Understanding Employer Interest and Needs to Mobilize Engagement

“A recovery-to-work ecosystem cannot succeed without the active engagement of the employer community. Employment is not only an outcome of recovery, but it is also a contributor to long-term, successful recovery.1 In Appalachia, the issue of engaging employers in recovery-to-work hiring takes on added importance due to critical workforce shortages throughout the region.” — Addressing Appalachia’s Substance Use Disorder Crisis Through Recovery-to-Work 

Now you have a champions team to help guide an ecosystem, it’s time to gauge employer interest and needs. 

For individuals battling addiction, gainful employment is often paramount to successful recovery.  Wraparound services like housing and transportation are also critical to long-term recovery, but employers will dictate early steps that need to be taken to adequately train and prepare individuals in recovery for sustainable employment options.  

Step One: Build a targeted list of employers to reach out to about interest in Recovery to Work efforts in the region 

With the guidance of the employer champion(s), build a list of employers for initial outreach. 

  • Use regional data about largest employers (example from Alex in GA?) 
  • Ask community partners to  identify businesses that would be most receptive to survey 

Example: Presentation to local SHRM chapter (Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission example) 

Step Two: Conduct outreach to employers 

Using the list developed in step one, start to personally reach out to employers. Initial email messages should clearly communicate goals and purpose of recovery to work initiative (per Phase 1 & 2 exercises).  

  • Email template 
    • Make the business case for hiring and retaining workers in recovery.”  
    • Community example: Alex’s talking points (Georgia) 
  • Questionnaire 
    • What are their staffing needs (Skills, specific open positions, experience level, etc) 
    • What is interest in hiring people in recovery?  
    • What past obstacles or challenges with hiring people in recovery? 
    • What successes in hiring people in recovery? 
    • What resources or support would help you hire more people from this population? 
    • List recovery programs/ services you’re familiar with 
  • Gauge employer willingness/capacity to coordinate with social service organizations. Particularly for individuals receiving early-stage treatment) 
  • Community examples: Coleman Health; Piedmont Triad 
  • Agenda for hosting business roundtable 
  • Examples: NY, OMEGA 
Step Three: Compile responses and determine next  steps, such as connecting employers to existing resources and programs or creating new resources programs to meet their needs 

Provide tools for employers to engage in recovery to work opportunities while ecosystem continues to be formalized. Examples: 

  • Toolkit examples* 
  • SUD education/ Reducing stigma 
  • Tax credit incentives 
  • Fact sheet on barriers to employment 
  • Fact sheets harm reduction techniques 
  • Peer support models (success coaches, ERN) 
  • Narcan training 
  • Referral process to service providers for those who fail drug test