What is the Supported Employment Program?
To enable employment diversity and inclusion, Microsoft Real Estate and Facilities (RE&F) partners with vendors and employment agencies, creating job opportunities for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) at Microsoft facilities across the globe.
Making a difference
The mission of Microsoft's Supported Employment program is simple: partner with vendors and local employment agencies to make a substantial difference in the lives of people with I/DD. People with I/DD face particular challenges in entering the job market. However, we believe that when people are hired into jobs that match their interests and abilities, and have support, they can become successful, productive workers. Having fulfilling employment promotes independence and helps people with disabilities become fully integrated members of the community.
Microsoft has an enduring commitment to fulfilling public responsibilities and serving the needs of people in communities worldwide, including those with disabilities. This commitment extends beyond products and services; it includes community and civic involvement. The Supported Employment program furthers these goals by creating opportunities for workers with I/DD to be employed by Microsoft vendors.
Workers with I/DD receive wages and benefits from their vendor employers, plus the social benefits of working alongside colleagues of all abilities.
Supported Employees have been hired into over 30 different job types, including:
Move team support staff
Mail processing clerk
Food service worker
Participating employment agencies
Microsoft has partnered with the following employment agencies specializing in supported employment for people with I/DD in Puget Sound. These agencies provide the high-quality training and support that is vital to the success of the Supported Employment program.Download employment agency list (PDF)
These Microsoft Real Estate and Facilities vendors employ Supported Employees.
Asia Pacific, Australia, China
Welcome! Plans for returning to the workplace
To help Supported Employees in the Puget Sound region get ready for a return to the workplace, review this new Microsoft workbook. With 5 sections – called the 5Ps – it provides information you can use about Policies, Procedures, Protection, Prompts, and Practice. Information is changing all of the time. To stay updated, please keep in touch with your job coach and manager.Download the Welcome Workbook (PDF)
Microsoft Supported Employment: Toolkit
This free and open-source toolkit includes a library of helpful documents that other companies can use as a resource for launching a similar program. We encourage organizations to use this toolkit to open the door to employment opportunities for individuals with I/DD. Stay tuned for updates.
HR and new manager training
Microsoft has produced training for use by new managers and Human Resources teams. The goal of this training is to provide an understanding of the program as well as tools to effectively work with and manage Supported Employees.
Explore the framework and tips for managers use as they work with Supported Employees on developing their careers through adding new tasks, or developing the skills needed to take on a new role.
Set the stage for growth
The manager plays a key role in assisting your Supported Employee’s career growth and progression. By using open and respectful dialog, a manager can facilitate this during the onboarding process by setting expectations and identifying goals to strive for during their employment.
Empower Growth addresses how a manager can collaborate with a Supported Employee to achieve their growth goals. Tips include having regular check-ins, acknowledging positive skill development in the moment, and utilizing the skills of the job coach.
A story of success
When she started working, Nicole’s job was to roll silverware. Learn about Nicole’s growth from those humble beginnings to her current role in the sandwich station, where she prepares 150 sandwiches for her customers at lunchtime. She is looking forward to building her knife skills and further developing her career.
Suddath Relocation at Microsoft
Tanya is a hard-working team member with a fun personality. She has worked for Suddath Relocation Services at Microsoft for four years. She has progressed as a production associate in the warehouse and is constantly learning new things.
CBRE at Microsoft
Austin is a team member of the Common Area Reset Team with CBRE at Microsoft. He assists in documenting missing furniture from rooms and checking the quality of the furniture. Austin brings his aloha spirit and can-do attitude to his team.
Exela at Microsoft
Compass Group at Microsoft
Kyle Van Allan
Northwest Landscaping Services at Microsoft
Frequently Asked Questions
Microsoft's mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We are committed to enabling employment diversity and inclusion at our company, and beyond. Microsoft has a strong history of partnering with government institutions and charitable organizations to enrich communities and provide opportunities for underserved populations. Our Supported Employment program supports this goal. The high rate of unemployment among people with disabilities, as shown in the 2020 U.S. Department of Labor disability statistics, played a role in our decision to develop the Supported Employment Program.
U.S. labor force participation
- People with disabilities: 21.0 percent
- People without disabilities: 68.1 percent
U.S. unemployment rate
- People with disabilities: 8.3 percent
- People without disabilities: 4.4 percent
With our corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, and hundreds of contracted vendor employers providing services across our many campus locations, it was clear that Microsoft had tremendous potential to provide employment opportunities for a significant number of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Prior to starting the initiative to expand Supported Employment opportunities, Microsoft and Microsoft Real Estate and Facilities vendors had 28 Supported Employees working on the Redmond campus. The program is expanding globally, and the number of people with I/DD working at Microsoft vendor companies has grown to over 300.
According to the U.S. Developmental Disabilities Act, the term developmental disability means a severe, chronic disability that occurs before an individual is 22 that is likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, economic self-sufficiency. These impairments require the individual to obtain lifelong or extended supports or assistance. Diagnosed conditions may include autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or spina bifida.
*While the term developmental disability may be defined differently in different countries, people with similar conditions live in every country, county and city around the world.
**As part of Microsoft's commitment to diversity in the workforce, our innovative Autism Hiring program recruits individuals with autism to a variety of roles.
These are the principles, components and values of the Microsoft RE&F Supported Employment Program. You can use these guidelines to ensure a consistent program approach.
- Provide jobs in the community working alongside peers who do not have disabilities.
- Pay fair market rate or higher commensurate with the job.
- Generate employment at an organization in the community.
- Provide ongoing support for the life of the job, based upon individual employee’s needs
- Program Leadership: identify executive sponsorship; end to end leadership & expertise; and tools to support a world class program.
- Job Development: identify prospective workplaces & tasks for employment; and define job description, structure, and hours.
- Assisted Sourcing: distribute job descriptions through various channels; review job applicant sourcing; and identify potential candidates.
- Operational Sustainability: ensure quality support, coaching, and mentoring; program consistency and reliability; and library of resources.
- Quality Driven: ensure quality drives the program success.
- Scalable: ensure program structure supports growth.
- Sustainable: dependent on process not people; culture driven.
See the Supported Employment Program Toolkit for more details.
- An increase in diversity, empathy, and morale.
- A higher rate of worker retention among employees with disabilities than among those who do not have a disability.
- An increase in creativity and innovation, as supervisors and co-workers assist Supported Employees in adapting tasks and duties.
The costs are not extensive and are controllable according to the goals you set and the program structure. At the Microsoft RE&F program, our costs include a dedicated resource to oversee the program. Responsibilities include periodic trainings, collecting data, working with the vendors and agencies, keeping current on legislative impacts, and creating advocacy opportunities and marketing materials.
Our advice is to start small—identify the right jobs for the right people, and let it grow from there.
The primary focus of this program is to provide opportunities for Microsoft Real Estate and Facilities (RE&F) vendors to employ people with I/DD. People with I/DD often need initial and long-term job training and support from their selected coaching agency to secure and maintain meaningful employment with opportunities for career growth and progression.
Here are some examples of the 30+ job types filled by Supported Employees with Microsoft’s vendor partners:
- Café ambassador
- Shuttle fueler/washer
- Move team support staff
- Reception/office assistant
- Mail processing clerk
- Warehouse technician
- Laboratory technician
- Facility inspector
- Day porter
- Audio-visual assistant
- Food service worker
Supported Employees are paid by their employer. Vendors hire Supported Employees within existing labor budgets within the Real Estate and Facilities scope for roles that they need to fill.
Coaches work for employment coaching agencies, which are usually non-profits funded by government entities. Employers do not pay a fee to the coaching agencies.
Job opportunities are collaboratively identified by the vendor employers and the program manager.
We partnered with our vendor employers and challenged them to look at open roles and opportunities and ask, “Could this role by filled by an individual with an I/DD?” As opportunities are identified, the program manager shares job requisitions with all employment agency partners.
When a vendor has a job opening for a Supported Employee, the program manager notifies the coaching agency partners. The agencies determine which individuals are best suited and qualified for the specific job opening, and assist those individuals with applying, interviewing, onboarding, and ongoing job coaching.
Coaching agencies are our partner for sourcing candidates whose skills and interests are a good fit for a vendor’s positions and teams. Coaches provide individualized services to their participants. They learn about their participants’ skills and interests and assist them with building skills to obtain and retain a job.
Employees may drive, use fixed route public transportation, private transportation provided by friends or family, and others, who are eligible, use door-to-door shuttle services provided by public transit.
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