Boost Your Financial and Social ROI by Employing People with Disabilities

ROI, return on investment

Expectations for cleaning standards have increased over the last few years, with custodial services facing more contract performance scrutiny and demands for higher quality and consistency. At the same time, cleaning services across the country are having trouble staffing jobs and meeting quality performance expectations.  As workers continue to have reservations about returning to the workplace without thorough cleaning protocols in place, one solution to the cleaning industry labor shortage is hiring people with disabilities and veterans.  

When done well, hiring people with disabilities has become a competitive advantage for many employers.  Just as employers evaluate working space configurations and square footage requirements to meet changing demands, contractors must do the same to meet changing customer needs. Office managers are evaluating cleaning protocols needed for hybrid technology conference rooms and shared workspaces. They are factoring in rising supply costs due to inflation Many have found that contracting with social enterprises that hire people with disabilities has brought a financial and social return on investment (ROI).

Certification yields high-quality performance standards

Human services agencies providing job training and career development to people with disabilities are often referred to as social enterprises. Several have adopted manufacturing and supply chain quality standards like Lean 6S (sort, set-in order, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety). This concept is commonly referred to as “everything has a place; everything in a place” which enables better supply inventory management, reduces waste, and thereby improves contract pricing.

Many social enterprises maintain certification from ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standards (CIMS) to validate their quality. In the post-pandemic world, employees are much more attuned to levels of cleanliness and hygiene at the office. Hiring a contractor that adheres to CIMS and other best practices shows proof of following proper protocols and the proper use of disinfection products.

Higher job satisfaction leads to lower turnover

Maintaining a consistent and happy staff promotes quality contract performance and better consistency. A three-year study at Washington Mutual Inc. found a turnover rate of only 8% among people with developmental disabilities, compared with an overall turnover rate of 45% in the general population. This workforce is committed to earning a fulfilling and steady income which leads to employee loyalty, retention, and high job satisfaction.  Imagine a more fun work environment and happier customers.

Even prior to the pandemic, the custodial services industry had a whopping turnover rate of over 200%. High turnover can churn out workers with a lack of  knowledge and training, which results in higher costs that are passed down to the customer. Many firms that employ people with disabilities have enjoyed the benefits of long-term contracts with federal and state facilities. AbilityOne, a federal program established in 1938, is one of the largest sources of employment for disabled workers and has an average length of 10 years for its janitorial services contracts.

Social enterprises run a business like any other company and do well by “doing good.”  You may find employees of diverse abilities working at hundreds of buildings around the country, including facilities operated by federal, state, and local governments, as well as military bases/compounds. By partnering with them, you’re creating a more diverse workforce, providing employment opportunities to a group of people who want to work and might be struggling to find a position, have different abilities, and are extremely passionate and devoted to their jobs.

Provide “one-touch service” with social enterprises

Employees are returning to work but they’re still nervous about the level of cleanliness at their workplace. Plus, many have heightened concerns about monkeypox, the next wave of COVID-19, or would just like to avoid catching the common cold or flu. During these times of greater demand for enhanced hygiene protocols, many businesses on a growth trajectory have partnered with outside firms to help maintain high quality standards so their employees can feel safe.

Building managers and contract officers frequently look for “one-touch service” through partnerships and subcontractor arrangements. These services include seasonal, periodic, or recurring subcontract work for infrequent activities—like exterior window washing, pest control, flood remediation, floor maintenance, grounds upkeep, spring clean-up, and snow removal.

Businesses that partner with social enterprises to provide both one-touch services and regular custodial services may find even more opportunities for growth. Since 1971, the Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) Act requires federal agencies that are looking to purchase services and supplies to partner with social enterprises that employ people with disabilities. Partnering creates opportunities for potential expansion into new sectors and growth as a federal contractor for customers like the General Services Administration and U.S. Department of Defense branches. 

Diversify your hiring

Hiring people with disabilities and veterans is a solution to many of the staffing, pricing, and quality problems we face today. As the world around us shifts, we must adapt as well. Social enterprises deliver financial and social ROI while offering quality service and quality pricing to customers, as well as quality jobs to employees.

Posted On August 29, 2022

Jamal Malone

CEO, Ada S. McKinley Community Services

Jamal Malone is CEO of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, one of the largest social enterprises in the Midwest. By hiring and training people through McKinley’s Environmental Services program, the social enterprise contracts with government and military installations to clean more than 125 buildings throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Email Malone at [email protected] or visit

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