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Negotiating with Employers: A Critical Step in Customized Employment

From Customized Employment: Applying Practical Solutions for Employment Success

An essential element in Customized Employment is negotiating job duties or employee expectations to align the skills and interests of a job seeker with a disability to an employer's needs. This negotiation results in a job description that describes a customized relationship between employer and employee. Rather than trying to sell employers on the concept of hiring people with disabilities, it is better to appeal directly to the employers� needs. The goal is to negotiate Customized Employment options that benefit both the employer and the job seeker.

Where to Start?

Get to know the person. Customized Employment starts with an applicant exploration process that leads to an employment plan based on the job seeker's customized planning process. (See the Job Seeker Exploration and Creating a Blueprint fact sheets.) The customized planning process also identifies potential employers for job development negotiation.

Get to know employers. The employers to become familiar with include those identified by the job seeker during the customized planning process. Once identified, arrange informational interviews-- not to sell the business on your services or a particular job seeker, but to learn about the business and how it works.

Find negotiation points. After learning about specific businesses, figure out how they can benefit from your services and the job seeker you represent.

Identify Employers

As a resource for planning, an initial survey of potential employers should be broad and include any employer who might potentially fit the job seeker. The job seeker's plan should then drive the process of identifying specific employers. Additional suggestions can come from:

Get Your Foot in the Door

Once you have researched area businesses, a good way to learn about them is to visit for informational interviews. Ask how the business operates and what its staffing needs are. Informational interviews are chances to attract employer interest in Customized Employment.

It is also possible to directly solicit specific employers, identified during the planning meeting, who are called upon for the purpose of convincing them to consider hiring the job seeker. Such solicitations need to include a proposal that balances the two issues described above: a) the needs of the employer and b) the potential contributions of the applicant. Regardless of which approach job developers use, successful customized employment requires successful negotiation. The following strategies will assist in negotiating with employers.

Find Negotiation Points

Once you have become acquainted with an employer and their needs, look for ways in which your service and the job seeker you represent can benefit the business by improving operations or increasing profits.

Negotiation points may include:

Such negotiation points are defined by job seeker and employer preferences.

Present the Proposal

The goal of the customized planning process is to identify a set of tasks the job seeker can perform. Using those tasks and the employer research, the job seeker and the personal representative build a proposal to present to the potential employer.

The preliminary proposal describes the job seeker's skills and how they will benefit the employer. The employer may accept the proposal, suggest modifications to it, or reject it. If the original proposal is not accepted, the discussion can lead to a revised proposal that satisfies both the employer and the job seeker.

Employer participation in this process is always voluntary. The willingness to customize a job description is a decision on the employer�s part, not a legal requirement.

Customized Employment Success Story

A large department store hired Scott, a job seeker with a disability, after several informational visits by his personal representative, Shaina, who negotiated a new way for the store to handle merchandise delivery. Originally, store clerks unloaded and repackaged new merchandise. Shaina suggested that the job seeker perform this task. This customized job freed the clerks to spend more time serving customers. As a result, sales increased.

Options to Customize a Job Description

Negotiate for Employer Gain

The job seeker and the personal representative need to be prepared to show how the proposal will help an employer improve operations. This is probably your most important bargaining point when a job seeker with a disability might need unusual or extensive accommodations or supports. Some of the best customized employment opportunities are created when options for employer gain are targeted. Focus the customized job description on the contribution to the employer, not competition with other job seekers.

Employers gain when:

When the business sees potential gain, it is ready to consider hiring a job seeker who might require changes in the workplace.

Informational Interview Pointers

The National Center on Workforce and Disability/Adult is based at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston. It is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor�s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Grant number: E-9-4-1-0071. This content is provided for informational purposes only and should not in any way be considered or construed as official policy of the U.S. Department of Labor or any other federal agency.

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Customized Employment-- It Works! Powerpoint on linking and negotiating with employers (TransCen, Inc.)

Web-based presentation on working with employers in Customized Employment (Virginia Commonwealth Univ. RRTC)

Online seminar on making the business connection (Metrocare, Texas)