Another pool of potential employees
Updated: May 19
If you run a business, it’s a safe bet you’re having trouble finding – and keeping – good employees.
Attracting and retaining good employees can be a challenge in normal times. But now we’re facing COVID. And The Big Quit. And The Great Retirement. Whatever the reason, it’s a challenge. That’s a good reason to explore every pool of potential employees – including people who are Deaf.
The idea may seem challenging at first. We get it. But it can be rewarding, as employers like Williams Sonoma, Amazon, McKesson, FedEx, AutoZone Park, the IRS, the Navy and Sephora can attest. These employers and many others employ Deaf people in Memphis.
There are more than 100,000 members of the Deaf community in the Memphis area. Some of them are hard of hearing; others don’t hear at all. Regardless, that’s a lot of potential employees. And because employment gaps between Deaf people and hearing people have always been significant, there’s a good chance you can find someone in the Deaf community who would be a good fit for your company.
You may be wondering in more ways than one if a Deaf employee could work for you.
First, there’s the question of communication during the interview. And if that goes well, there’s the issue of communication during training. Those two are easy fixes.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses to provide support to facilitate communication with people who are Deaf. Usually, that means an American Sign Language interpreter. There are several organizations in the Memphis area that can provide ASL interpreters. DeafConnect, the nonprofit I lead, provides American Sign Language interpreters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. DeafConnect has skilled ASL interpreters who provide an average of 1,000 hours of interpreting each month.
The business pays for the ASL interpreter. The cost is minimal, and the payoff can be big. – especially if you can hire a great employee or two… or more. Hiring people with disabilities can enhance your business and company’s reputation, both internally and externally.
In its 2020 report “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters,” McKinsey found that diversity and inclusion can enhance problem-solving necessary to rethink businesses and reimagine industries in the face of unprecedented disruption (like a global pandemic). The report found that more diverse teams are better at anticipating changes in consumer needs and buying patterns, which can lead to more rapid product and service innovation. And if your business has employees who work remotely, the report also noted that remote work has the potential to widen talent pools, providing the chance to hire high-value, diverse talent and promote a more agile, productive and inclusive work culture.
A leading national omni-retailer with a local presence, Sephora, has had success hiring Deaf employees. Sephora began its People with Disabilities program in partnership with the State of Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services when the Olive Branch distribution center opened in 2017. Today 18 percent of the Olive Branch location’s employees have disabilities, including people with hearing loss. The program is continuing to grow. Sephora’s goal is to have 30 percent of employees with disabilities at all its U.S. distribution facilities.
Because the program was seeing great success, last summer Sephora began managing the program internally. “We moved the program inhouse to get even closer to more candidates and allow more opportunity for individuals with disabilities,” said Walker. Sephora works with more than 50 community organizations to identify and recruit employees. DeafConnect is one of those organizations.
Employees in Sephora’s People with Disabilities program go through a nine-week training program, which includes five days of classroom training to teach job-related skills like time management, workplace communication and company policies followed by eight weeks of on-the-job training. The employees are trained in functions within Sephora’s dotcom/online fulfillment side of operations, which position them for other opportunities in the distribution centers. After successful completion of the program, participants become full-time Sephora employees.
“At Sephora, it has always been so important that both our employees and our clients can feel like they belong, and we strive to build inclusive communities by welcoming, developing, and advancing the best diverse talent,” said Billie Walker, accessibility program supervisor at Sephora’s south distribution center. “One of the ways we do that is by providing employment opportunities to people with disabilities, and our five distribution centers are leading the way by creating accessible environments that welcome talent with disabilities.”
If you’d like to meet some potential employees in the Deaf community, please contact me. And if you’d like to learn more about Sephora’s People with Disabilities program, visit sephorastands.com/accessibility/.
This article by Natasha Parks, DeafConnect's CEO, appeared in the Feb. 18, 2022, edition of the Memphis Business Journal