Want Your Business to Succeed? Hire Moms. Hire Vets. Hire Boomers. Hire People With Disabilities. Here’s Why

These overqualified groups are just waiting to be snatched up by smart companies.

By Leigh Buchanan and Kate Rockwood Editor-at-large and contributing editor, Inc.

Companies are fighting over the same Harvard MBAs and Silicon Valley talent. Instead, they should hire these underrated people. Here’s why aging Boomers, career pivoters, and those in overlooked talent pools might be the best recruits you ever make.

Moms: The most overqualified talent stuck at the playground

The Case for Hiring Them
Plenty of employers dream of hiring temporary or part-time teams of seasoned pros adept at running multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns or spearheading strategic analyses. What they don’t realize is that playgrounds can be full of them: experienced professionals turned parents, who are eager to work but have been sidelined by parenthood for a few years or don’t want the full 9-to-5 commitment of their previous gig. “Small businesses have a unique advantage in that they can usually offer a lot more flexibility than a larger enterprise,” says Allison Robinson, founder of digital talent marketplace the Mom Project.

How to Help Them Succeed
Communicating expectations and needs–on both sides–can help get new hires integrated faster and increase their tenure. Some women returning to work after a few years away are eager to embrace a traditional workweek, but others may crave flexibility–to work remotely, to create a set schedule that’s not 9 to 5, or to work the hours needed to get the job done rather than hewing to a strict 40-hour standard.

Where to Find Them

Check out the Mom Project, the Second Shift, Après, Werk, and Mom Corps. Each org’s process varies–from a DIY job board to having the team screen and curate candidates for you–as does the fee structure. There’s also been a bumper crop of work-training hybrid programs aimed at tuning up people’s skills after a few years on the sidelines. OnRamp Fellowship connects companies with legal and finance people, and through the nonprofit Path Forward, companies offer “returnships,” mostly for tech employees who have been out of the workforce for at least two years to focus on caregiving. The Mom Project also offers a “maternityship” option, in which you cover an employee’s maternity leave with a temporary hire of a parent looking for reentry.

Worth Knowing
Temporary or returnship roles can be a great way to test the waters: At Intuit, three-quarters of the 30 women who participated in its returnship program in India have joined full time. In March, the company rolled out the program in the U.S.

Companies Doing It Right
Returnships are up and running at giants such as Apple, Goldman Sachs, and PayPal and at upstarts like Instacart and Udemy. Box, Aflac, Netflix, Etsy, and Facebook are just a handful of the businesses using the mom-targeted placement firms to find their next hire.

Veterans: Wired for everything from customer intel to robotics

What Roles They Fill
Military specialties such as aircraft maintenance and construction equipment operations translate directly into civilian life, says Ross A. Brown, head of military and veteran affairs at JPMorgan Chase. At his employer, for example, those previously in military intelligence excel at customer research. Many vets also have experience with advanced technology, including GPS, A.I., drones, robots, and virtual reality, says Katherine Webster, founder of VetsinTech. Cybersecurity is a sweet spot, she says: “They have security clearances and an ingrained desire to protect.”

Female Strong
One of the fastest-growing populations of veterans is women. (Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

In addition to tech skills developed in the military, many veterans are certified in software from Salesforce, and more than a dozen other technology companies have pledged to train 60,000 veterans and military spouses, mostly for free, by 2021.

“Companies overlook veterans’ amazing skill sets, particularly when it comes to technology, leadership, team building, and transparent decision making.”
Julia Taylor Kennedy, senior vice president at the Center for Talent Innovation

How to Help Them Succeed
Communications in the military are simple and direct, lacking the nuance and social niceties of typical business exchanges, so teach new hires the less formal language of their new profession. Rising through the military is like walking upstairs: Each step is well defined and predictable. Rising in a business is like rock climbing: You’re always looking for handholds, sometimes going sideways before you rise. Managers should lay out career paths and requirements to veterans in detail. They should pay particular attention to leadership, to which many veterans will want to return.

Companies Doing It Right

Starbucks was recently criticized when an episode of racial insensitivity toward some customers got national attention. In hiring, however, the company has pursued diversity, including a push, begun in 2013, to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by this year. It’s already reached 15,000, and is on track to hire 25,000 by 2025. Most are young people early in their civilian careers with a single tour under their belts coming in as baristas. But “we also look for more senior veterans to fill leadership positions: store managers and district managers,” says Matt Kress, Starbucks’ senior manager of veterans and military affairs. “When we put veterans into field leadership positions, the retention is so high it is amazing. This started as a national obligation, but we quickly realized that they make us a better company.”

Where’s the Opportunity?
One-third of veterans are underemployed. (Source: ZipRecruiter and the Call of Duty Endowment)

Retirees: Who wants golf when you can reinvent yourself?

The Case for Hiring Them
Older adults can bring to the team both deep business experience and jam-packed Rolodexes. They’re also more loyal: In 2016, workers above the age of 55 had a median tenure of more than 10 years with an employer, versus 2.8 for Millennials, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And research indicates that multi­generational workforces are more productive and have less turnover than companies without age diversity.

Where to Find Them
You might want to target “boomerangers”–people eager to return from retirement–or those looking to scale back from full time but not quit work entirely. Wahve is a contract staffing firm that specializes in those who are “pre­tiring,” mainly in insurance and accounting. RetirementJobs.com, which targets the 50-plus crowd, spans roles from CFO to sales associate.

Check Your Bias
According to AARP, nearly four in 10 workers over age 65 plan to continue working, compared with about one in 10 less than three decades ago. It is estimated that, by 2060, 27 percent of people age 55 and older will still be working, according to the BLS. Yet when the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco sent out more than 40,000 dummy job applications for lower-skill positions that included age indicators (such as date of college graduation or lengthy work experience), it found that applicants between the ages of 29 and 31 received a full 35 percent more callbacks than those ages 64 to 66.

Consider installing the Google Chrome extension Unbias Me, which hides an applicant’s picture when a profile is viewed on LinkedIn, Twitter, or GitHub. Also, give your want ads some close scrutiny: Recruiting for a “digital native” is straight-up biased, but there are more subtle signals that could be discouraging older workers, like bragging about the free beer and Ping-Pong perks or describing the culture as “young and dynamic,” says Kieran Snyder, co-founder of Textio.

What Roles They Fill
Some senior workers expect to stay in their same industry, just charging ahead into their 60s, 70s, or 80s without slowing down. But others may be eager to mix things up, says Tim Driver, founder of RetirementJobs.com. “Compared with younger workers, people coming out of retirement are more apt to look for creative ways to plug into a company and help.”

Companies Doing It Right
While many large accounting firms still usher older partners out the door in their 60s, PKF O’Connor Davies actually seeks and hires senior accountants who have aged out at other firms. Many of the company’s silver-haired hires are paired to mentor less experienced employees–and most stay with the firm for five years or more.

People with disabilities: They’ve spent a lifetime problem-solving

What Roles They Fill

People with disabilities range from greeters at Walmart to the late Stephen Hawking (left). “There is a bit of a craze now for hiring people with autism for tech jobs because the jobs lend themselves to repetitive tasks and require an eye for detail,” says Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability.

The Case for Hiring Them
“If you think about people who have to navigate a world that was not built for them, you have to be a good problem solver,” says Glazer.

51%: The estimated segment of people with disabilities–both employed and not–seeking new jobs.

Source: Kessler Foundation

How to Help Them Succeed
Companies should ensure the application process itself does not discriminate. Job descriptions sometimes include unnecessary requirements. For example, written tests may exclude the blind, while behavioral interviews, which assess things like eye contact, weigh against people with autism.

Worth Knowing
Glazer recommends that if a manager has a disability, he or she discuss it openly. “You can almost hear a sigh of relief go through the workforce when a senior leader discloses a disability,” she says.

Career Pivoters: Hungry to recast their agility to fit your industry

The Case for Hiring Them
Advertising, media, health care, retail–what industry isn’t undergoing turmoil or transformation? As a result, people who have spent a decade or more working their way up in a field that is vastly changing are suddenly hungry to reinvent their careers elsewhere. Their transferrable talents might be less obvious, but think creatively and you might discover your next best competitive weapon.

Where to Find Them
“We tend to look for talent where we’re used to finding talent, but that search bias can block you from cross-industry finds,” says Marion Poetz, an innovation professor at Copenhagen Business School. To poach from other fields requires some extra legwork: Tap colleagues in adjacent industries who can recommend problem solvers they know; and keep an eye out for universally coveted traits, such as strategic chops and original thinking, rather than sector-specific experience.

How to Help Them Succeed
Treating outsider hires like experiments will almost guarantee failure. Instead, invest the time in educating them on your industry and provide very specific guardrails, says Kimberly Grotto, whose Chicago-based firm, Grotto Marketing, regularly plucks talent from other fields, including architecture, fashion, and product development. “The magic is in their drive and the way they go about solving problems,” she says.

Worth Knowing
Every career reinvention isn’t going to be a slam dunk, but the new platform Opus–currently being beta-tested by seed- to Series C-funded startups–is helping minimize those risks. The company coordinates six-month paid positions as a trial run. “We wanted to mirror the consulting world, where people bounce around between sectors and clients,” says co-founder Juliette Lim. Hiring for a project, rather than a full-time position, is also a good way to test-drive before you commit.

Read this article from the June 2018 issue of Inc. Magazine on their website.

Five Questions with Dr. Ronald Copeland of Kaiser Permanente on Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

Kaiser Permanente’s focus on reducing mental health stigma for consumers and members also applies to its own employees. The National Organization on Disability caught up with Ron Copeland, MD, to understand how to best create a supportive and inclusive workplace for people who are experiencing a mental health condition.   

Ronald Copeland, MD, FACS, is senior vice president, National Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Strategy and Policy and chief equity, inclusion, and diversity officer at Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Copeland has been a practicing physician and surgeon within the Kaiser Permanente health system for 25 years and since 2013 has championed Kaiser Permanente’s equity, inclusion, and diversity agenda as a critical element of the organization’s overall strategic goals.

Dr. Copeland joined the NOD Board of Directors in 2015, and in 2016 Kaiser Permanente became a President’s Circle member of the NOD Corporate Leadership Council, a group of 50+ companies committed to advancing disability inclusion in the workplace. Because of Kaiser Permanente’s exemplary employment practices for people with disabilities, NOD named the company a 2017 Leading Disability Employer™.

Dr. Copeland served as a panelist at an NOD Corporate Leadership Council roundtable dedicated to starting a dialogue and challenging outdated thinking on mental health in the workplace. NOD asked Dr. Copeland five key questions to find out why employers shouldn’t overlook mental health in the workplace, how to reduce stigma and improve employee engagement, and what Kaiser Permanente is doing to build an inclusive culture.

Dr. Copeland speaking, alongside two panelists, at an NOD Corporate Leadership Council event

1. Why is it as important to focus on mental health in the workplace as physical wellbeing?

Mental health conditions are on the rise globally. An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and the World Health Organization has predicted that by 2020 depression will be the second-leading cause of disease globally. Depression and other mental health conditions are a leading cause of workplace disability in the form of lost productivity because of how common they are–1 out of every 5 people are suffering from a mental health condition at any given time–and because they tend to occur when people are young. Three-quarters of mental health conditions arise before the age of 24. While these statistics seem daunting, it’s important to remember most of these conditions are treatable.

However, mental health too often is treated as separate from physical health. One of Kaiser Permanente’s core beliefs is that total health is more than freedom from physical affliction — it’s about mind, body, and spirit. It’s the philosophy we live and breathe. Part of our mission is to achieve total health for our employees, members, and the communities we serve. With respect to our employees, we know it’s difficult to reach their full potential if they are experiencing physical or mental challenges. If we are committed to our employees achieving total health, we must treat mental health as importantly as we treat physical health, by creating an environment where people feel supported and psychologically safe, and where they have access to mental health services. There are resources available. There is hope.

2. Why is there still a stigma about mental health? Are you seeing a cultural sea change at all?

Stigma about mental health, driven by fear and misunderstanding, occurs because people often view conditions such as depression as character flaws instead of as treatable illnesses.  Stigma has been largely absent from the dialog about how the health care industry and society overall should address the mental health epidemic. The stigma around mental health has led to harmful and biased ways of describing people with mental health conditions, and feeds the stereotypes that people living with mental health conditions are less than whole, abnormal, or dangerous.

As part of our “Find Your Words,” public health awareness campaign, which is designed to help people start conversations around mental health issues, Kaiser Permanente conducted the first national consumer poll focused on stigma to assess attitudes and perceptions toward mental health. It uncovered some interesting contradictions: While 70 percent of respondents said people are more open about discussing mental health conditions compared to 10 years ago, more than half the respondents felt a family member or friend was struggling with a mental health issue, but not telling them.

As health care providers, we must make it safe and routine to talk with patients about mental health. It is as relevant as talking about chest pain or a broken limb. It is part of a patient’s total health.

3. What does the research show about prioritizing mental health and inclusion?

Among the reasons employers can no longer afford to remain silent about mental health in the workplace is the direct connection between employees’ mental health and the organization’s bottom line. Research demonstrates that employees struggling with mental health conditions directly impact workplace productivity and performance:

  • Mental health conditions are the single greatest cause of worker disability in the U.S.
  • 62% of missed work days can be attributed to mental health conditions.
  • Employees with untreated mental health conditions use non-psychiatric health care services 3 times more than those who do get treatment.
  • Depressed employees are 20% to 40% more likely to become unemployed because of their condition.
  • People with depression have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

But, again, we want people to understand there is hope. Treatment for depression and mental health conditions works – but people who feel the need to keep their depression hidden are far less likely to seek help. That is why we want to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions, so those who could benefit from treatment aren’t afraid to seek it out.

4. What is Kaiser Permanente doing to make the workplace inclusive for people with disabilities, including mental health issues?

Creating an inclusive environment in the workplace helps employees feel safe and supported. If we’re interested in the total health and wellness of our employees and patients, we must have the same level of empathy about a person’s mental health as we do for their physical health. One of the ways we do this at Kaiser Permanente is through training and education around equity, inclusion, and diversity. Our Leading Inclusively program provides leaders and their teams the opportunity to gain knowledge, adopt attitudes, develop skills, and modify behaviors that contribute to Kaiser Permanente’s goal of continuously becoming more inclusive.

Additionally, assessment and measurement play a significant role in how Kaiser Permanente approaches making our workplace culture more inclusive for people with disabilities, including mental health conditions. We participate in benchmarking and undergo several external assessments to identify improvement opportunities and effective workplace inclusion practices we can implement.

Specific to mental health conditions – our commitment to advancing the conversation on mental health and wellness runs throughout our organization and beyond. Our Chairman and CEO  Bernard J. Tyson is actively leading a global dialogue about mental health, leading a panel on the topic at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and participating in a discussion at Brainstorm Health 2018 on ways to reduce stigma around mental health issues, integrate mental and physical care, and build resilient communities.

Kaiser Permanente is piloting a Mental Health First Aid training course to empower employees and the community to respond compassionately to someone experiencing a mental health challenge.

And as part of our Find Your Words campaign, Kaiser Permanente partnered with national oral history project StoryCorps. We asked for volunteers – both inside and outside our organization – to share their personal experiences with mental health conditions. The conversations are powerful, and everyone who participated said they did it because they wanted to help others. Sharing these conversations builds awareness and empathy around mental health conditions and the hope is listeners will be inspired to step out and share as well.

5. What are things we all can do to create a more inclusive environment for those struggling with mental health issues?

We all can show compassion and empathy for those with mental health conditions. We can also talk more openly about mental health by sharing personal stories, which help those struggling with mental health issues feel less isolated. We can also reduce stigma by learning and sharing facts about mental health conditions and being mindful of the words we use to avoid reinforcing stigma and causing harm. By raising awareness about the mental health epidemic and making it safe for people to seek help, we can move toward achieving total health for all.

Charter Communications Innovates Cutting Edge Products—By and For People with Disabilities

Yesterday, NOD President Carol Glazer spent the morning with the Accessible Product Development team at Charter Communications, also known as Spectrum, the second largest US telecom company.

“It was a room filled with more than a dozen of the most talented, ingenious, dedicated young people I’ve ever met. They are innovating products most of us could never even dream of,” Glazer remarked.

Peter Brown, Vice President of Design, who leads the group, has quietly, but determinedly, assembled a team of skilled workers who truly reflect their customer base, including people with vision, mobility, and hearing disabilities, among others.

Rhonda Crichlow, Charter’s Chief Diversity Officer, was there to learn everything this group does in recruiting the best and brightest people with disabilities.

“To say it was inspirational is an understatement,” Glazer noted. “If you want to work for a company that is truly walking the talk of disability workforce inclusion, with the passion, dedication and resourcefulness required, look seriously at Charter. You will be as inspired as I am!”

Learn more about Charter Communications commitment to diversity and inclusion and their career opportunities.


Peter Brown, Charter Communications' Vice President of Design, speaking at NOD's Spring Networking Luncheon

Peter Brown, Charter Communications’ Vice President of Design, speaking at NOD Corporate Leadership Council Networking Luncheon in April, 2018

Rhonda Crichlow (right) speaking an a Women in Cable Telecommunications industry event

Rhonda Crichlow (right) speaking an a Women in Cable Telecommunications industry event

NOD Attends DiversityInc’s Top 50 Gala

DiversityInc’s gala dinner announcing the Top 50 Companies for Diversity, which attracts nearly 1,000 people from leading US employers, featured a new element, courtesy of their CEO Luke Visconti.

In addition to recognizing the numbers of women and racial and ethnic minorities in senior positions, he referenced the disability practices for many in the Top 50. Visconti, who serves as NOD’s vice chairman, also offered a full accounting of “ableism” in his own experience and that of others. It is not an overstatement to say that this addition will assuredly be game changing for our collective efforts to ensure equal employment opportunity for all 29 million working-age people with disabilities in this country.

As in past years, Carol Glazer, President of NOD, had the privilege of announcing the DiversityInc Top Companies for People with Disabilities. Thank you to Luke Visconti and his talented team at DiversityInc for elevating disability  in our national consciousness as part of the unfinished business of the civil rights movement.

NOD President Carol Glazer with COO Sue Meirs

NOD President Carol Glazer (left) with Chief Operating Officer Sue Meirs (right)

Group photo of NOD staff

Group photo of NOD staff at the DiversityInc gala