When I was a kid, my favorite comic book character was the superhero known as Daredevil. He stood out to me because his disability was also his strength. When he became blind in a childhood accident, he developed heightened abilities that gave him a “radar” sense. Daredevil’s powers struck a chord with me because I struggled in school due to my own disability.
So when I took over our family company, The Bazaar, Inc, from my father, I wanted to make disability inclusion a core part of the business. According to 2019 U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the jobless rate is twice as high for people with disabilities as it is for the general population. Proactively hiring people with disabilities became my goal.
Last year, we began a partnership with the Workplace Initiative by Understood. Now, people with disabilities make up 10 percent of our workforce—and that number continues to grow.
It turns out that the benefits of disability inclusion go far beyond supporting our community. Our disability inclusion program has given us better access to talent and made our business stronger.
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When we started the program, one of our big needs was to lower turnover in our retail stores. It’s hard to find enough people who want entry-level positions, and they don’t tend to stay for long. The constant churn of recruiting, hiring, and training is expensive.
So we started to work with disability employment services that support first-time job seekers to find positions. These services take a lot of the work off our plate—they’ve already connected with job seekers and assessed their strengths. Suddenly, it was easy to find good candidates who were specifically looking for the types of jobs we had to offer.
The results were clear. We’d started with a retail turnover rate of 75 percent, and after six months, we had seen a huge improvement. That quickly saved us a boatload of time, effort, and money. And because it was easier to match candidates to the right positions, our new hires were happier in their jobs. They were more likely to show up on time, their attendance was better, and they were excited to come to work.
Our initial success convinced us to branch out. We now partner with more than 60 disability organizations. Our employees with disabilities fill all types of positions, from entry-level to management. For example, we recently hired a veteran to fill a reverse logistics manager position, and his process improvement skills have already made our warehouse operations more efficient.
Our new hiring protocols helped managers develop a surprisingly simple skill set—to look at people, not positions. We had to change our recruiting practices to focus more on peoples’ strengths and interests, and less on previous work experience.
This people-first approach has helped us build an inclusive workplace that welcomes people with a wide range of strengths and ways of thinking. And diversity is an important ingredient for success in any organization. It drives creativity, better problem-solving, and better employee engagement.
The practices we now use to recruit, hire, retain, and advance people with disabilities are the same best practices that should be used across the board. They’ve contributed to our company’s success, making it stronger and more flexible.
When I look at our company now, I think back to my comic book hero, Daredevil. The moral of the comic books is still true—our differences can be our greatest strengths.
Brad Nardick is the president of The Bazaar, Inc.