While inclusion of people with disabilities in Irish workplaces is obviously the right thing to do, employers, human resource and talent acquisition teams must change this narrative and start taking the view that employment of this untapped talent pool is much more than an exercise in Corporate Social Responsibility.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we will look at several benefits to greater inclusivity of people with disabilities in Irish workplaces.
1 - Increased Innovation
People with disabilities are resilient. Whether someone is born with a disability or acquires it during their working life, the ability to adapt is a natural consequence of their situation. They naturally develop skill sets such as persistence, forethought, problem solving and adaptivity. These are all key elements to innovation.
By incorporating people with disabilities into your workforce you are evolving the culture and ensuring the goods and services you produce are truly inclusive. In line with the concept of Universal Design, by making products inclusive of people with disabilities and valuing their unique insight, you are ensuring your business is accessible for everyone.
2 - Improved Shareholder Value
Surveys continually demonstrate that organisations who hire people with disabilities and place an emphasis on inclusive cultures report bottom-line benefits that show proven returns on investment. In the UK it has been estimated that a £1 investment in disability can yield as much as a £65 return.
Company culture and workforce diversity is now being monitored by regulators in increasing numbers of jurisdictions. Disability inclusion is becoming an important component for analysis. In Ireland, the National Disability Authority (NDA) monitors compliance with the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities (CESPWD) in the public sector.
3 - Improved Productivity
Everyone benefits from a diverse workplace. Underemployment of people with disabilities in Ireland results in a lack of disabled people in the workplace, leading to reinforced views that people with disabilities can't work or don't want to work. Employees who work alongside people with disabilities become more aware of ways to make the workspace more inclusive. Companies with environments inclusive of people with disabilities have increased productivity levels and better company morale.
For example, many large companies have implemented positive action recruitment measures such as Autism Specific Hiring Programmes. These programmes are proving to be very successful, as applicants who may normally not progress beyond initial interview stage are now considered valuable employees. Employees who are neurodiverse bring a different set of skills to companies, thus increasing overall productivity in certain areas.
People with disabilities are also less likely to take sick leave and commit more to employers, resulting in lower levels of staff turnover. This is in many ways down to the desire of the employee with the disability to reduce misconceptions and stigma around disabilities. Quite often, employees with disabilities push that little bit harder through illness to ensure full attendance at work, as they have a fear of potentially needing days in the future due to disability related illness.
Next week we will look at more benefits to a workforce inclusive of people with disabilities.