What if the chance to be considered for a job--any job--was completely out of the question? Regardless of education, experience, skill, talent, work ethic--you (or someone you care about) were relegated to dependency and perhaps poverty? Imagine being excluded from ever experiencing even a measure of the independence, sense of accomplishment, and camaraderie so many of us take for granted by virtue of simply being employed, and this was due solely to biases about hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities?

Many families in our communities live this reality every day--in fact, nearly five million people in the U.S. have some form of intellectual disability, which means that the likelihood is quite high that this affects someone you know personally or professionally, or both. Here are a few more numbers that should give pause:

  • A staggering 85% of adults in the U.S. with developmental disabilities do not have a paid job in the community.
  • Only a quarter of corporate D&I recruiting efforts differentiate for types of disabilities--and only half of those target people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
  • While the jobless rate for those with disabilities is nearly twice that of the general population, those with IDD hover closer to 70% unemployment. But we can do better.

Best Buddies International's I'm In To Hire campaign--backed by i4cp's latest study, Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities--confronts long-standing biases about inclusive hiring and takes an employer's-eye-view to the workplace potential of people with IDD. In partnership with non-profit disability advocates Best Buddies International, Project SEARCH, and several exemplary companies that live their inclusion values, i4cp's research puts hard numbers to what those who already employ workers with IDD have known for years--companies gain dependable, motivated workers who deliver observable business benefits, while also building inclusive cultures that attract broader talent pools.

What the numbers show

Employer-identified ratings for employees with IDD Based on data collected from more than 200 organizations, our study found that three-quarters or more of employers rate their employees with IDD as good to very good on most performance factors--including work quality and productivity.

Nearly three-quarters of companies that hire workers with IDD report a positive experience, with fully one-third of high-performance organizations--based on measures of profitability, market share, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction over time--saying the experience exceeded expectations.

While some hire workers with IDD to support corporate social responsibility efforts, the addition of exceptional and productive hires is high on the list of reasons to include people with IDD in the talent mix, particularly for those who use diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a driver of organizational strategy. While also signaling an inclusive culture to the broader talent pool, what many find by hiring workers with IDD are good talent matches that also link to observable business benefits such as overall engagement and increased customer loyalty.

Reasons organizations hire people with IDD

The challenge of inclusion

Anthony Kennedy Shriver, founder and chairman of Best Buddies International, and author of the study's forward, heralds the findings of Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as powerful. "People with IDD are enormously talented, loyal, hard-working, and driven individuals who have the ability to contribute to the workplace," Shriver noted. "I challenge corporations worldwide to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With outstanding resources and proper support, it is an ideal time to invest in this incredible group of people to assist in growing revenue, improving customer relations, and effectively managing your operations."

What employers say

The enthusiasm of the employers we interviewed during our research, especially when asked about the talent and abilities people with IDD bring to their workplaces, was palpable. And those who actively work with organizations to find integrated employment opportunities for people with IDD in their communities tell us that positive anecdotal outcomes are easy to come by. Here are just a few:

  • Walgreens (an i4cp member company) has seen its IDD inclusion efforts deliver multi-faceted benefits to the organization, the community, and the company's customer base. Steve Pemberton, divisional vice-president and chief diversity officer of Walgreens, says, "Because of our investing efforts in employing individuals with IDD at the retail locations, customers often tell us that Walgreens has become their pharmacy of choice."
  • "From a productivity standpoint, our employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities are highly attentive, eager, and earnest about applying themselves," says Matt Capaci, staffing manager at Silicon Valley Bank's (SVB).
  • "People with IDD are a tremendous resource," says John Hailer, CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management in the Americas and Asia. "We've found people who are phenomenally responsible and motivated."
  • "We've had a tremendous experience with our Buddies," says Lisa Damon, executive committee member in Seyfarth Shaw LLC's Boston office. "They have become an integral part of our team and the firm's day-to-day business operations."
  • "We've shown that IDD workers can do complex work," says Mitch Morgan, leadership development program manager at Fifth Third Bank. "They are prepared for the world of work, for orientation, for performance management."

If you or your organization is "in to hire" workers with IDD, or you want to learn more, go to the I'm In To Hire website and download the free i4cp study, Employing People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The report includes stories detailing how companies are leveraging the talents of workers with IDD. It covers the gap in real vs. perceived challenges that hold many back from tapping this talent pool, outlines Section 503 compliance benefits for government contractors and subcontractors, and the wealth of resources available to help you get started--such as professional onsite workplace assessments, job customization, coaching support, and more. We hope you'll be inspired to explore how your company's D&I efforts can become even more inclusive.

This article is co-authored by Eric Davis, Creative Director & Senior Editor, i4cp; and Lorrie Lykins, Director of Research Services and Managing Editor, i4cp.

Image courtesy of Best Buddies International and Rosetta Stone.