Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Fraser, R. T., Johnson, K., Hebert, J., Ajzen, I., Copeland, J., Brown, P., & Chan, F. (2010). Understanding employers’ hiring intentions in relation to qualified workers with disabilities: Preliminary findings. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 2012 (4), 420-426.
Title:  Understanding employers’ hiring intentions in relation to qualified workers with disabilities: Preliminary findings
Authors:  Fraser, R. T., Johnson, K., Hebert, J., Ajzen, I., Copeland, J., Brown, P., & Chan, F.
Year:  2010
Journal/Publication:  Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Publisher:  Springer
Full text:   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  Yes
Research design:  Qualitative research

Structured abstract:

Background:  Information about employer attitudes towards hiring and retaining individuals with disabilities can help vocational rehabilitation professionals develop more effective educational and marketing interventions for this audience. In turn, this may help overcome employers reluctance to hiring individuals with disabilities. According to the Theory of Planned Behavior, the antecedent of a behavior is the intention to perform the behavior under consideration. Three components: attitude toward the behavior, the perceived social pressure to perform the behavior, and perceived ability to perform the behavior determine intention. This approach has been useful for identifying the determinants of different kinds of behavior. Based on the theory, the intention to engage in the behavior should increase to the extent attitudes are favorable. Or within the context of this study, when employers believe that hiring individuals with disabilities produces positive outcomes their attitudes towards this behavior will be favorable.
Purpose:  The purpose of this study was to explore the behavioral, normative, and control beliefs among potential employers of individuals with disabilities and use that information to develop a survey instrument to collect data from a larger sample.
Setting:  The focus groups took place in the state of Washington.
Study sample:  A total of 20 key business decision makers participated in the focus groups. Six participants were from small businesses; 8 from mid sized businesses and 6 from large businesses. Most participants in the small business focus group had prior contact with individuals with disabilities; through work, friends or family members. Four of the six participants did not currently employ a person with a disability. Six of eight of the participants in the mid sized business focus group indicated that their companies had hired individuals with disabilities and five reported having direct experience working with a person with a disability. Those in the large employer focus group all had experience working with a person who had a disability. Participants in all three focus groups had a high school degree or more. Industries represented varied.
Intervention:  There was no intervention.
Control or comparison condition:  There was no control or comparison condition.
Data collection and analysis:  An employment disability outreach survey was administered to a business advisory council for a program that assists individuals with disabilities with employment and a rotary club. Participants were asked to list advantages and disadvantages associated with reaching out to people with disabilities, as well as factors that would make it easier or more difficult for them to do so. Afterwards, the items generated were discussed as frequency of concern across a series of semi structured focus groups that were made up of personnel, who possessed the power to hire employees, and who were from small, mid sized and large businesses. This helped the researchers explore and further refine their knowledge about employer beliefs and perceptions related to hiring people with disabilities. Next, three focus groups were developed. Participants were randomly assigned to a groups. The first focus group included 6 representatives from small companies, with 30 to 100 employees. The second focus group included 8 representatives from mid-sized companies, with 101 to 500 employees. The third group included 6 representatives from large companies with more than 500 employees. All focus group participants were key decision makers such as directors of human resources and chief operating or executive officers. The members of the focus groups were asked to respond to each item from the outreach survey. Their statements were recorded. Then at a later date, a reviewer used this information to generate themes and assign the statements to the appropriate theme. Another reviewer, completed the same process and validated the themes.
Findings:  Eight themes were generated from the small company focus group. Theme One: Commitment/loyalty by qualified workers with disabilities (a behavioral belief). One consistent theme that emerged early was related to the positive experience that participants employing people with disabilities stated that they had. Theme 2: Lack of contact by vocational rehabilitation agencies (a control belief). All members of this focus group indicated a lack of awareness about vocational rehabilitation agencies and only one had ever been contacted. Theme 3: Effectiveness in contacting state vocational agency (a control belief). Participants said rehabilitation agencies need to provide a one-stop resource for employers to reach qualified workers with disabilities and agreed that employers need a comprehensive list of ‘‘job ready and qualified’’ applicants with disabilities sorted by desired industry sector. Also, due to time constraints, any new outreach effort must be effective and efficient. Theme 4: The fear of losing revenue (a behavioral belief). There was a strong perception that profit margins would be impacted. Theme 5: Fears of litigation (a behavioral belief). The group expressed a concern about being sued, particularly in relation to wrongful termination, by a worker with a disability. Theme 6: Structural/physical constraints (control and behavioral beliefs). There were comments about physical and structural barriers in the work setting and a perceived lack of resources to modify these and better accommodate workers (control). Some participants indicated people with disabilities do not have the strength or physical capacity to perform the work (behavioral). Theme 7: Incentives/financial assistance for employing workers with disabilities (a behavioral belief). All group members thought financial incentives would encourage them to develop positions for people with disabilities. Theme 8: Altruistic/empathetic concern regarding hiring workers with disabilities (a behavioral belief). A few participants expressed an interest in employing a qualified person with a disability. The group representing mid sized businesses had a number of themes that were similar to those expressed by members from the smaller companies focus group. These included: a lack of of contact by vocational rehabilitation agencies, concerns about the efficiency and effectiveness of contact, and financial incentives for hiring. Like smaller businesses, the mid-sized companies,also expressed a belief that people with disabilities could not do the work or were less qualified. Some additional themes also emerged from the mid sized company focus group. Theme 1: Concerns about mid-level and team managers (a normative belief). This group perceived their line managers presented more direct barriers to hiring for reasons such as an unwillingness to accommodate, perceptions about additional time needed to train the worker or concerns related to lowered productivity. Theme 2: Lack of co-worker receptivity/uncomfortableness (a normative belief). There was a perception that other workers might be resentful of benefits extended to an employee with a disability like flex time or shift modifications. Theme 3: Lack of qualifications (a behavioral belief). About half the participants had the perception that individuals referred from vocational rehabilitation agencies were less qualified or had a poorer employment history than other job candidates. Focus group members did not raise concerns about litigation, reduced productivity costs or a lack of physical accessibility. They also did not report positive benefits from connecting with employees with disabilities. The members of the large company focus group had all but one worked with an employee with a disability. Awareness of vocational rehabilitation was high with these companies. They also thought, as did mid-sized companies, that convincing first line managers to reach out to hire people with disabilities would be a good thing, they would be hard to convince. Issues related to coworker resentment were not noted. One new theme that emerged from the large company focus group was efficiency/effectiveness of contact with a vocational rehabilitation agency (a control belief). The discussion included remarks about a need for a single point of contact and list of qualified workers to include a lack of a uniform marketing approach. Specifically, the representatives from large companies stated a need for education and outreach. The focus group member representing large companies did not express concerns about litigation, liability, loss of revenue or a need for financial incentives.
Conclusions:  Preliminary data from the focus groups revealed a need to tailor educational and/or marketing approaches related to hiring people with disabilities based on the size of the company. Employers from different sized businesses have different needs and access points to engage with vocational rehabilitation. Employers have limited time for educational and marketing presentations, so training must be carefully designed to be both efficient and effective. Findings from this study were used to select items for a revised survey of employer attitudes using the Theory of Planned Behavior.