Employing people with different abilities benefits to employees and to employers alike. People with different abilities possess faculties which can give added value to any enterprise. To account for the benefits for an enterprise is a concept of Diversity Management, which can be described as handling diversity in the working place. It aims at promoting personal diversity in the enterprise, with the aim of reducing negative aspects.
The most significant barrier for people with different abilities, however, still appears to be the stereotypical assumptions and attitudes of employers about what people with different abilities can and cannot do.
There are three key reasons that necessitate a change in this thinking:
- People with different abilities no longer accept less than equitable and fulfilling opportunities, both in the workplace and in daily life.
- Technology has removed many barriers faced by people with different abilities and enabled more people to reach their full potential.
- The economic and social cost of ignoring 20% of the population is unsustainable.
Further employer misconceptions preventing the full inclusion of people with different abilities in the workforce include:
- The perceived cost in terms of employing a person with different abilities in terms of possible workplace adjustments.
- The lack of awareness and confidence in creating a workplace which is inclusive of people with different abilities.
- The perceived impact on workers compensation, sick leave and OH&S regulations.
- The belief people with different abilities will take up too much time to manage.
- The fear of other people in the workplace doing or saying the wrong thing.
The principles of employment are the same for people with different abilities as those without disability. The main focus should be on the skills, talents and capabilities the person with disability can bring to the workplace.
Many progressive organisations are increasingly recognising the business benefits, beyond the right thing to do or compliance with legislation, of employing people with different abilities, including:
- Being an Employer of Choice – attraction of employers through access to a broader talent pool as people with different abilities bring a diverse range of skills and abilities and new and valuable perspectives to the workplace
- Retention – retaining existing employees who develop or acquire a disability as they age
- Shifting demographics – an ageing population and increased incidence of disability not only impacts workforce but also means changing markets
- Increased use of technology – enhancing opportunities for people with different abilities
- Greater creativity, innovation and product development – understanding the needs of people with different abilities as a service provider is critical in retaining those customers
- Improved customer service and attraction – being disability confident, including how to communicate with customers with disability, enhancing customer service
- Reputation & Brand – according to a University of Massachusetts survey, 92% of the American public view companies that hire people with disability more favourably than those that do not; 87% of the public also agree that they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with different abilities
- Procurement process & tender documents – increase in companies seeking information from suppliers on their employment and CSR programs and encouraging tenders from diverse suppliers.
- Strengthening workplace morale and productivity through a more committed and diverse workplace
- Risk management – compliance with legislative requirements and meeting international standards reduces litigation risk.