultant and trainer for the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN).

So how can you make sure your training programs are inclusive? Here’s what employers need to know.

Build Training Programs for the Employees You Already Have

Just because you’re not aware of any people with disabilities on your organization’s payroll doesn’t mean they’re not there; many employees may choose not to disclose a disability to their employer. “This isn't about building it for a population that is coming. It's about a population that you already have,” Shields says. “These individuals are already currently participating in training and development offerings, and they might not be as successful because these programs aren’t accessible or inclusive.”

That means that you may be investing in training that doesn’t meet the needs of all workers. By creating more inclusive training, you can better help your employees grow — and get a bigger return on your investment in their professional development.

Include Employees with Disabilities in the Training Process

Robin Nagel, a consultant and ADAAA/FEHA compliance practitioner who specializes in work disability prevention and management, says creating inclusive training programs is relatively simple — just ask employees with disabilities what they need. “To develop training that is meaningful to that sector of their workforce and that actually has transferable value to the rest of their company, develop a training committee with individuals with disabilities tasked with identifying approaches to inclusive training,” she says.

Shields agrees. “Start by asking people ‘What type of training do you prefer? What type of tools do you need to participate successfully?’ And then proceed from there,” he says.

Involve stakeholders at all levels of the process. “Make sure that people with disabilities are involved with the design, testing and implementation,” Shields says. Nagel says you should also routinely review your training programs. “Talk about how this training program can be delivered across your workforce effectively. Ask what can you do to enhance its effectiveness,” she says.

Make Sure Training Programs Are Both Accessible and Inclusive

There’s a difference between accessible and inclusive, and accessibility is only the starting point, Shields says. “A training program has to be accessible first. And if it is accessible, there's a chance for it to be inclusive. If it's not accessible then it's never going to be inclusive,” he says.

Here’s an example Shields gives to illustrate the difference: If you offer an in-classroom training program but your building doesn't have an elevator and the class is on the third floor, a person in a wheelchair or scooter will be unable to participate. That’s an accessibility issue. However, if a person with a disability can get to the classroom but finds the experience in the classroom is exclusionary, that’s a problem with inclusion. To have a successful training program, you have to offer both accessibility and inclusion.

Make sure trainers have adequate training in universal design and inclusive training practices. Organizations such as EARN and the Campaign for Disability Employment  offer resources for creating inclusive training programs.