Building Relationships with Employers by Tim Riesen

Building Relationships with Employers by Tim Riesen


hi my name is Tim riesen I’m a research
assistant professor in the Department of Special Education and rehabilitation at
Utah State University today I’m going to be talking to you about building
relationships with employers and what I have in store for you or what I would
like to achieve today is I want to first talk about the importance of integrated
employment for people with disabilities so I’m gonna spend a little bit of time
giving you some background information about some outcomes for people with
disabilities and potentially some potential directions about how we are
moving forward in terms of employment for people with disabilities and then I
would like to review a study that I conducted in 2017 with employers about
their views of customized employment so we did a series of focus groups with
employers and I’m going to spend some time reviewing some of the data
reviewing some of the themes that emerged from this focus group study and
then I’m going to conclude today’s presentation with some recommendations
for practice and future research so hopefully this presentation will give
you some insights about about how we can build better relationships with
employers from a customized employment standpoint and what that means from a
practical standpoint how employment specialists can really engage engage
with employers to produce better outcomes for youth and young adults and
adults with with disabilities so it’s I think before we start talking about
building relationships and understanding how to engage with employers it’s really
important to kind of explore what’s happening in terms of employment
outcomes for people with disabilities and I think this is a really interesting
time in terms of employment considering that last month the United States had
one of the biggest job growth job growth in recent history since the 1980s so we
had this incredible job growth for people without disabilities but people
with disabilities haven’t been traditionally involved in these job
growth paradigms so if you look at some of these outcomes and you look at kind of
what’s happened with people with disabilities over the years we see that
people with disabilities aren’t necessarily achieving employment
outcomes with the same frequency that people without disabilities are
achieving so there have been a number of seminal studies or a number of outcome
studies that have really reinforced this idea that people with disabilities
aren’t achieving these outcomes to the same extent that people without
disabilities are achieving the American Community Survey which is an annual
supplement to the US Census collects data annually on outcomes for people
with disabilities and this is a broad range of a broad range of disability
categories and they found and the latest iteration of the American Community
Survey they found that roughly thirty three point seven percent of individuals
with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 64 are employed so these data really
suggest that we are that people with disabilities just aren’t accessing
employment to the same extent that people without disabilities are
accessing if you start looking at disabilities specific disabilities such
as intellectual developmental disabilities or when we start looking at
what’s happening in terms of employment outcomes for people with more
significant support needs the numbers drop quite participa precipitously the
state date the state data report on employment services and outcomes for
people with intellectual developmental disabilities suggest that only eighteen
point six percent of people with intellectual developmental disabilities
are employed in integrated environments another study the national core
indicator project suggests that only fourteen point eight percent of
individuals with intellectual disabilities who are receiving DD
services are in developmental disability services are employed in integrated
settings so this leaves a large number of individuals with intellectual
developmental disabilities not engaging in meaningful employment so oftentimes
these individuals are served in more congregate
type settings such as work work and non-work facility based settings where
they’re not really working on employment skills and they’re not really
participating in community community employment so these numbers in light of
what we know about the economic growth in this country are quite a white
alarming I in that people with disabilities seem to be left out of the
game in many circles when it comes to employment employment outcomes so when
we start thinking about why this happens or why people with disabilities do not
participate in employment with the same frequency that people without
disabilities participate in employment both researchers and advocates have
really I guess highlighted a number of contributing factors right so that we’ve
looked at these these variables that really examine why people with
disabilities don’t participate in employment with the same frequency that
people without disabilities participate in employment and we’re talking about
people with the more significant disabilities one of these factors is the
lack of applied inclusive work experiences for people with disabilities
so oftentimes the way we’ve structured programs and services for people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities are people with more
significant support needs is that we set up contrived work experiences for these
individuals and so they don’t necessarily develop the same work
identity that perhaps a person without a disability what I did would develop over
the lifespan because the experiences that they that they participate in
aren’t necessarily realistic and aren’t necessarily tied to the performance
demands of real work so these lack of applied work
experiences certainly contribute to these poor outcomes that we see that we
see each year another contributing factor is this kind of idea of a
readiness paradigm and this idea is something that we don’t set up for
people without disabilities oftentimes we
a certain set of standards that we say a person with a disability has to achieve
or certain set of competencies that a person with a disability has to achieve
before he or she can enter into the employment realm and we don’t establish
these same criteria for people without disabilities so they’re working on this
different kind of mindset with people without disabilities and people with
disabilities that we oftentimes assume that a person with a disabilities has to
ensure our house has to demonstrate certain competencies before this person
or that the individual with a disability can engage in meaningful employment and
then finally we have traditionally low expectations low employment expectations
for people with disabilities so oftentimes we don’t think about
employment as a viable option and especially the more significant person
support needs tend to be the expectations seem to correlate with
those with the significance of persons with the person’s disability so each of
these three contributing factors certainly certainly influence those poor
outcomes that we’ve that I showed you earlier the the American Community
Survey and the state data you know that where these factors certainly relate to
these poor employment outcomes but another thing another item that we
oftentimes don’t talk about in terms of poor employment outcomes is what Tammy
Baccarat called in 2015 an incomplete agenda and essentially what she was
referring to here is that oftentimes we spend so much time trying to
rehabilitate or get a person ready to work or build certain capacities or
build certain competencies with a person with a disability and the onus is on the
person with a disability to get ready for work
that we don’t spend enough time working with employers and understanding how we
can engage with employers so Tammy talks about this incomplete agenda that we
focus solely on providing education and support to people with disabilities and
we don’t always look at what employers need we don’t always look
the barriers that that that employers might have in terms of hiring a person
with a disability so this leads us to you know where we’re headed in terms of
employment that I think we’re at a crossroad in crossroads in terms of
developing supports and services for people with disabilities that really
requires us to start thinking about how we can more effectively engage with
employers to learn about how we can work with them and learn how perhaps we can
rehabilitate the employment environment just as we’re trying to provide supports
and rehabilitation to people with disabilities so that we need to work
together it’s not if we don’t work in isolation so we need to work with the
person with a disability and we simultaneously need to work with
employers to ensure that we’re that we’re meeting the needs of both so from
a legislative standpoint you know the legislation is clearly responding to
these poor outcomes and is clearly responding to these factors that have
really prevented prevented good outcomes for people with disabilities and most
recently the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014 was really kind
of a response to these poor employment outcomes and a number of things that
this specific piece of legislation did is at first of first and foremost was it
was really designed to improve employment outcomes for people with the
most significant disabilities so if you go back to the outcomes that I showed
you a couple slides ago and you look at these outcomes you look at broad
categories of disabilities and you know roughly 30 36 percent of people with
disabilities are employed when you start looking at significant disabilities
those numbers just drop you know 14 18 % employment rate in integrated
environments and so we oh oh really our WI o a really responded to these
poor outcomes and it said you know well from a from a service provision
standpoint we need to do more to promote these better outcomes for people with
significant disabilities so one of the things that
WIA did is for the first time from a statutory Allah mast atcha Tories
standpoint it defined competitive integrated employment so now we have a
complete definition of what employment means right so a competitive integrated
employment simply means that a person with a disability is employed in in
environments where the majority of people working in that environment do
not have a disability so it’s just regular regular employment environments
and one of the other items embedded within this piece of legislation is the
modification of supported employment to include a definition of customized
employment so although customized employment has
been around since 2001 the hasn’t necessarily been embedded within the
statute until 2014 when this definition was included when the definition of
customized employment was included in in the Rehabilitation Act itself so we OA
basically defines customized employment as something that’s designed to meet the
specific abilities of an individual with a significant disability and the
business needs of the employer so once again if you look at this definition and
you look at the incomplete agenda that I was addressing earlier this is really
trying to respond to this idea that if we’re going to make employment work for
people with the most significant disabilities we have to look at the
individual with a disability and identify his or her strengths and
interests as they relate to employment while we simultaneously look at in the
look at the employer and identify what those what the employer needs in terms
of employment so customized employment in essence really recognizes that we
need to work with both person with a disability and and employers in order to
promote these better outcomes other the importance of building
relationships and working with employers has also been highlighted in the
literature most recently the wind tack the workforce innovation Technical
Assistance Center has released an essential elements of customized
employment last year or 2017 and basically this essential elements
document highlights you know what individuals are what the customized
employment process looks like from Discovery all the way to working with
employers and some of the components that I thought would be worthwhile to
address because it relates exactly to the focus group study that I that I
managed to be sharing with you here shortly are they highlight some really
important characteristics of of the customized employment process first and
foremost is that we negotiate job duties right so when we’re working within a
customized employment kind of context or paradigm that we are negotiating a
specific job duties so if we’re truly customizing a job for a person with a
disability traditionally that job didn’t exist before we started talking to
employer to an employer so this was going to certainly require employment
specialists to have you know a certain set of skills you know to really work
with the employer and talk about or learn about these unmet needs and then
negotiate these job duties and duties it’s individualized so it’s one job for
one person so from a customized employment standpoint we’re not going in
and developing or customizing jobs for a number of persons or spending time with
one individual and one employer and we’re really trying to create a job or
customize a job that meets the needs for both individuals or both the individual
with a disability and the employer that the businesses are in the community so
this is integrated community employment and that the employment specialists
develop strategies for assisting and the employers to identify areas in which the
employer might benefit so once again this goes back to this idea of the
incomplete agenda that I was referencing earlier that we need to spend more
I’m engaging with employers to identify these unmet needs or to identify ways in
which we can we can meet the need and the needs of the employer and
simultaneously meeting the needs of the person with the disabilities as it
relates to their strengths and interests right a mutual benefit needs to happen
customized employment avoids job openings and typical typical personnel
processes when we’re approaching employer so once again this requires the
employment specialist to kind of step outside of the box do things a little
bit differently than we have traditionally done when we’re looking at
traditional supply-side jobs so supply-side jobs are those that you know
the specific positions that an employer may have where one would fill out an
application and then go through the traditional routes to employ employment
well customized employment is the antithesis of that right so we are
avoiding those job openings and it’s going to require the employment
specialist to really learn how to approach employers and engage with
employers and this is one thing that we were trying to flush out with the focus
group information that I like that I will that I will share with you here
shortly and then of course during the customized employment process that there
is some representation typically through an employment specialist job development
employment specialist or somebody that can represent that individual during
this customization process so the wind tack document really sets the foundation
or talks about the importance of of building these relationships with
employers and engaging with employers the US Department of Labor the O DEP
also developed specific indicators that are requisite for customized employment
and one of the indicators was creating personalized job descriptions and other
employer employment expectations that didn’t exist prior to the negotiation
process so once again this was going to require some nuanced skills on behalf of
the employment specialist to really negotiate these specific jobs it’s not
something that one can go in and just do after one meeting that this is going to
require some communication this is going to require some networking and some
learning about business needs and it’s a process it’s not something that’s just
going to happen overnight and then in 2013 there was a competency model for
customized employment that was developed by the folks listed in the references
there and essentially what they were looking at a specific competencies that
are required that are kind of needed in order to facilitate the customized
employment process several of the things related to developing business
relationships were that employment specialists need to possess the
knowledge and skills to understand businesses and specific employment
practices and that employment specialists need to be proficient at
business networking so the US Department of Labor the competency model the wind
tech document all are pointing to this direction of working more efficiently
with employers learning how to identify unmet needs learning how to engage with
businesses more proficiently rather than just going in and asking an employer if
they’re hiring that we need to start building these relationships with
employers in order to make employment work in order to improve these poor
outcomes that we see every year and in fact some of those outcomes are
decreasing right they seem to be getting worse not better and so all of all of
the research legislation is all pointing to this direction that we need to do
more to interface more effectively with with employers so we can promote these
better outcomes so there have been a number of studies over the past several
years or since we’ve been doing employment for people with disabilities
that have really looked at employer respectives on hiring and retaining
individuals with disabilities but most of these studies are centered around
traditional approaches to employment so once again using you know those standard
those standard kind of approaches looking at positions filling out
application you know working with the traditional
paradigm for employment they haven’t necessarily looked at the customized
employment process in fact I did a review of the literature in 2015 and
looked at all the literature out there on customized employment the research
little literature and we found in this review that there is very little
information about how employment specialists can engage with employers
right that there hasn’t been a lot of research in this specific area with one
notable exception and that is a study done by lucking in 2016 or 2006 excuse
me in which he and his colleagues conducted some telephone interviews with
nine employers who had hired individuals through a customized employment process
and what what the authors found in this specific study is that you know
customized employment does work right that employers were generally satisfied
with input with the customized employment process that it did indeed
meet the employer needs and help meet production goals and an improved
customer satisfaction but the study one of the things that one of the things
that this study did not do as it didn’t provide information about how we start
to engage with employers how we how we start this process of building their
relationships with employers and engaging with them to learn about their
business needs or to learn about how we can how we can customize a job for a
person with a disability so this is what we attempted to do in the focus group
study that I’m going to share with you here right now so last year we conducted
a focus groups a focus group study with employers to learn about what they
thought about the customized employment process so we wanted to learn about what
they thought were facilitators and barriers to this customized employment
process so the specific research question that we ask is given them
training on customized employment a brief training on customized employment
what do employers with no expectations with customized employment identify as
facilitators and bare to this process so when we were kind of
conceptualizing the study and thinking through this study we wanted to identify
employers that had no experience with customized employment and the reason why
we chose to identify employers with no experience with customized employment is
because we kind of wanted to kind of learn how employers would respond to
this idea of customized employment or to this customized employment paradigm and
so we didn’t want them to have any any formal experience with this process so
what we did is we recruited employers in one state to participate in this study
and the our recruitment efforts consisted of we we used a the Workforce
Services database of employers which consisted at about 80,000 employers in
the specific state and we randomly selected 175 employers from this 80,000
this list of 80,000 employers so we did a random numbers table and selected
these these employers and then we gave the task of calling these employers to a
research assistant who called the employers to ask them if they would like
to participate in the focus group study and of those 175 175 employers roughly
75 of those telephone numbers were for various reasons either disconnected or
wrong wrong number so that left about 66 contacts that we were able employers
that we were able to contact or the research assistant was able to contact
and of those 66 14 employers agreed to participate in the study so we were a
little bit worried about the numbers here and a little bit worried about the
end and so we wanted to try to get more employers to participate in this focus
group and we contacted the state’s governor’s Committee on employment of
people with disabilities and we asked the director to forward a recruitment
email to two people on their employers on their listserv asking if they would
like to participate in the study too so from this from from the governor’s
committee in efforts we had about 10 employers who
expressed some interest in participating in the study as well so all in all we
had about 24 employers who who said that they were would participate in the in
the focus group studies after everything was said and done 10 act employers
actually participated in the focus group so we had some commitments but some
employers didn’t actually attend the focus group so we had a 10 employers
that participated in the focus group so as you can see from the slide we had
some representation from various different types of industries so we used
the standard occupational classification system the sock codes to classify the
specific industry that employers were representing in the focus group and if
you could see from the slide that we had some folks from retail we had some
employers that were engaged in transportation manufacturing
construction healthcare technology and information and so and so forth
so we had a pretty diverse group of employers that participated in the focus
group four of the employers had 1 to 25 employees so for employer of these
employers were small businesses or what we would consider small businesses one
employer had 76 to 100 employees and the other business or the other businesses
had over a hundred and one employees so they were considered large businesses
four of the employers had experience hiring people with intellectual and
developmental disabilities in the past but they hired these individuals through
traditional methods of employment they didn’t customized a job for these
specific for these specific individuals so prior to the focus group and this is
where the training kind of where we implemented some training so employers
could have some basic knowledge of customized employment before we started
to ask targeted questions about what they thought about customized employment
is we sent the employer the employers who
participated or we’re going to participate in the online focus groups a
short three minute and 40 seconds created by the ODP
on customized employment so this three-minute video three and a
three-minute 40 second video basically presented three vignettes of people with
disabilities working in customized employment in some context and it also
provided interviews by national experts in customized employment talking about
the benefits of customized employment kind of identifying what it is and
providing some contextual information about customized employment and then
they the video provided interviews with employers who had hired the three
individuals highlighted in the vignette and basically the employers were talking
about the benefits of customized employment how they utilize the
customized employment process and so on and so forth so this video basically
gave basically gave you know can some contextual information about customized
employment and we decided to use this video so the employers weren’t had some
background information about customized employment we also had the employers
fill out a brief Qualtrics survey which Qualtrics is just an online platform
data collection platform where we collected some demographic information
about the number of employers types of purpose of the businesses and services
positions of the people who are participating in the focus group and
just basic demographic information from the employers and then we implemented
the the focus groups so we did a synchronous online focus group with the
employer so we chose to do an online focus group simply because we wanted to
try to accommodate employer schedules so you know as we saw we had 24 employers
that initially agreed and only 10 showed up so it’s really difficult to get
employers to engage in in in in these research efforts and synchronous online
focus groups have been used a lot in healthcare research and you know folks
are seeing that there’s some utility to use utilizing this type of methodology
to gather information from focus participants it also allows for
geographic diversity so people can be in different areas of a state or be spread
out geographically across the country in order to participate in these focus
groups and it’s really easy to collect the data when we use these online focus
groups so we you we used what’s called a program called Adobe Connect for people
to participate in the focus group and this allows us to record the focus group
in its entirety online and so we have the data collections is kind of taken
care of for us so we did we conducted three separate focus groups so once
again we gave employers we gave employers the opportunity to select
which growth group they wanted to participate so we wanted to give them
different times so they can show up and we conducted we conducted 7075 minute
sessions so we spend a you know an hour and 15 minutes talking to employers to
really learn about to really learn about about what they thought were what they
thought were facilitators and barriers to the customized employment process we
used a qualitative methodology right so we used open-ended focus group questions
or interview questions and you know basically the the question in the little
bubble box on your screen gives you an example one of the questions that we
asked so we you know we’d ask what factors influence you and your business
to customize jobs for people with disabilities so we’d start with that
question and then we’d ask probing questions when the employers responded
to would give each employer an opportunity to respond and prior to
asking these questions I facilitated the focus groups and prior to asking these
questions I spent some time yeah addressing any knowledge-based questions
or questions that they had as a result of watching the video so they had so
they were a little bit more informed about the customized employment process
and once again these focus groups were digitally recorded and then we had a
independent research assistant transcribe’ each of the focus group
sessions and then we uploaded these transcriptions into an online
qualitative software program called deduce and we started to look for themes
or identify specific themes related to our discussion and we you know the
purpose of this study was really to highlight or identify what employers
thought were facilitated Staters and barriers and then we classified these
into specific themes related to related to customized employment so that here
are the themes and this is what kind of emerged as a result of of this study
first and foremost employers where were really we highlighted that the
highlighted the need to to identify business needs they thought it was
really important that we spend a lot more time in businesses learning about
businesses and talking to talking to employers to learn about their business
needs they talked a lot about the importance of networking communication
permeated all discussions about customized employment there are
employers basically or essentially said if there’s not solid communication that
happens during this customized employment process if we don’t fully
communicate with with employers of people with disabilities employment
specialists then they’re going to be a number of barriers to this process
training emerged as a as a theme and there were some financial implications
to that employers were concerned about some of the financial aspects of
customized employment so I’m gonna spend some time talking about each one of
these themes and provide some direct quotes from employer so you get a sense
of what employers were thinking about this customized employment process so in
terms of business needs every single focus group the employers really
highlighted the importance of learning about businesses and spending more time
engaging engaging with businesses to really find those unmet needs so once
again when we’re thinking about how this all connects to some of the information
that I presented earlier about this incompleted Gen
right here this idea of business need is really reinforced or employers really
reinforce this idea that if we’re going to make this work and if we’re gonna
promote better outcomes for people with disabilities and if employers are going
to indeed hire our customized jobs for people with disabilities we employment
specialists are those supporting people with disabilities from in a customized
employment context really need to do more to learn about business needs it’s
not just a one-time approach or one-shot approach in working with businesses that
they want us to spend more time interacting and learning about
businesses and learning how their businesses operate so we can find those
unmet needs so this was kind of reinforced in several of the quotes that
employers talked about in terms of the in terms of the focus group one employer
said you know what you’re learning about business meet business needs don’t don’t
come in and ask if we’re hiring well number one that runs counter to the
customized employment process but they’re also they’re saying just come in
and pay attention ask really good questions think creatively about how to
fashion a job so employers are like we want people who could come in and solve
our our unmet needs we want people who can ask those questions and can be
observant and see what’s what needs to be done at the business and then also
take that information and and align it to the strengths and interests of the
person with a disability another employer said you know I’d want I’d want
an individual to come in and spend multiple days working in disparate
different aspects of the business meeting with me so they can have a
really true understanding of how our business works and the different levels
of our business right so this employer was like spend time with us if we’re
going to make employment work we’re gonna make this customized employment
process work it’s going to be time-consuming and that we have to spend
some good quality time with the employer learning about the employer right so
hopefully we’ve done that with the person with a disability through the
discovery process now we’re doing this with the business we’re learning about
the learning about these business needs and
once again it’s not something that’s just going to happen and in one day
employers will want us to to engage with them over multiple days learning about
businesses learning about the function of their business learning about the
layers of their business learning how they operate another employer said you
know what they should do a level of hands-on work themselves so they can
understand the process they understand what we’re doing what the business is
what the business what the business does specifically then the employer said you
know if we do some hands-on work or if we engage with the employer that there
would be some accountability built into this process that they that the
employment specialists would really understand what happens at in the
specific business there were a number of barriers that were identified in terms
of establishing business needs and there was like there are some things that
we’ve seen in the past and this came from employers who have had some
experience working with working with community rehabilitation providers using
a traditional approach that have been a been something that they have not liked
or they’ve perceived as a barrier in terms of this process and one of which
is being too pushy and not really taking no for an answer this so they were
saying is you’re coming in and learning about a business you know don’t be pushy
and if if an employer doesn’t it isn’t willing to work with the employment
specialist that’s okay there are other businesses out there that are going to
be willing to work and what they don’t want folks who were too pushy they also
said you know one of the barriers is just not asking what the business needs
are right so just coming in and saying are you hiring which once again runs
counter to the customized employment process that we’re not asking if an
employers hiring at this point we’re not looking for to fill positions we’re
looking to create and customize jobs so an employer said if you don’t come in
and ask what what can we do what can the employment specialists do for you and
how can we help your company and the employment the employers are
and said that they’ll be more reluctant to work with the employment specialists
so it really requires the employment specialist to be really observant during
this process and then asking the right questions how can we benefit you right
how can we make this work and how can we fulfill some needs that perhaps aren’t
being met right and then align that to the strengths and interests of the
person with a disability and this is a this last one is a really interesting
kind of barrier that we’ve seen in the literature over and over again and
employers have expressed this in other studies is really not knowing articulate
employers have articulated that they they are reluctant to work with people
who don’t know the process themselves so one employer in this specific example
said that they were working with a community rehabilitation provider using
a traditional method to employment and they said one of the things that really
presented a barrier to continued relationship and learning about business
need was this CRP or a community rehabilitation provider didn’t know the
process themselves they didn’t know what it looked like so the the employer said
we actually had a provider come in and speak to us and that person didn’t
understand their business well they are here for a particular candidate but when
the team asked questions they weren’t capable of answering the questions so
once again when we’re thinking about this process and thinking about how we
start to engage with employers we need to ask targeted questions about the
businesses but we also have to be able we also have to be able to answer
specific questions about what the process looks like and about what we as
a provider or we as an employment specialist can provide to the to the
employer because they want that specific information networking was another critical
component of of the employers felt like was an important component of the
customized employment process and employers said you know when we’re
networking or when you’re thinking about networking we really want to hear from
other employers who have customized in the past right they thought that this
was a really important piece and this would be one of the things that would
really influence their decision to hire or to customize a job for a person with
a disability if they saw it working in action and I think this kind of is a
direct result of the employers only seeing a two-minute video or a
three-minute 40 second video of the customized employment process and not
fully understanding how it works and how it fits within their structures so they
were like we want to learn more about this so if you’re an employment
specialist at working with an employer you know it might be prudent or might be
worth your while to share some of the success stories that you’ve had in the
past with other businesses in your local area and customizing a job employers
want that information they want to see how it works
so they can conceptualize how that would fit within their business right so one
employer said I think the Employment special would need and specialists would
need to have some examples of past successes with other companies and show
how they’re how they’ve worked with other companies so you know they
basically want to see how this stuff works another employer said I’d like to
see some form of videos that kind of show how it works so this aligns with
what people are already doing in terms of developing digital pro portfolios and
showing you know of people with disabilities performing in different
context so we can show this to businesses and show how this how this
process works but this is going to require us to maintain our networks in
local communities so we can you know ask a business you know hey I’m working with
another business can I show a commission can we can you talk about how customized
employment has benefited your business employers also said you know what it
would be really important for employment specialists to engage
in in networking activities that business businesses typically do so this
would be attending Chamber meetings or attending local employment advisory
committees or so on and so forth and they said this isn’t important to get
jobs it’s just important to learn about business in general they’re like if we
want to work with employment specialists who are trying to create customized jobs
we want them to have a certain level of business acumen we want them to
understand how business principles and you’ll learn that through networking
through these specific through these specific entities where businesses
engage so networking was an important piece of this an important theme and as
I indicated earlier communication was something that permeated all discussions
related to the the customized employment process they were like if we are going
to work with folks to customize a job communication is key and this makes
sense we have to be able to clearly articulate what we’re trying to do in
terms of a customized employment process simply because employers when we’re
talking employers they typically work off you know job positions or creating
positions and job announcements and here from a customized employment standpoint
we’re doing the opposite of that we’re going in and working with the
employer and talking about unmet needs and talking about customizing a position
that a job that wasn’t there before we started to engage with employers and so
employers need to have this clear communication and we need to clearly
articulate what this process looks like for for the employer and for the person
with a disability so the employment specialists in essence really serves as
a liaison between the employer and the person with a disability and that
employment specialist needs to really clearly convey what this process looks
like and convey you know how we’re gonna make this customized employment process
work from negotiation all the way to training and follow along how a person’s
going to maintain a maintained maintaining those relationships so a
couple of the things that the employer said that would be really helpful from a
communication standpoint is to ensure that the one set placement has been made
or once a job has been customized for an individual with a disability is to
ensure that the employment specialist really does regular check-ins so one of
the things that they talked about in the focus groups is they’re concerned that
if they customized a job for a person with a disability that once they make
that decision to customize a job that the employer wouldn’t have any support
and to help you know make sure that the the customized employees is doing the
jobs as the job is negotiated so they’re like we want the employment specialist
to do regular check-ins to to conduct performance reviews one employer said to
make sure that we’re that were the that the person with a disability is actually
doing as meeting the unmet needs that were negotiated another employer said
you know what come in and talk to us about after this decision has been made
to customize a job and working with this person over a number of months or
however long come in and ask us specific questions about what are some of the
challenges and have us identify what’s working and what’s not working and
maintain these lines of communication so that that person can maintain a job over
a long period of time so they’re like we want the employment specialist to and
continually engage in effective communication across the board not just
during negotiation but during you know job training and follow along and so on
and so forth some other interesting comments that
came up related to related to communication is just kind of presenting
information about the customized employee itself and one employer
specifically said you know what we kind of do a discovery mode with all of our
employees all of our candidates that we’re interviewing and we’ve put
together a summary package about why this person is a perfect fit for the
position so they’re saying that they do this for people without disabilities and
guess what this is exactly what we should be doing in terms of customized
employment right we’re if we’ve done our discovery well enough we’ve we’ve
highlighted a person’s strengths and interests as they relate to employment
and then we need to clearly present that information information to the employer
and say this is what the person strengths and interests are this is what
the person can bring to your business this is what we’ve identified as perhaps
among met needs or something that needs to be that that would benefit your
business and present this package to the employer right another employer said you
know present somebody strengths and weaknesses and give us information about
what they enjoy right so they’re like present a really good positive profile
about the person and also talk about their weaknesses right because everybody
and the employer talked about this they said everybody has some weaknesses in
terms of employment disability or not and there the employer said this is what
we this is something that we try to do anyways as it would get new employer
employees we get people going we start to realize what employees are good at
some people are good at some things and others are terrible so you try to line
up people with what their strengths are so employers understand this idea of aligning people in a business based on
their strengths and having them do tasks within that businesses within that
business based on their specific strengths and interests
so as an employment specialist and as we’re engaging with a with the employer
it becomes incumbent upon that employment specialist to present this
information in ways that the the business understands and the in in ways
that they can convey convey the utility of customized employment training was
another theme that arose and one of the things that the employers talked about
as they’re like we were concerned about working with people with disabilities
and concerned about working in particular with people with more
significant disabilities and this is something that we see across
the board that employers do have some reservations about supporting and
working with people with disabilities particularly those with more significant
disabilities so the employers were like this isn’t a barrier we just want to
learn how to do it we want to learn how to support a person with a disability
and learn how to interact with a person with a disability at the workplace right
so they’re like spend some time talking about how to support our teaching
somebody in the business how to support a person with a disability employers
also talked about this idea of trying a an employee out before bringing that
person on the full time so this aligns with this idea of doing some job tryouts
and you know having a person kind of try some tasks out at the business before
before they make a decision to hire that person or customize a long term job for
the individual and they talk about look we do this for people without
disabilities all the time we call it a contract a higher scenario so maybe as
we’re talking to employers and learning this business language learning how to
interface with employers a little bit more effectively we can start using some
of the language that they are talking about to convey like you know convey how
we’re going to support a person with a disability from this using this this
construct employers also said you know what we want specific training on how to
handle issues that they may not be comfortable and handling right so
they’re like just you know tell us how we work with certain work in certain
situations and provide us that in-depth training so once again this is going to
require an employment specialist to really to really be able to communicate
this information but also be really knowledgeable about all these areas of
employment for people with disabilities from you know from you know providing
specific supports about training doing systematic instruction and so on and so
forth and then conveying that information to the employer about you
know this is how we can support a person with a disability on
the job and then financial there were some financial concerns that employers
kind of addressed in terms of this customized employment process and I
think as we started to review these financial concerns a lot of these arose
because employers didn’t fully understand the customized employment
process so employers really seem to struggle with this with the concept of
customized customization and what this means for their business so a couple
these quotes from employers illustrate the struggle that these employers are
having one employer specifically said you know we just don’t have the funds to
do it financially because we don’t have the extra padding or luxury for extra
labor so I think this quote right here really illustrates that the employer may
not fully understand what we’re trying to do in terms of a customer’s
customized job for a person with a disability that they are thinking oh
they’re thinking that we’re just going to have to spend an extra money and that
we’re not going to get any benefit from it and I think what we need to be really
cognizant of when we’re working with employers is to really convey this idea
of mutual benefit right that the that isn’t just extra labor it’s a mutual
benefit the customized employee is actually getting something done for that
employee that they’re going to benefit from making a decision to customize a
job for that person another employer said we we just can’t create jobs
because it sounds cool has to do a lot with forecasting and productivity as a
company and this quote came from a larger business or a larger corporation
so they were I think there were concerns where when more working in a larger you
know a larger corporation or businesses of over a hundred and one employees that
there are certain channels that one has to go through in order to make a and to
hire a person with or without a disability and so they’re like we have
to use certain these certain channels so it becomes more difficult to customize a
job based on forecasting and so on and so forth and I think this aligns with
what a number of folks are saying about
customization and that it oftentimes is difficult to work with larger
corporations because some of these institutional barriers that present
themselves and going through the channels to hire a person with a
disability so I think based on these financial kind of concerns that the the
employers may have a little bit of misunderstanding about what customized
employment looks like so this means that the employment specialist who is working
with these businesses really needs to understand how to convey to convey you
know information about what the customized employment process looks like
from a business standpoint and how it can actually benefit the business rather
than being a financial strain strain on the business so what is the all this
mean and some of the findings and implications for this study well as I
indicated it seems to me based on the small focus groups that we did that
employers don’t fully understand this process they don’t fully understand the
customized employment and this was articulated or in one quote by an
employer and he this employer said if a person didn’t have the capacity to do a
specific task or learn the task or required a lot of prompting to complete
an employment task we would not customize a job for that individual and
so I think this employer kind of doesn’t understand what we’re trying to do in
terms of customized employment and it might be the result of only watching a
three-minute video if if the person doesn’t have to do a have the capacity
to do a specific task or that person requires a lot of direct prompting or
that they can’t complete a task then that’s not a customized job and so we
have to be able to convey to the employer that it’s not about a charity
model or just putting somebody in there to do something that they can’t do it’s
about aligning that person’s strengths and interests and what they’re what they
what as they relate to employment and aligning that to the needs of an
employer so the person is actually the person with the disabilities as
filling those those needs of the employer so there’s a mutual benefit
engagement is critical so the if we don’t have meaningful engagement during
this customized employment process then this whole process will not work so
employers are really reluctant to work with employment specialists who you know
who only who look for these quick placements and we’ve seen this across
the board in traditional models of employment and we’re seeing this now
with customized employment that if we don’t critically engage in meaningful
engage employers are just not reluctant willing to work with employment
specialists and as I indicated earlier communication is essential
so this permeates all areas of the customized employment process that we
have to be really good at communicating with employers about what the model
looks like about how the supports are going to be tailored around the employer
and the individual with a disability so the person can can perform the tasks as
have as we negotiated those tasks so specific recommendations and what we are
kind of playing around with and what we recommend in terms of building these
relationships with employers and engaging with employers as we talked a
lot about making value propositions and businesses do this all the time
so when we talk about value value propositions businesses use value
propositions to engage customers to buy their goods and services I think we need
to take the same idea and embed it within a customized employment paradigm
that we need to use these value propositions in order to get employers
to tap into our goods and services strengths and interests of a person with
a disability and how they can meet those unmet needs so employers have to see
value and what we’re trying to do and value means that we’ve done our
discovery well enough we’ve matched strengths and interests to unmet needs
and we can clearly convey this to the employer and clearly convey that we have
a person with a disability who has these specific strengths and they’re going to
work in your business and they’re gonna provide value to the
business rate provide some mamita Munn met need that that the business that the
business needs in order to be more productive right so this requires us to
really spend a lot of time learning about businesses and learning about the
nuances of specific businesses so we can make those job matches it’s also going
to require employment specialist to have that business acumen and I talked about
this earlier that it’s really important that employment specialists from a
customized employment standpoint understand local business understand how
businesses operate and that we can convey information about customized
employment using business terminology and this is something that a business as
articulated in the focus group they’re like we want people we want employment
specialist who understand business and in fact we think it would be better if
employment specialist had some specific training related to business so they can
talk about the customized employment using some kind of business terminology
or terms that perhaps the business understands a little bit more
effectively and then networking they said you know we have to be proficient
at networking and learning about local communities and learning about the
connections that businesses have in their local communities and that’s
really how we’re going to start to identify customized employment
opportunities and finally follow up my employers across the board indicated
that they would they would need some pretty consistent follow-up in order to
make customized employment work to ensure that these that the customized
tasks are being completed to ensure that the employer is satisfied with the
performance demands of the customized employee to examine business operations
to incorporate new tasks you know as a person is working maybe there are some
other things that the customized employee can do to you know fulfill some
unmet needs at the businesses as long as they align with the strengths and
interests of the employee so the basic recommendations are our I
think can really add value to the customized employment process there’s a
couple limitations and suggestions for future research that we discussed in
this study first and foremost the small number certainly limits the
generalizations that could be made from this study you know we only had 10
employees or 10 employers who participated in the study so that really
limits what we can generalize about these findings so we’d want to see maybe
a larger sample larger employee employer sample down the road so we can start to
really learn about learn about what employers are thinking of the customized
employment process we didn’t use a comparison group which would certainly
improve the result of the study if we looked at employers with and without
customized employment experience and we can compare the two so these were some
of the limitations with the study in terms of future research and what we’re
recommending as the future research should investigate the difference
between employers with and without customized employment experiences and
really you know examine the differences between these two employers and since
the findings of this study or when we’re legs a mannan through traditional routes to employment
right so some of these themes that we’re seeing we kind of saw those with you
know supported employment and so on and so forth so in terms of future research
what we’re recommending is that we provide perhaps a more extensive
training to employers on the tenets of customized employment right so really
exploring more than a three minute and 40 seconds on the tenets of customized
employment and then asked more targeted questions about the customized
employment process so we can really really flush out what employers think
work will work and will not work in terms of the customized employment
process so I think this study provided some initial some exploratory
information about the customized employment process and provides some
good information about how employment specialist can
perhaps better engage with employers better engage it with employers to start
this customization process and I think we still have a lot to learn about how
we can effectively gate engage with employers as we start to learn more
about this customized employment process and learn more about how to how to work
with employers small businesses medium businesses and large corporations so
with that said I thank you for your time for the webcast today if you have
specific questions you can post them on the on the comment board related to this
webcast and I will certainly answer any questions that you have related to this
study or anything related to the customized employment process so again
thank you for your time and I have appreciated presenting to you today

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