RD437 - Progress Report on Employment Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities – September 1, 2022
In 2017, the Code of Virginia was amended to establish a goal to increase by five percent, the level of employment of individuals with disabilities over the next five years. One of the requirements for all Executive Branch agencies is the annual submission of a formal Employment Plan that outlines the organization's individual strategies for helping the Commonwealth achieve its goal.
The Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) designed an Agency Employment Opportunity Plan (EOP) template to collect required information and enables agencies to align practices with overall diversity and workforce planning initiatives.
Sixty-five percent of Executive Branch agencies are in compliance with the mandate to submit an EOP, consistent with last year. These agencies submitted a Statement of Commitment signed by their Agency Head or College or University President, and an updated Employment Opportunity Plan outlining their recruitment and retention efforts. This is a significant reduction from prior years when the compliance rate was 85 percent. Many of the pending plans are for Higher Education Institutions. DHRM has followed up with these remaining agencies to ensure completion of pending plans.
Overall, the Commonwealth has made progress in its recruitment and retention efforts. Representation of Individuals with Disabilities has increased from less than 1% to approximately 3% of Executive Branch employees. This improvement, in part, can be attributed to the implementation of the Voluntary Disability Self-Identification form to improve data collection. However, a continued challenge is that employees are reluctant to voluntarily disclose their disabilities which skews the data available to DHRM. The establishment of the Alternative Hiring Process, implemented in April, will provide another resource to enable agencies to fully achieve the goal.
• The DHRM Agency Employment Opportunity Plan template (Attachment A) was used to collect required information and enable agencies the ability to align practices with overall diversity and workforce planning initiatives. DHRM provided guidance and communications to agencies when drafting their plans.
• Through the federal PATHWAYS grant, the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) funded a full time liaison position embedded within DHRM to focus solely on the employment of individuals with disabilities by state agencies. The position assisted with the design of the alternative hiring process, provides training and technical assistance to agency HR, identifies jobs in state agencies for recruitment to people with disabilities, and collaborates with counselors in DARS Vocational Rehabilitation offices to identify qualified applicants for state jobs.
• DHRM has developed and will implement a comprehensive strategy, including the alternative hiring process, communication, education and awareness, compliance, and retention of individual with disabilities.
• DHRM collaborated with DARS to offer Windmills disability awareness training to the HR Community. This training focuses on the culture of disability in the workplace, change to attitudinal barriers & creating new perspectives on the unique abilities of individuals; increasing awareness of the role that attitudes play in the employment of people with disabilities to encourage the employment and advancement of persons with disabilities.
• DHRM continues to provide tools and resources on its webpage to support agencies with their Employment Opportunities Plans, including links to Virginia Ability, a non-profit organization that educates businesses on workplace disability inclusion, and the Employer Assistance Resource Network (EARN) on Disability Inclusion.
• DHRM partnered with DARS on an awareness campaign for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This included a communication plan and outreach to Agency Heads of Executive Branch agencies and Agency HR Directors and HR staff. The social media campaign highlighted tools related to disability etiquette, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities, making workplaces accessible and job accommodations.
• DHRM met with advocates of the disability community to identify additional efforts and needs to increase the employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Advocates of the disability community served as the Advisory Workgroup in the design and development of the Alternative Hiring Process. This group previously completed an assessment of the state’s Recruitment Management System (RMS) to determine ease of use and assist in the identification of any system barriers for those with disabilities. The feedback received was relatively positive regarding use of the RMS system and recommendations for improvement will be incorporated into new RMS solution.
• DHRM continues to partner with the Department of Veteran Services (DVS) to focus on initiatives related to individuals who are both veterans and veterans who have disabilities. An action plan was developed and implemented. The plan included interviewing tools and resources for this targeted group.
• Agencies were asked to continue to examine their internal policies and practices relating to the employment of individuals with disabilities, including a review of recruitment efforts, interview criteria, testing procedures, and resources to accommodate applicants and workers with disabilities in order to identify opportunities for improvement.
• DHRM incorporated reporting for Individuals with Disabilities in Agency Workforce Plan Reporting tools. Agency Workforce Plans are part of the annual strategic planning process, which outlines succession plans for key personnel, executive positions, and employees nearing retirement. The updated EOP template data was included in the 2022 report.