Promising Practices

Build the Pipeline: Outreach and Recruitment

In the 2012 report, Federal Agency Employment Strategies: A Framework for Disability Inclusion, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor outlines federal best practices for recruiting, hiring, and advancing people with disabilities. The Build the Pipeline recommendation is all about developing relationships with a variety of sources to attain a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates, including people with disabilities.

Creating a pool of highly qualified candidates involves making the proper internal and external connections, conducting targeted outreach, and discussing the results of your efforts.

The New Mexico Business Leadership Network NMBLN) is an affiliate of the US Business Leadership Network. In 2011 the NMBLN helped representatives from three federal agencies to form Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), with the goal of increasing federal employment opportunities for people with disabilities. What follows combines the recommendations from Build the Pipeline with quotes and videos from the New Mexico federal partners.

Develop an Array of Recruitment Sources

Develop an ongoing dialogue with public agencies, educational institutions, not-for-profit and for-profit agencies through regular meetings and electronic communication (e.g., email "blasts"). In other words, work with "all of the above" to get your message out about opportunities for federal employment.

The New Mexico BLN worked with the Kirtland Air Force Base, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to form the Disability Awareness Working Group (DAWG). According to James A. Maes Director, Civil Rights, Southwestern Region, Forest Service:

"We developed and collaborated on a strategic plan for increasing our hiring of people with disabilities. And not only just to increase our employment of qualified individuals, but also to have it replicated in the community. And there's even a component of community outreach."

Conduct Outreach and Recruitment Activities

Develop a leadership group that includes federal employees with and without disabilities, Selective Placement Coordinators, Disability Program Managers, and others (including local agency partners) to organize job fairs, social networking, and other outreach activities to cast the largest net. Initiate Employee Resource Groups of employees with disability to provide meaningful solutions for both hiring highly qualified candidates, and advancing high performing employees with disabilities. Get the word out that your federal agency is a great place to find employment and build a career!

Employee Resources Groups (ESG) were started across federal agencies in New Mexico to provide a means for federal employees with disabilities to share their concerns and solutions. Jesse Kalachman , Intern, Army Corp of Engineers, was a part of this effort:

"...the managers might not have that much experience working with people with disabilities, so it's a real learning experience for them to work with people who do and to find out more about their disabilities and what kinds of differences in the work situation they might need.."

Assess Success

Your leadership group and ERG should discuss the results of all planned initiatives to determine which policies should be sustained, modified or discarded. Statistics should be routinely gathered on employment and advancement of your federal workforce who have self-identified as having disabilities, comparing your current status with short and long term targets. In addition, the ERG can provide Promising Practices and challenges experienced by federal employees with disabilities - putting a face on statistics. Major Gary Bonham from the Army Corps of Engineers says...

"And another great thing for us is that our HR people are actually embedded within a district which is kind of a new initiative...because we have them embedded in place, our supervisors, our mid, lower managers can talk with them directly face to face. They're able to understand exactly the needs of what we need. Because of that, they're able to go out and do the specific hiring actions in an expeditious manner that uses the best methods."

A Welcoming Environment

It cannont be emphasized enough that building the pipeline is a two-way street. The federal agency provides a welcoming, attractive and accommodating environment - for everyone. The prospective or new federal employee with (or without) a disability works at the highest standards of quality and productivity. Veronica Vigil, Engineer at Kirtland Air Force Base spoke about feeling welcome, without feeling different:

"They welcomed me like any other employee would, we always have welcome lunches, they take you around, usually get assigned to somebody who takes you around to meet I didn't feel out of place at all. I felt right at home when I first got there."