Source: United States Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy

Customized employment is a flexible process designed to personalize the employment relationship between a job candidate and an employer in a way that meets the needs of both. It is based on an individualized match between the strengths, conditions, and interests of a job candidate and the identified business needs of an employer. Customized Employment utilizes an individualized approach to employment planning and job development — one person at a time . . . one employer at a time.

Customized employment will often take the form of:

  • Task reassignment: Some of the job tasks of incumbent workers are reassigned to a new employee. This reassignment allows the incumbent worker to focus on the critical functions of his/her job (i.e., primary job responsibilities) and complete more of the central work of the job. Task reassignment typically takes the form of job creation, whereby a new job description is negotiated based on current, unmet workplace needs.
  • Job carving: An existing job description is modified — containing one or more, but not all, of the tasks from the original job description.
  • Job sharing: Two or more people share the tasks and responsibilities of a job based on each other’s strengths.

Less common — though becoming more established throughout the country — is Self-Employment as a form of Customized Employment. Self Employment allows for an individual to receive assistance in the creation of an independently owned small business (typically a micro enterprise, under five employees) based on the strengths and dreams of an individual and the unmet needs of a local market while incorporating the individualized planning and support strategies needed for success.

The Case for Customized Employment

Customized Employment works because it is not a program but a set of universal principles and strategies specifically designed to support both sides of the labor force: Supply and Demand. For the job candidate, the process considers the whole person — his/her skills, interests, abilities, and conditions necessary for successful employment, including job support. For employers, customized employment allows a business to examine its specific workforce needs — both ongoing and intermittent — and fulfill those needs with a well-matched employee.

Customized employment is not a quick-fix for anyone, but a creative alternative that enables job candidates and employers the opportunity to negotiate individual job tasks and/or reassign basic job duties to improve overall production in the workplace.

No one strategy or method works for every job seeker — and the methodology of Customized Employment is not simply for “people with disabilities.” Since 2001, ODEP’s demonstration projects have proven that these strategies can be successful for all applicants. Projects nationwide have shown positive outcomes not only on behalf of people with significant disabilities, but on behalf of a wide range of job candidates, typically and traditionally perceived as “hard-to-serve,” and who have various categorical labels within the workforce system: veterans with barriers to employment, transitioning youth, older workers, ex-offenders, people with limited English proficiency, and more!

Along the same lines, no one recruitment strategy works for every employer. Oftentimes job descriptions, when originally conceived, do not capture the true needs of business. By identifying genuine (and often unmet) needs, Customized Employment has the capacity to: (1) improve productivity so that incumbent staff can accomplish more of their global job duties during the work day; and (2) provide a more efficient business operation by promoting productivity and retention.

Customized Employment works because the focus is on one person at a time . . . one business at a time.