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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.

 

Principles:

  • 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

Components:

  • 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.

Values:

  • 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.

Our primary partners are employment agencies and vendors to Microsoft RE&F.
 
In Puget Sound, we have 13 employment agency partners who serve individuals with I/DD in western Washington state. Government-funded employment agency coaches help people with I/DD prepare for, secure, and retain employment. Based on an individual employment plan, the coach is a resource to the employee and to the employer as the individual learns the job tasks. The coach can also help the employee and employer resolve workplace issues as they arise.
 
Employment support looks different from state to state and country to country, and we encourage you to connect with your local social service entities to see what supports are available.

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
  • Groundskeeper

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.

Microsoft RE&F conducted a quality-driven selection process to identify agencies that provide job coaching and other long-term support to the Supported Employees. See the Supported Employment Program Toolkit for more details.

 

Download our employment agency list (PDF)

There are no increased safety concerns with Supported Employees as long as proper analysis of the tasks involved in a job, and the proper fit between the job and the employee’s skills are aligned. If safety concerns are identified, the employer may modify the tasks or provide accommodations to the employee.

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.

We have produced three videos for managers as they help Supported Employees on their team grow their careers. Watch the Career Progression series.