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Disability inclusion initiative paves the way for a talent pipeline with purpose

The Bazaar is a family-owned closeout reseller in the Chicago area that’s been in business since 1960. 

In that time, they’ve grown the business to a staff of approximately 200 working out of a 400,000-square-foot warehouse. To maintain their relationship-based approach to customer service at scale, they need a strong talent pipeline. So Bazaar CEO Brad Nardick wanted his company to stand out to job seekers as a great place to work. 

“Midsize and small employers don’t have the same recruiting infrastructure that Fortune 500 companies do,” says Nardick. “We have to go recruit people.” 

To strengthen recruitment and retention efforts, Nardick wanted the Bazaar to be known as a place where employees with disabilities could thrive. In addition to being a business priority, it was also a personal mission. But he wasn’t sure how to attract talent and build the inclusive workplace he envisioned. 

“We just didn’t know the nuance of integrating people with disabilities onto the team, and how to set them up for success,” he says.

In 2019, the Bazaar joined Understood’s Inclusive Careers Cohort (ICC), a community of companies that are committed to excellence in disability inclusion. Through the ICC, Nardick was able to transform his company’s capacity to support different styles of working and thinking. 

“Understood took us from amateur to pro,” he says. “The practices we now use to recruit, hire, retain, and advance people with disabilities are the same best practices that should be used across the board. They’ve contributed to our company’s success, making it stronger and more flexible.”

The Bazaar’s inclusive approach is driving results when it comes to hiring and retention. As of March 2021:

  • 22 percent of The Bazaar’s employees self-identify as having a disability, holding entry-level through management-level positions.

  • 91 percent of employees would recommend the Bazaar as a good place to work for people with disabilities, up from 66 percent in March 2019.

  • The Bazaar has developed working partnerships with 45 community organizations that support job seekers with disabilities including veterans with disabilities, people with disabilities experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities who are formerly incarcerated.

  • The Bazaar has been recognized for its inclusion work. Nardick has been featured in Fast Company and spoke about the Bazaar’s disability inclusion initiative at the 2020 SHRM Inclusion Conference.

  • The Bazaar was recently named a gold winner for the 2021 Shift Awards, which recognize employers who have innovated their hiring, assessment, training, and advancement methods to create new paths to employment, training, and economic opportunity for invisible or overlooked populations.

“This is probably the first time that we have people who are coming in saying, ‘Hey, I really want to work here’,” he says. “We now have a whole new recruiting pipeline that basically guarantees candidates will align with our value system.”

According to Nardick, the benefits the company has seen have been “a marriage of purpose and profit.” But he emphasizes that the most valuable shift has been the change in culture. 

“We’ve completely dissolved the idea that people with disabilities won’t do a good job. We have so many living, breathing examples that disprove that stigma now. The environment here is so different because we were able to do that. You can’t put a number on filling a building with a sense of purpose.”

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