Submissions List TBI Interagency Conference

Employer Practices: Research Strategies and Findings

  • von Schrader, Sarah
  • Bruyere, Susanne
  • Erickson, William
  • Malzer, Valerie




Researchers from Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute will present the results of four recent studies that examine disability employment from the perspectives of both employers and individuals with disabilities, providing a rich look at policy, practice and perspectives on the employment of people with disabilities.


Cornell University currently serves as the NIDRR RRTC on Employer Practices in Improving Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities and the USDOL-ODEP-funded National Employer Technical Assistance Center. Both centers focus on understanding and improving employer practices related to employing people with disabilities. This presentation will include results from four studies: a survey of human resource (HR) professionals, five employer working groups, a survey of people with disabilities on emerging employment issues, and mental modeling of employer behaviors and needs. Together these integrated research efforts allow us to both learn about emerging employment issues and effectively share what is learned.

William Erickson will present on the results of a 2011 survey of the Society for Human Resource management (SHRM) membership. Over 600 HR professionals from a range of employer sizes and industries participated in this survey focused on the prevalence and effectiveness of policies/practices relevant to the employment of people with disabilities. Respondents were also asked about goal setting and the collection of HR metrics to evaluate their success toward goals.

Susanne Bruyere will present the findings from five employer working groups conducted with The Conference Board (TCB) and the Cornell University Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS). Key learning from these groups, which included representatives from over 30 public and private organizations, will be shared. During three 2-day meetings, the TCB working group participants focused on four critical research areas: building a business case, disability self-identification, organizational readiness, and measurement/metrics. The two CAHRS groups included 15 top-level HR professionals from fortune 500 companies and focused on HR metrics and workplace practices to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

Sarah von Schrader will present a third study with an “employee” perspective on one of the top issues of interest for employers: disability disclosure. Cornell and the American Association of People with Disabilities collaborated on a survey that was completed by nearly 600 people with disabilities. The results, particularly the open-ended responses, provide a window into the experiences – both positive and negative -- of individuals with disabilities in the application and employment process.  Respondents discussed the sometimes complex decision of whether to disclose and the barriers and rewards for such disclosure.

Valerie Malzer will present results of a study focusing on the employer behaviors, emotions and beliefs around the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of people with disabilities. This project uses a novel method of generative (as opposed to evaluative) user research, called mental modeling. Based on in-depth hour long interviews with a range of employers, we have developed a mental model to identify employer needs in these areas and gaps in the services and products that we provide to employers as part of our National Employer TA Center. 

Together these studies provide a rich look at organizational policies and practices, the perspectives of both employers and people with disabilities on the most current and critical issues surrounding disability employment, and an innovative method for improving the translation of knowledge to employers, a group that can be difficult to reach.