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Customized Employment: A New Competitive Edge

From Customized Employment: Applying Practical Solutions for Employment Success

Customized Employment offers the chance for a job to fit who we are, what we need, and what we have to offer. It provides an avenue to employment for any job seeker who feels that traditional job search methods do not meet their needs.

Customized Employment means individualizing the relationship between job seekers and employers in ways that meet the needs of both. It is based on an individualized determination of the strengths, requirements, and interests of a person with a complex life. The process is designed to meet the workplace needs of the employer and the discrete tasks of the position. When a customized relationship is developed, a shared employment alliance results.

Why Consider the Customized Employment Approach?

Customized Employment can provide an advantage for job seekers who struggle in the competitive job market. It is particularly useful for those who have barriers to employment such as limited skills or education, inadequate childcare or transportation resources, disabilities, or cultural or language differences. Customized employment can work for anyone with a complex life.

Everyone Customizes…

Job seekers routinely consider the work environment, employer characteristics, and other conditions they prefer. Most employees, soon after landing a job, begin to customize their jobs based on personal preferences, contributions, or strengths. Customized Employment starts this process with up-front negotiations between job seekers and employers and may include more significant modifications to the employer’s work expectations.

A "Win-Win" Situation

Because the relationship between job seekers and employers is individualized and voluntarily negotiated, opportunities can be created that benefit both parties. This approach gives an advantage to the customized job seeker over other applicants, since that person uniquely fits the position. At the same time, the employer gains the best possible person to meet the company's needs.

Take a Closer Look

Successful Customized Employment opportunities are built on four key elements:

  1. Meeting the job seeker's individual needs and interests.
  2. Using a personal representative to assist and potentially represent the individual. This can be a counselor, job developer, advocate, employment specialist, or other qualified professional.
  3. Negotiating successfully with employers.
  4. Building a system of ongoing supports for the job seeker.

1. Individualization

The job seeker drives the Customized Employment process. Together with the personal representative, the job seeker creates a customized plan based on their life experiences, goals, interests, and abilities. This plan is used as the blueprint to identify employer opportunities and create a proposal for a potential employer.

2. Representation

Personal representatives, such as those mentioned earlier, can represent the job seeker when customizing employment opportunities. However, this does not mean that they are the decision-makers. Personal representatives need to consider the following components from the job seeker's perspective: preferences and interests, the contributions the job seeker can make, tasks to be performed, and potential employers. If the job seeker needs ongoing or intensive supports to succeed on the job, personal representatives can play a key role in accessing those supports. They can also assist with negotiation. Not all individuals will choose to have such representation, but some may require assistance behind the scenes in planning for the negotiation process.

More Than Just a Good Fit

Creating a good fit between job seeker and employer is an essential component of customized employment, but true customization requires negotiating job responsibilities as well as employer expectations.

3. Negotiation

Customized Employment requires meeting specific employers, getting to know them, and learning about their staffing needs. Through this process, the personal representative and job seeker determine whether there is the potential for a Customized Employment relationship and determine negotiation points. The job seeker and the personal representative then develop a proposal that demonstrates how the job seeker can meet the employer's needs, resulting in value for the employer. The negotiation and agreement to hire a person for a Customized Employment situation are voluntary for both the job seeker and the employer, and should result in a mutually beneficial outcome.

4. Ongoing Supports

Customized Employment opportunities include the expectation that accommodations and supports will be available to the job seeker and the employer as necessary. Supports can include (but are not limited to) benefits counseling, personal assistance, and adaptive equipment. These supports should be individualized and flexible to reflect the unique needs of both the job seeker and employer.

Customized Employment Success Story

A large commercial real estate business decreased the time it took to complete transactions by restructuring administrative support to manage a central filing room. Specific administrative support tasks were identified and assigned to José, a job seeker with a disability. The job was customized to align with his skills and his interest in an office job. His job duties included delivering packages and faxes, creating files for property submissions, routing submissions to the appropriate account manager, collating packets, and selected filing. This allowed other, more detailed administrative tasks to be performed by co-workers. As a result, real estate transactions were accomplished much more quickly, the volume of transactions increased, and the business began making more money on each of its real estate transactions.

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