Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Opportunity Calling-Tapping Into Disability Recruitment for Call Center Staffing

December 01, 2017
By Special Guest
Kevin McCloskey & Keith Meadows, Director of Partnership Development; Hiring and Engagement Consultant -

Companies understand that there is no more critical point of engagement than between customers and call center representatives, yet employee turnover rates range near 30 and 45 percent in the call center environment.  Employers are challenged in both attracting and retaining this critical workforce.

Disability Solutions, the national non-profit consulting division of Ability Beyond, headquartered in Connecticut, has helped corporate clients meet this challenge by hiring jobseekers with disabilities.  As a result, call centers are realizing positive results including reduced turnover, lower interview to hire ratios, and increased productivity. When hiring managers spend less time interviewing and when turnover is lower, savings are achieved and there is more time to develop and support current employees.   

We help our clients meet their workforce needs by creating a customized playbook that lays out how to navigate the waters to hire individuals and veterans with disabilities.

Business vs. Charity

Contrary to the historical view that hiring people with disabilities is a charitable or “nice thing” to do,  our leading clients like PepsiCo, Synchrony Financial, Aramark, Staples and others have demonstrated that diversifying a workforce has a tremendous positive business impact.

What is a Disability?

It is important to understand the wide range of people this talent pool represents.  The term disability includes, but is not limited to, people with hidden disabilities such as depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders or ADD/ADHD, developmental disabilities such as Downs Syndrome, physical disabilities that impact mobility, dexterity, vision or hearing, and disability due to medical conditions, injury, or aging such as Parkinson’s, stroke, brain injury or cancer.  In fact, 70% of all disabilities are hidden.   Some well-known celebrities with hidden disabilities include Justin Timberlake, Olympic record breaker Michael Phelps and Apple’s Steve Jobs. 

Disabilities certainly do not discriminate and cut across all dimensions of diversity including gender, race, ethnicity, gender and veteran status.  With this diversity in disability is an even larger range of experience, education, skills and knowledge.  One of our first steps in working with companies is “changing minds” through education.  Our consultants focus on educating the client’s workforce to dispel fear, stigma and misperceptions.

Market Value

In addition to attracting an untapped talent pool, there is a market opportunity for companies.   When companies hire people with diverse perspectives, they can inform product and service development, advertising and customer service to engage diverse customer markets.  Currently 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, making those with disabilities the largest minority in America with a combined annual spending power of $645 billion.  In addition, seventy million families have a least one member with a disability.  Family, friends and allies are fiercely loyal with their purchasing dollars and will support companies who hire those with disabilities by consciously selecting their products and services over competitors. 

Case Study: Pepsi ACT

Disability Solutions and Pepsi teamed up together to create Pepsi ACT – Achieving Change Together. One of the nine current Pepsi ACT locations is a call center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  In this call center, there are two sides of the business – sales and equipment repairs.  Disability Solutions reached out to the surrounding jobseeker community and developed partnerships with community based organizations including the state vocational rehabilitation offices, workforce center, and others to create a 3-day training course for jobseekers with disabilities interested in a call center career. Jobseekers could apply directly to the job opportunities, or choose to take advantage of the training course.  The training consisted of interview preparation; soft skills practice, call center education, and personalized Q&A sessions with Pepsi HR professionals.  The process resulted in jobseekers prepared and ready for consideration, and in turn, new employees ready to work.  Over 50 people were hired, the retention of the employees proved to be above average, and the recruiting team cut their interview to hire ratio by half.  An added bonus was a surprise visit from former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, and national and local recognition.

Case Study: Synchrony Financial

Launching as a pilot in Synchrony’s business operations center in the Dayton, Ohio area, attracting and hiring people with disabilities has since become a part of the day to day recruiting strategy.  The Initial focus was on roles with anticipated workforce growth including Customer Service Representatives, who assist cardholders with a myriad of services and Collections Representatives.   Both roles require positive customer service, patience, problem solving and empathy.  The pilot resulted in 60 hires within the first year, and recently expanded to the Phoenix, Arizona operations center, where 17 new employees with disabilities have been hired to date.


Disability Solutions has several years of results that lend credence to the old adage, “the proof is in the pudding”.  We show a 14% higher retention rate among the employees hired with disabilities than our client’s overall in the same roles.  They have also seen an increase in self-disclosures by 50 percentage points and strengthened workforce diversity.  Self-disclosures are important to compliance for corporations with federal contracts and also reflect a positive workplace culture where employees feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work. 

But how do employers do it…?

Disability Solutions helps connect companies to jobseekers with disabilities. Cultivating talent partnerships is an important part of creating strong talent pipelines in the community:

  1. Conduct research within your geographic recruitment area. There can often be 50 to 75 community-based organizations in your area.  It is important to start wide, in order to identify partners who can connect you with jobseekers who meet your particular talent needs.   
  2. Utilize those partnerships to increase your pipeline of talent through a variety of pre-application engagement activities.  These can be onsite informational sessions, call center specific trainings, or simply a guide to help partners prepare their referrals prior to application.  This leads to qualified and knowledgeable candidates heading your way!
  3. Post open positions on the Disability Solutions online Career Center, as a quick start platform. It is a great way to begin building a new pipeline of talent with a variety of skill, experience, and education levels. More than 300,000 people with disabilities visit the site every month to find a career.
  4. Give feedback through open communication.  Disability Solutions not only focus on talent acquisition, but also celebrates and strives for retention.  It is reasonable for a business to expect a new employee to arrive on day 1 with the requirements and abilities to be able to perform his/her job, however, it is unreasonable to expect that employee to know everything it takes to be successful with your company right away.  Smart employers focus on developing talent.  Provide natural supports, mentors, and ongoing training to develop the best employees..

This is both a talent and customer market that employers should be engaging for success.  As with any new effort, getting started can be the most difficult part.  Companies who are leading the way and seeing positive results have developed a strategy, communicated their commitment both internally and externally, and committed the resources to effectively attract and reach out to jobseekers with disabilities and partners with community organizations.  

Ready to get started?

About the Authors: Kevin McCloskey is the Director of Partnership Development at Disability Solutions, a division of Ability Beyond. Kevin is responsible for coordinating talent relationships with federal, state and local partners to meet the business goals of Disability Solutions and their clients. Keith Meadows is the Hiring and Engagement Consultant at Disability Solutions, a division of Ability Beyond.  Keith draws on the success he experienced as an employer in meeting his workforce talent needs by engaging job seekers with a disability, including veterans with service-related disabilities to deliver strategic, outcomes based solutions to his clients.

Edited by Mandi Nowitz