Hiring individuals with multiple abilities

employer and employee shaking hands

So often the hiring process focuses on what people can’t do, rather than what they can do. Although this might seem like the most efficient way to screen candidates, it is a “glass half-empty” approach that overlooks the potential of many candidates. Regardless of race, age or gender, individuals with disabilities have the highest unemployment rate. Let’s change the language and the mindset around this issue.

Why not start with a glass half-full approach? The glass half-full perspective views individuals as having “multiple abilities” — a more inclusive way of looking at your available workforce. Many businesses are finding success in shifting to the multiple abilities approach. This is accomplished in a number of ways — reevaluating job skill requirements, using job coaches and providing reasonable accommodations.

What many don’t know is that expertise is available to assist businesses through the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services and its network of providers. Employers can get assistance with:

  1. Evaluating the true job skill requirements and vetting appropriate candidates
  2. Provision of job coaches and what that entails
  3. Assessment of reasonable accommodations
  4. Financial incentives

More and more employers are realizing the benefits of hiring people with disabilities — or people with multiple abilities as they've come to see. This a noticeable trend in the food service and retail industries. I had the opportunity to talk with Kwik Trip staff to discuss what it has meant to their business. Here is what they had to say.

Joalyn  is the return to work coordinator for a three-state area. She stated that Kwik Trip began focusing specifically on hiring individuals with multiple abilities in 2013. At that time, they had 40 employees with multiple abilities, and with the assistance of state vocational rehabilitation services, they have increased that number to more than 470 in the three-state area. Now, 63% of its Minnesota locations have made these hires and their turnover rate is about 9% for employees with multiple abilities versus 40% for other employees, driving down costs related to hiring.

Kwik Trip has found that job coaching is mostly a short-term need and that reasonable accommodations are not that burdensome, mainly focusing on flexibility. They now have a robust program in place and seek to expand. Joalyn cited their Hastings location as being one of the most successful.

Lyle Castona is a Kwik Trip district manager, covering 13 locations, including those in Washington County. Lyle stated that their stores see between 1,200 and 3,000 customers a day with a strong need to focus on the customer experience and staff safety. Individuals with multiple abilities start in retail service positions, focusing on stocking shelves and prepping other parts of the store, and have been a tremendous addition to their team. This allows all staff to focus on what they do best, making for an efficient operation of the store. As staff members grow in skill and knowledge, they often start supporting the bakery and the registers, with the opportunity to be promoted to higher positions. Lyle noted how loyal and caring employees with multiple abilities are and noted that it is not uncommon for him to get a hug when visiting the stores. It has changed the workplace culture, which is not only infectious with staff, but also with customers.

Kwik Trip sees this effort as benefiting the community at large, too. It demonstrates how everyone brings value to the workplace and their community by working toward economic self-sufficiency — impacting the individual, their families and how customers see business commitment to the community.

Rick Roy manages the Washington County Workforce Development Division, which is part of Minnesota’s workforce development system, called CareerForce. Visit CareerForceMN.com for more information about recruiting, developing and retaining employees, plus creating an inclusive workplace.