Brad Nardick was always interested in building “purposeful work” into his family-run business, The Bazaar, Inc. The president of the 60-year-old company that sells overstock merchandise from manufacturers to retail chains just didn’t know how to get started. “There was no embedded mission into the day-to-day work,” he says.
Four years ago, a teacher from the Proviso Area for Exceptional Children came to Nardick’s company in River Grove, Illinois, to ask him to make a donation to their school for children and young adults with disabilities. That led to a conversation about starting an internship program.
But Nardick wasn’t sure what steps to take to create a meaningful disability inclusion plan for the company. “We just didn’t know the nuance of integrating people with disabilities onto the team, and how to set them up for success that is also success for the company,” he explains.
“Once we connected with [Understood], all of that became possible,” says Nardick. “It’s my belief that as a business owner, it’s your responsibility to do work in your community, and to serve the population in a positive way, beyond just the company that you operate. Through having a disability inclusion program, this is our chance to do that kind of work.”
One of The Bazaar’s employees, a man named Kevin, had been out of work because of disability issues related to having a lung transplant and a brain aneurysm. “We put him into a position where he had real responsibility,” says Nardick. “So now he’s part of something that’s bigger than himself.” Kevin is also helping build the company’s disability inclusion program.
One in four American adults has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But people with disabilities are employed at a much lower rate than their peers without disabilities. That makes them a large untapped labor market in a tight economy.
“What disability inclusion means to me is the chance to do meaningful work that benefits our company in both short-term and long-term,” says Nardick. “Not just meaningful work for us as business owners, but meaningful work for people with a disability, which is a growing population in today’s world.”
Since starting The Bazaar Inc.’s disability inclusion program, Nardick has seen a difference in attracting talented job seekers. “We don’t generally have people competing for positions here. We have to go recruit people,” he says. “And this is probably the first time that we have people who are coming in saying, ‘Hey, I really want to work here.’”
A 2017 study by Accenture found that companies that use best practices for inclusion had 28 percent higher revenue than other companies. And employees with disabilities had half the turnover rates compared with other employees. A commitment to disability inclusion boosts a company’s productivity and strengthens its workforce.
“Working alongside people with disabilities was always a priority to me, but I never imagined how beneficial it could be for the company,” says Nardick. “To have a marriage of those two things, of purpose and profit, and have them come together in a way that’s working for everybody involved, there’s no better feeling.”
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The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.