Cornell University

June 8 2012

Valuable Networks

Disability-focused resource groups improve inclusion: ILR research

Disability-focused employee networks are key to retaining and advancing workers with disabilities, according to ILR research released today with the Society for Human Resource Management.

Employee affinity groups are "very effective," according to 54 percent of human resource professionals surveyed by the Employment and Disability Institute.

The research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Other findings in the joint survey include:

  • In addition to the 54 percent of HR professionals who ranked "very effective" creating a disability-focused employee network, another 20 percent ranked it "somewhat effective."
  • Nearly half—49 percent—of HR professionals ranked "very effective" the practice of having a return-to-work disability-management program for employees who experience a work-related absence due to illness, injury or a disabling condition. Another 36 percent ranked it "somewhat effective."
  • About 47 percent of HR professionals ranked "very effective" their organizations encouraging flexible work arrangements for all employees, e.g., flextime, part-time, and telecommuting. Another 37 percent ranked it "somewhat effective."

Also notable is the data specific to the career development of workers with disabilities:

  • Nearly five in 10—or 47 percent—of HR professionals ranked "very effective" having a structured mentoring program to support employees with disabilities. Another 31 percent ranked it "somewhat effective."
  • Closely following are 46 percent who ranked "very effective" offering special career planning and development tools for employees with disabilities. Roughly one-third, or 31 percent, ranked the practice "somewhat effective."

"It is critical that management be provided the insight and tools to in turn create real career opportunities for workers with disabilities," said Susanne M. Bruyère, ILR associate dean, professor of disability studies and director of the Employment and Disability Institute.

According to the findings, nine percent of organizations represented in the survey include in senior-management performance appraisals the progress toward retention and advancement goals for employees with disabilities.

"Don't forget basics and don't make assumptions—be sure supervisors know where to find needed information about specific accommodations when an employee with a disability inquires," Bruyère said.

Nearly one in five—23 percent—of HR professionals said a supervisor's knowledge of what accommodations to make can be a barrier to retaining and advancing employees with a disability.

Under 32 percent of respondents said their organizations track data on accommodations such as type and cost.

The survey included responses from 662 HR professionals who are members of the Society for Human Resource Management.

The society is the world's largest association devoted to human resource management, representing more than 250,000 members in more than 140 countries.