Disability Inclusion Could Help Advanced Manufacturing Overcome Great Resignation

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It’s no secret that employers across the economy are facing a historic labor shortage in light of the Great Resignation – and manufacturers may have a solution in front of them in the form of proactive disability inclusion. Neurodiverse individuals – defined as those displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior – have stereotypically been considered ill-equipped to succeed in an advanced manufacturing work environment. Nevertheless, there is significant evidence to suggest they can, and often do, thrive in a variety of positions that nearly all manufacturing employers struggle to fill. What can you do to capitalize on this off-the-beaten-track opportunity?

State of Affairs is Troubling – But Solutions Exist

The results of a recent Fisher Phillips Flash Survey reveal that a staggering 94% of employers reported experiencing more difficulty than normal in retaining and recruiting workers in 2021, with more than half reporting “severe” difficulty compared to normal times. According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, in the manufacturing industry alone, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs are expected to be unfilled by 2030.

This labor shortage comes at a time when employers are prioritizing advancement of diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace. In fact, Fisher Phillips recently published an Insight into on how diversity and inclusion efforts can help employers navigate the workforce shortage. This intersection creates a unique opportunity for employers in the manufacturing industry to both address workforce challenges and position themselves as leaders in disability inclusion by focusing elements of hiring and training efforts on neurodiverse individuals who are often overlooked as potential job candidates.

How Disability Inclusion Can Aid Manufacturers

With so many jobs that need to be filled, a dearth of qualified applicants to fill them, and rapidly growing responsibilities around diversity and inclusion efforts, why not pursue fresh opportunities for building a modern, inclusive, and sustainable workforce? As noted above, mounting evidence demonstrates that neurodiverse individuals can thrive in certain roles in the manufacturing world. These positions include, but are not limited to:

  • Quality Control Technician
  • Shipping & Receiving Clerk
  • Production Technician
  • Inventory Control Specialist
  • Front End Specialist
  • Back End Specialist

Still Not Convinced?

If you still aren’t sure whether to proactively recruit neurodiverse workers to your organization, consider the fact that disability-inclusive companies experience benefits like greater returns on investment in human capital, lower rates of turnover, and increased productivity.

You should also consider taking steps to become more disability-inclusive because it’s the right thing to do – and the manufacturing industry will demand it in the long run. This is highlighted by the importance the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) places on disability hiring discrimination. Employers with strong disability hiring practices can become industry leaders while defending against potential disability discrimination claims.

Further, Millennial and Gen Z professionals have repeatedly made clear that they view diversity and inclusion in the workplace to be table stakes for potential employment. And with an estimated 75% of the workforce projected to comprise millennials by 2025, employers across all industries would be well served by making earnest investments in their priorities.

Finally, beyond helping to meet operational staffing needs and making meaningful investments in inclusion-based ESG goals, you can use these efforts as a tool to fast-track development of a talent pipeline that will be sustainable for the foreseeable future. 

Of course, proactive disability inclusion is not limited to hiring practices alone. Disability:In is the leading resource for business disability inclusion worldwide and has developed the Disability Equality Index, a comprehensive benchmarking took that helps companies build a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions they can take to achieve disability inclusion and equality. The index is a scale of 0 to 100, and gives companies scores based on their progress on the subject of disability inclusion. Only 10 points of the 100-point scale account for recruitment efforts. Other business practices factor into proactive disability inclusion, such as including companies owned by individuals with disabilities in the supplier diversity program. Note that many large manufacturers appear high up on this list.

How Can You Tap into This Pool?

To identify a candidate pool that includes neurodiverse workers, you should consider building relationships with disability service organizations. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Diversity Inclusion (EARN), for example, maintains a variety of resources aimed at demystifying the process of sourcing qualified candidates with disabilities and connecting employers with potential employees. Disability:In, the publisher of the Disability Equality Index, is another great resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. In certain parts of the country, there may also be state and local government resources to enable you to identify diamond-in-the-rough candidates.

Setting Up for Success

To set neurodiverse workers up for success, you can invest in pre-employment training and apprenticeships that can help them learn and sharpen the skills needed to succeed in these roles. There are also countless additional resources in support of the business case for maintaining and fostering a diverse workplace, which your human resources department can assist with.

Conclusion

Recruiting and retaining neurodiverse employees is a win all around for manufacturers. So, employers, what’s stopping you?

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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