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Hiring military veterans with disabilities isn’t just feel-good altruism, it’s smart business. They’re determined, self-aware, goal-oriented, and inclusive. Yet this pool of motivated hires often gets overlooked during the recruiting process.
Enter Eli Hinson, former Marine, and a wife and mother with two disabilities–dyslexia and deafness in her left ear.
“Recruiters and human resource professionals must realize employing veterans and people with disabilities is crucial to enterprise-wide growth.”
Sit down and talk with Eli and you’ll learn firsthand why hiring veterans makes good business sense. In her more than 16 years here at Booz Allen, she has:
Clearly, employing veterans has some obvious benefits. They’re responsible, can execute commands in ambiguous professional environments, bring managerial skills to a team, and operate efficiently. But what about veterans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)? Because of historic segregation in schools, research shows that CEOs and executives in their 40s and 50s didn’t grow up exposed to people with IDD, which has led to reluctance in hiring processes today.
According to a recent study done by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (I4CP), that mindset needs to change.
“The positive impact on the workforce [by hiring individuals with IDD] is brought about in two ways: it adds highly motivated people to the workforce (which can lead to increased productivity) and it promotes an inclusive culture that appeals to the talent pool organizations want to attract,” the report states.
Millennials, in particular, find inclusive workplaces more appealing because they grew up engaging with the IDD community.
And yet veterans and the disabled are still stigmatized in the hiring process. The former gets stereotyped for not being able to handle stress due to media portrayals of PTSD. The latter, meanwhile, get labeled charity cases for marketing purposes instead of being highlighted as valuable employees.
Recruiters and human resource professionals must realize employing veterans and people with disabilities is crucial to enterprise-wide growth. According to the I4CP study, high-performing companies are 37 percent more likely than low-performing companies to hire people with IDD. That’s a statistic that shows a clear correlation between success and hiring a diverse workforce.
Eli gained a host of technical skills during her time as a Marine field wireman in Okinawa, Japan.
She encoded, decoded, and set up complex cabling systems; identified sources of communications issues; and fixed multiple cables either hundreds of feet overhead on telephone poles or in muddy, bug-infested tunnels.
Eli utilized her technical experiences to land a job at Booz Allen. At her job, she was given the tools and resources to excel with her disabilities, like a read-back program on her laptop. She went on to earn three consecutive promotions.
In addition to going above and beyond in her day-to-day, she represented Booz Allen in the 2016 D.C. Dancing with the Stars charity event, a competition modeled off the eponymous reality TV show. She raised a remarkable $40k for the nonprofit Operation Renewed Hope (ORH), an organization that fights veteran homelessness. Her reasons for choosing ORH are intensely personal.
“I could have easily ended up homeless,” Eli says. “When I returned from my service, my daughter was barely a month old and my husband had titanium rods in his back preventing him from working. I didn’t have much in the way of savings and if I hadn’t found employment with Booz Allen things could have ended up very differently for me.”
Even after serving her country, she is still finding ways to quietly fight issues bigger than herself by taking advantage of institutionalized channels at her firm. Eli is clearly a standout hire for Booz Allen, but she’s not a special case in the disabled veteran community.
As Rye Barcott, a Marine and Harvard Business School graduate puts it, “Make no mistake: Hiring veterans is not a matter of charity. For organizations and companies looking to excel in the world, [hiring veterans] is enlightened self-interest.”
Organizations should understand why diversity and inclusion (D&I) in recruiting practices helps acquire motivated employees, which ultimately supports the bottom line.
As Eli put it, “These issues need to stop being so taboo. Once we bridge that cultural gap, and get people to actually start talking and familiarizing themselves with the IDD and veteran community I think organizations will realize what a powerhouse talent pool they’re missing out on.”