[00:00:00.250] - Chris
In this episode of Great Practices, I'm talking with Jerry Sutton, director of Learning and Organizational Development at Bobby DoD Institute, about ways you can expand your talent pool. Find out how the Bobby DoD Institute certification program has allowed disabled people to find employment in the technical industry, how businesses and employees have benefited, and where you can find local resources where you live. Plus, this is kind of like listening to an episode of Mythbusters as Jerry uncovers and debunks three common myths about hiring disabled people.
[00:00:34.570] - Narrator
It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great practice. And that's what this podcast is all about. Interviews with PMO and project management leaders who, through years of trial and error, have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Kop uncovers another great practice in this episode.
[00:01:02.890] - Chris
Well, we'd like to welcome you to Great Practices today. And one thing is true about being a PMO leader, and that is that you are always going to need good people to run your projects. This ranges anywhere from project coordinators, project managers, senior project managers, program managers, to the people that are actually doing the frontline work. And for some time now, people have been hard to come by, especially when it comes to the technology space. So what is it that you can do as a PMO leader to fill in some of these gaps? Well, our guest today is Jerry Sutton. He is the Director of Learning and Organizational Development at Bobby DoD Institute, and he's going to talk to you and talk to us about an option that you may not have even thought of or even known it to exist when it comes to finding qualified technical resources and how your organization can benefit. So, Jerry, we'd like to welcome you to the Great Practices podcast.
[00:02:02.870] - Jerry
Well, Chris, thank you very much for having me, and I'm excited to be with you here today and tell a little bit about the Bobby DoD story.
[00:02:10.460] - Chris
All right, well, why don't we start there? Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do and a little bit more background of the Bobby DoD Institute.
[00:02:19.150] - Jerry
Well, I'm certainly privileged to serve the Bobby DoD Institute in the capacity as a Director of Learning, and I get to do some pretty special things where we create learning programs for the people with disability community. In fact, that's kind of our mission at Bobby Dodd Institute is to support the people with disability community in its entirety, and we do that across the state of Georgia. But actually, we have support agencies that we reach out to in four different states, and we even have some national reach in our support of people with disabilities. But certainly a unique community, but one that is underserved and one that I am happy to serve?
[00:03:07.600] - Chris
Yeah. Excellent. How long have you been there now?
[00:03:09.380] - Jerry
Well, I've been fortunate to be with the company for five years. Kind of happened on them. I'm retired military and had done some work in the federal contracting sector and all of those were wonderful opportunities and had a privilege to see the world and all of that. But travel pretty soon, it wears on you after a while. And so I was looking for something a little more stable and home grounded and so I landed at Bobby DoD Institute in an exploratory visit and really never left once I started visiting the organization. It's pretty amazing what we get to do.
[00:03:56.920] - Chris
That's great. Well, let's talk about what you get to do a little bit. So what are some of these programs that are available for disabled people and employers?
[00:04:06.820] - Jerry
What does that look you know, we have a host of services that we provide at the Bobby Dot Institute. Everything from, if you could think about it, one of the most prevalent concerns for people with a member in their family who is disabled are the benefits that they are entitled to and eligible for. And so we have a benefits navigation program where people can consult with us and get some support and gaining that Social Security benefit, maybe Medicaid benefit. We have behavioral health programs, we have family support programs destined to support the entire family nucleus. And then we even have a trust initiative that is called the Georgia Community Trust where people come to us. One of the things that we often learn is that from a care provider's perspective, one of their greatest priorities is to ensure the welfare of their loved ones after they are gone. And so we are actually able to facilitate that with the establishment of a trust. We have summer programs that focus on work sponsored by the Department of labor and the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. And then we have other work programs such as our BDI Bridge Academy.
[00:05:29.620] - Jerry
We're pretty proud of that from our initial conversation about it or the reference to it. We actually have the only It skills training program that provides participants with a Cisco certified Technician certification at the completion of their journey. But we have the only program that's targeted specifically at the people with disability community and it's a pretty amazing program.
[00:06:04.710] - Chris
That's impressive. So you got all these other programs going on and then obviously this employment side of things, this training side of things.
[00:06:13.260] - Jerry
It's a really neat program in that across the span of 20 weeks, we have an instructor who will provide a virtual delivery of the content Monday through Thursday. And then on Friday, all of the participants will come to our Atlanta campus on the west side of Atlanta and they will participate in hands on learning where we have Cisco routers and training equipment and all of the associated things that they will need to learn from a technical aspect. But in addition, in the afternoon they're also prepared with work readiness training, social skills training, soft skills in the workplace, still a high demand kind of initiative in the workplace and that's pretty important. And that's not just relegated to the people with disability community. That's probably in every aspect of work, employers need people with good soft skills.
[00:07:14.270] - Chris
Yeah, no, absolutely. So let's talk about that. Let's talk about what some of the benefits are to an employer. As far as you've got somebody that's gone through this program. Is there like a business case? Is there a good business reason?
[00:07:29.630] - Jerry
Oh, yeah, I was really hoping you were going to ask me that question because that's one of the things is we communicate the benefits of the BDI Bridge Academy It. Skills training program in a greater perspective. There is a legitimate business case for hiring people with disabilities. Back in 2018, a study was done with Accenture that found that businesses that actively seek to employ people with disabilities will outperform businesses that do not. Now, how does that translate? Well, what that really means is that researchers found that employers who embraced hiring people with disabilities had 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher profit margins. So from a business case, that's kind of hard not to consider, but a lot of people just aren't aware of that. And so that's one of the things that we will help organizations do not just prepare for having and receiving and hiring people with disabilities because we do provide disability awareness training to employers, but we want to make that business case so that they are confident that they're moving in the right direction. Other examples from a business case that I probably should highlight is reduced absenteeism.
[00:09:04.190] - Jerry
We want people that will have a higher retention rate and who are going to be at the job, on the job when they're supposed to be there. And so interestingly enough, what we have found through a Department of labor study is that employers who embraced hiring people with disabilities also saw a 90% increase in employee retention among those with disabilities. Now, that's dramatic. There was a Ups study that was done that their increases in retention ranged anywhere from 14% to 130% depending on the job sector that they were hired in. And so again, those are business case considerations that are kind of hard to argue, kind of like improving your brand. And in fact, it's a known fact that preferences for job seekers are inclusive companies. So 80% of job seekers will prefer an inclusive company and 92% of consumers appreciate people who will hire disabilities. So your customer base is also appreciative of inclusivity.
[00:10:28.110] - Chris
Those are just astounding numbers, aren't they? I mean, you're talking 28% revenue increase, double net income, reduced absenteeism. I mean, the list goes on and on. As far as the business case that could be held for companies there. So that's really impressive. There. But now let me ask you this though, because there's going to be certain myths surrounding hiring disabled employees. So I want to kind of go there. What are some of these myths that you've come across over the years and then what's the reality when it comes to hiring disabled people?
[00:11:07.590] - Jerry
Well, I think probably the number one consideration that most employers first of all, is they just don't know. So there's a large lack of awareness. And so there are some of these myths and assumptions that for instance, for me to hire someone with a disability, that means that's going to cost me a lot of money because the government is going to require me to provide them with an accommodation. If we look closer at that, the Job Accommodation Network would offer to you in a 2019 study that the average cost of an accommodation, if there was even a cost, in fact, the vast majority of disabled people don't require any accommodation. But for those who do require an accommodation, that cost average is around $500. So that's one myth that we can dispel right away. And we see this in that higher retention rate and the higher attendance rate. For instance, I call him one of our success stories. His name is Marius and he works in our warehouse operation in the Atlanta West Side campus. And Marius has been with us for ten years and he's always on time. He uses public transportation, he doesn't have to have someone bring him to work.
[00:12:45.260] - Jerry
And so he is able to get to and from work and he's able to do his job and do it well. And he's counted on to be there to be able to provide the custodial services he supports us with in the warehouse. To me, that speaks highly of someone's willingness to come to work. They're very grateful that they, number one, have a job and they're very grateful that they're part of the conversation. Disability law requires that we accommodate, but moreover or not affirmative action. And there are other civil rights legislation documents out there that would say that we do need to support people of national, regardless of national origin of ethnicity, of gender, et cetera. And disability is actually included in that legislation, but it is often left out of the conversation. What we get to do is to help people include that in the conversation and then at the same time show them how they can make more money by doing that.
[00:13:55.610] - Chris
And it's interesting. So you said the majority of people won't need accommodations, but the ones that do, the average is maybe $500. But you talk about those other numbers that you started with earlier and the fact that they show up and you can count on them, that $500 will quickly be made up, right? I mean that's inconsequential, right?
[00:14:21.460] - Jerry
Absolutely. When you look at just onboarding costs of onboarding a new employee regardless of their job in an organization there is certainly a cost that goes with that. And so the more I can diminish that cost, the more things I can do within the organization by increasing my retention rate. And so if I have improved motivation and improved morale in an organization, which is another byproduct of hiring people with disabilities, then I think that's a win win for both the employer and for the person with a disability.
[00:14:59.850] - Chris
Yeah. And you touched on it earlier. You said that people with disabilities will have a tendency to be very loyal to a company. Right. So there's another, maybe a myth that they won't stay at a job for long. So what's the reality when it comes to what you've seen there?
[00:15:16.860] - Jerry
Absolutely. Well, the first man that comes to mind is Troy Also, another worker in our warehouse at West Side Campus. 27 years he worked for Bobby DoD. We have people all over the company. In fact, that's what struck me when I joined the company. Number one, the people with disabilities, veterans with disabilities. There's a unique amount of tenure. The CFO of the company has been with the company for 20 plus years. The VP of People and Culture started as an HR generalist and is now the VP of People and Culture with over 20 years. Tracy Crawford, our It director and support coordinator, has been over 25 years. We have another gentleman. I learned a unique story. His name is Maurice Kitchens. He's a warehouse manager in our organization, and he drives from Gray, Georgia every day to our West Side Campus.
[00:16:34.610] - Chris
And how far is that?
[00:16:36.180] - Jerry
That's at least an hour and a half. And that's in light traffic. So in heavy traffic, you're looking at 2 hours. It's over 100 miles. And so that says something about the mission of Bobby DoD. When you have people that are willing to drive as far as they do to support a mission like ours, that says something about what we're doing. In fact, when we talk about veterans, not every disability is visible, and many people will declare a disability or even will have a disability. I'm a 60% disabled veteran, but you wouldn't know that if I didn't tell you that.
[00:17:19.500] - Chris
[00:17:20.090] - Jerry
And so there are a lot of people like that in the community, in the world right now. In our Bridge Academy cohort, we have a disabled 100% disabled veteran who is in the Bridge Academy cohort learning a new It skill because it's something that they can support with their disability.
[00:17:37.410] - Chris
And that brings us to maybe the third myth that I think we may have heard over the years is that maybe disabled people could be limited as far as the types of jobs they could do. But it sounds like you guys are absolutely expanding into the It space, right. And you're saying you're training everybody to be or a lot of people to be able to do, like Cisco certifications, that type of thing. So that's another myth that you're busting now, right?
[00:18:05.290] - Jerry
Absolutely. And in fact, there is no one in our Bridge Academy cohort who can't perform the function that will be required of them once they obtain the Cisco Certified Support Technician Cybersecurity Certification, a global Cisco certification, which will unlock a lot of doors for them from an employability perspective. But across the spectrum, there are eligibility requirements for everyone who attends the class. They have to have a regular high school diploma. They have to be 18 years of age or older. They have to be able to read and do math at at least the freshman level of high school. And they have to be able to communicate well enough to be able to support a customer service role or a network admin role. And that's the two specific jobs that we are from an entry level perspective into the It world. And that opening, that job opening will always be available and be having turnover. As people get into the It industry and they find their feet and they get their niche and they've established that and then they grow within the company, well, there will be a time to replace that. And so what we want to do is to build a pipeline.
[00:19:24.330] - Jerry
People don't think about that. We want to build a pipeline that from the moment they start with us, we are already beginning to target them with jobs in the community. And that's one of our needs right now, is for employers to take notice, to come to us. We'll certainly provide them everything that they need from an employment perspective, but I can promise an employer this, that we would not provide them with a candidate. We will give them a referred candidate that has passed the certification exam and that is fully capable of performing the job that they would be hired to do.
[00:20:05.250] - Chris
And I think you talked about it earlier. I mean, it's a 20 week program, but it also sounds like there's soft skill training that's involved in that as well. There's side by side coaching that's going along with that in addition to the technical skills. Right. So it's a full package.
[00:20:19.590] - Jerry
Absolutely. And that's something unique. As a differentiator for us, we've partnered with another organization called the Watering Seeds Foundation. Anytime a state organization, at least in the state of Georgia, provides some financial support for the program. And by the way, the program itself, there's no cost to the participants in the program. The program is funded by donors and other sponsors, and we are very grateful for our presenting sponsor, Cox, and there are many others who have supported us. But when we think about the requirements of the state, the state requires us, if we get money from the state to support one of our programs, that from a placement perspective, we have to track their progress for 90 days once they've been on the job. What we've learned is typically that's where problems will exist because once that support falls off after 90 days, there can be some problems. And so to counter that, we're doing something unprecedented in the industry, and we're providing that participant once they're on the job and working with a job mentor and coach for 18 months after they have begun employment. And so that's really a significant differentiator for the industry.
[00:21:58.190] - Chris
Yeah. And that's definitely it's a confidence builder, too. So, I mean, just kind of you're absolutely mitigating the risk and the concern that an employer would have. So we talked about the benefits to an employer. What benefits? And it's kind of a self evident question, but what benefits have you seen to employees that have been hired? How have you seen this program change their.
[00:22:23.130] - Jerry
To? You're supposed to lob only softballs, Chris, not hardballs. I get a little emotional when I think about michael Coleman is a student of ours, and Liza Lucas was doing an interview from NBC News Eleven Alive, and she saw I had asked Michael, one of the students, a question about how do I isolate this system that's down without compromising the other systems. And he was very busy in the computer, but you could see his face light up with the fact that I asked him a question, that he knew the answer, and that he couldn't wait to show me that he knew the answer and to demonstrate that. So from that perspective, Liza, in an interview with me, asked me a very similar question. How did that make you feel? And it took me a moment or two to regain my composure because I really hadn't really thought about that. But it made me feel awesome. And it made me feel awesome because it was really then that I realized that the job that we are doing, the job that I get to do every day, affords me the opportunity to give a voice to people who are often not heard.
[00:23:59.960] - Jerry
And that's pretty special.
[00:24:02.750] - Chris
That is very special. And you see that light bulb go off in their head, right. And that feeling of pride and that feeling of accomplishment that comes with that. Right. And being able to deliver the goods after they've gone through the training, what a feeling of accomplishment that is.
[00:24:19.250] - Jerry
Absolutely. We have two graduates now of the first cohort Rondarius Jordan and Mason Perez. They've just achieved their certification and are looking for employment, and we're working hard to get them placed. And so we could certainly appreciate any network spread of our conversation to get it out to people because we have good people who will do good work. And I can promise you there's not a single employer that will regret their decision to hire one of our graduates.
[00:24:57.140] - Chris
Awesome. Well, we're going to get your contact information in a second here to be able to have anybody that's interested to contact you. But one more question. So you're in the Atlanta area. Are there similar programs in other cities. What should employers look for when they're looking for these types of programs? Is there anything that they should be aware of or cautious of? What does that look like?
[00:25:23.110] - Jerry
Well, I think first of all, there are many nonprofit from concerned about or awareness. I would always check your nonprofit. There are several agencies out there that validate nonprofit status. I would always validate use one of those websites, and I won't mention a specific name to give credence to one or over the other, but just do your homework in checking out a nonprofit support. But what more importantly I would offer is there is a wealth of resources. The first one that I would provide would be disabilityresources.org. You can simply go to that website and identify the state that you're in, and there will be a host of resources that are immediately identified that all focus on the people with disability community. And so that would be a place that I would go. Now, if I were looking for skills training programs and I'm an employer, I would certainly utilize that and seek out organizations. Because I'll be honest, when I began to work with Bobby Dodd Institute, I didn't know institutions like Bobby Dodd Institute existed.
[00:26:47.870] - Chris
[00:26:52.130] - Jerry
I would definitely go to the disabilityresources.org and put in your state, and then you can begin to narrow it down by city, but very good resources. There are probably at least 150 individual resources that come up with just the Georgia search on that alone.
[00:27:14.110] - Chris
Perfect. And then you're saying that will give you a level of trust because they've been vetted out, obviously being on that site and everything like that.
[00:27:21.400] - Jerry
That is correct, yeah.
[00:27:22.820] - Chris
Okay, good. All right, so let's say somebody wants to contact you. They want to hire some employees that have been through the training with you. What's the best way for someone to get in touch with you and talk about this further?
[00:27:34.290] - Jerry
Well, if you forget the email address, that's cool. You can go to our [email protected]. There's a wealth of information info at Bobby DoD. But for me, you can email me at Jerry [email protected]. And I'm happy to connect you with the right people in our organization to get you the information you need for employment.
[00:28:00.590] - Chris
Excellent. Well, Jerry, thank you very much for being on Great Practices today. This is eye opening as far as that these programs even exist. So that's good to know, and it's good to see that you guys are know such a big difference in people's lives. So appreciate you being on today.
[00:28:16.750] - Jerry
Thank you very much, Chris.
[00:28:18.600] - Chris
Talk to you soon. Well, that was another great episode of Great Practices, and we certainly do appreciate Jerry joining us today. What were some of the great practices and insights that came from this episode? Well, it was good to see that organizations like the Bobby DoD Institute exist in being able to help out those with disabilities, particularly with the Bobby Dodd Institute, they have that It certification program that allows their students to receive a Cisco certification at the end of a 20 week course. So that's something very unique and something that we certainly want to take advantage of. Now, what were some of the benefits to employers of hiring disabled people, perhaps those that have gone through the certification program? Well, Jerry brought out some very impressive statistics. Companies that hire disabled people have shown to have a 28% higher revenue, doubled net income, 30% higher profit margins. There's a Department of labor study that shows that 90% increase in employee retention and additionally, 80% of job seekers prefer to work for a company that is an inclusive company and 92% of consumers appreciate and prefer buying and purchasing and being a customer of companies that are inclusive.
[00:29:51.870] - Chris
Now, I liked it because he went on and talked about some of the myths that were surrounding hiring disabled employees. And what he really brought up was the point that people just don't know. One of the first myths of these that it's going to cost a lot of money to hire disabled people because they require a lot of accommodations. Well, again, he said that's not true for those that do need accommodation. And he said that that is a small amount. The average cost is $500 and that's even if accommodation is going to be needed. But when you couple that with higher retention rate, higher attendance rate, not having to train new employees because of a lot of turnover, that $500 really becomes very minimal. When you think about it, myth number two that he busted is that employees won't stay at a company for a very long time. Well, again, he had a number of examples of those that have stayed at companies for decades. 27 years, 25 years, over 20 years in the industry in which they're working. So something else that, again, that high retention rate, that high loyalty that the students have to the companies that they work for.
[00:31:07.830] - Chris
And myth number three that he busted was that they'd be limited about the amount or the different types of jobs that they could do, like, perhaps could only be a customer service rep. Well, he certainly has dispelled that. Myth by showing that people are being trained when it comes to it and being able to get jobs in helping in that area as well. The other thing that I appreciated that the Bobby Dodd Institute and what Jerry was talking about was the fact that one of the differentiators that they have is the fact that they will work closely with their students for not 30 days, not 60 days, not 90 days like what the state requires, but will coach and mentor and check in over an 18 month period. What a huge differentiator when it comes to working with their students and making sure that they're doing the job that they're expected to do. Performing, coaching, making sure that things are okay, making sure that everything is going as expected over that 18 month period. What a strong foundation. People end up at the end of that. Finally, I like that he talked about what you can look for locally.
[00:32:19.750] - Chris
If you're looking to hire disabled employees, if you're looking to see if an organization like this exists in your area, or if there's programs like this available in your area, you can go to Disabilityresources.org and identify your state and then you're going to be able to narrow it down from there. So that's Disabilityresources.org identify your state and you'll see a lot of programs in each state that would be available to you as an employer. So we'd like to thank Jerry again for being on today and sharing these great practices and the great work that they're doing at Bobby Dodd Institute. And if you have a great practice you'd like to share, go to thepmoleader.com click on Explore Great Practices podcast and fill out the form at the bottom of the screen. Someone will get in touch with you shortly. Also, be sure not to miss a single episode by subscribing to Great Practices on your favorite podcast platform, Arm. And if you like what you hear, we've had so many great guests on now. Be sure to share this with your manager, colleague, and any others that you think would benefit. Thanks again for listening to this episode and keep putting Great Practices into practice.