In 2021, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was nearly double the national average. Seeing these numbers, it’s hard to ignore the business benefit of embracing disability inclusion. One in five Americans lives with a disability, and 75% of these disabilities are invisible. Including people with disabilities in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts is good for business. Experts say employees with disabilities offer many benefits, including increased innovation, improved productivity, and a better work environment.
Recently, Meg O’Connell of Global Disability Inclusion and members of Michaels’ Talent Programs and Inclusion & Diversity team led a briefing for Open to All about a successful disability inclusion pilot program recently completed by the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailer.
The journey began just over a year ago, when Michaels was evaluating its progress in diversity and inclusion and identified that hiring people with disabilities was an area in which they could improve. People with disabilities are one of the largest minority groups, yet they are often overlooked or entirely left out of diversity discussions and initiatives.
Michaels worked with Global Disability Inclusion, a team of disability inclusion experts, to create a strategy and pilot program. The Disability Hiring Program was implemented in 25 stores, its manufacturing facility, and all of its distribution centers. The program connected field leaders to local community partners, who were able to ramp up engagement and excitement quickly. The effort led to the hiring of 39 team members with disabilities.
After reviewing learnings and refining the process, the project was deemed a success. Not only did they expand the talent pool and create new jobs, but they also saw the joy from team members who never thought they would be able to work at Michaels. The retention rate for the pilot program was 87 percent, which is higher than store averages.
Based on the results, Michaels decided to execute and sustain the program across three out of four business divisions in 2022 with the hope to expand it companywide by 2023. Michaels prides itself on an inclusive culture. The company values focus on doing the right thing and putting people first, because people are at the heart of the business. Michaels has long been devoted to a diverse and inclusive shopping environment, and a recent survey found that 85 percent of team members agreed that the company fosters a culture of inclusion.
With this pilot program, Michaels is not only offering leadership in disability inclusion but is providing a map for other retailers to prioritize including disabled employees in their hiring and DEI programs. As we continue to navigate the pandemic that forced so many people with disabilities out of the workforce, Michaels’ leadership is both transformative and inspiring. Open to All is honored to have Michaels as a member of our Leadership Circle, and we are eager to learn more from their disability inclusion journey.
Like all DEI efforts, disability inclusion is more than just employing people with disabilities. It is about defining workplace values and recognizing people for their differences and their strengths. It is about making sure everyone has an opportunity to participate, feel valued, and succeed.
For more information on Global Disability Inclusion, visit https://www.globaldisabilityinclusion.com/.