The insights you’ll gain from hiring people who have struggled

Every employer can attest that you learn something from each person you bring into your organization. But the insight you stand to gain from hiring people who have struggled is particularly unique and extraordinarily valuable.

Although “people who have struggled” might sound like a small pool of candidates, it actually refers to a wide array of individuals. From people with disabilities such as mobility impairments and blindness to individuals who have battled addiction, you will quickly see that hardships and tough situations have affected many lives. It can even include hiring rehabilitated felons.

Even in a tight job market, employers are often reluctant to hire individuals with disabilities or who have struggled with addiction. Despite federal legislation and policies that protect workers who have struggled with addiction or have disabilities, they still confront prejudice and misconceptions when looking for a job.

Rather than being an employer who overlooks or disregards people who have struggled, you would be wise to bring them into your organization. Hiring with diversity in mind is one of the top tips for building a strong team for your business.

Not only can people who have persevered and overcome difficult situations contribute, but they also have a lot they can teach you and your team members.

Overlooked candidates are often highly qualified

While every organization can benefit from hiring people who have struggled, small businesses especially would be wise to do so. One of the insights you will gain from hiring people with such backgrounds is that qualified candidates are often overlooked.

For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 16% of people with disabilities have earned at minimum a bachelor’s degree. Despite their education, they are continually passed over for positions due to misunderstandings regarding their ability to perform in the workplace.

Similarly, being open to hiring rehabilitated felons could greatly expand your applicant pool. Major companies like Delta Airlines and McDonald’s have made hiring ex-cons part of their inclusion strategies, according to CNBC contributor Tim Mullaney.

If you’re running a small business that has trouble attracting top talent, this is an opportunity to bring in qualified candidates that bigger companies failed to recognize. Regularly doing so will, over time, change how you approach the hiring process and allow you to see deeper into a candidate’s potential.

In addition, these candidates bring their unique viewpoints and experiences to your organization. Because of their backgrounds, they will likely have ideas and insights about how you can better shape your business to make a connection with and serve the market they represent. For example, hiring a blind or colorblind person might make you rethink the accessibility of your website for visually-impaired individuals.

Everyone is vulnerable to hard times

Just as with candidates with disabilities, you would also do well to hire people who have overcome addiction. There is a common misconception that only a certain type of person abuses drugs and alcohol, but by hiring someone who has struggled with addiction, one of the insights you will gain is that anyone can become an addict.

Acknowledging this vulnerability is a valuable lesson for you as well as your employees. If the person is willing to be open about their struggle and talk about the negative effects of alcohol on their body and life such as sudden loss of income due to losing a job, it could be a life-changing learning experience.

At the very least, hiring people who have struggled with addiction reinforces the idea that everyone deserves a second chance. Up until now, perhaps that’s just a sentiment you’ve paid lip service to but haven’t actually followed through on. Acting on such a belief is rewarding in and of itself.

Inclusivity boosts team morale

Of course, hiring people who have struggled shouldn’t be confused with charity work. Your whole organization will benefit from increased inclusivity.

According to research by the Sierra Group, making people with disabilities a part of your team will enhance staff morale. People feel good about working for an organization that prioritizes inclusion and diversity.

Other benefits include higher retention of existing employees, enhanced creativity, and better problem-solving skills. Furthermore, the Sierra Group documented an increased work ethic in organizations that included people with disabilities.

Both you and your employees will gain insight into what it means to work hard. A team member who has faced challenges inspires those around him or her to be the best possible version of themselves.

A difficult past can make for a loyal employee

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to recognize the benefits of inclusivity. Many people still consider addiction a moral failing, and your decision to hire people who have struggled could make a difference in de-stigmatizing it.

Recovery-friendly workplaces are few and far between. If you open your organization to someone who is in the recovery process, you will gain insight into the fact that helping someone through a tumultuous period cultivates good faith that can last a career.

For similar reasons, HR Daily Advisor contributor Bridget Miller encourages businesses to consider hiring ex-convicts. Because so few organizations are willing to take a chance on people with a felony on their record, these employees are less likely to quit thus lowering your organization’s turnover. If you are willing to take the leap, you stand to gain a very loyal employee.

When you hire people who other employers have turned their backs on, gaining hardworking and qualified workers is only the start of how your organization will benefit. From lessons on vulnerability to the power of inclusivity, you and your team will gain a variety of valuable insights from hiring people who have struggled.

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