I have spent a bit of time telling you all about the benefits of telework, but now I'm going to get more in to the benefits of employing people with a disability. There are a lot of myths out there about people with a disability and I think Graeme Innes, the former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, gets it right when he says "the soft bigotry of low expectations limits what we achieve". Unfortunately, low expectations is something that people with a disability face all the time. But why is this? Most of us are very highly educated and want to work so why do employers think we can't?
I think this is very much about changing attitudes to people with a disability and some fantastic work is being done by the Attitude Foundation (http://www.attitude.org.au/) and the Able Movement (www.facebook.com/theablemovement) in this space, but I wanted to contribute to busting some of the myths about employing people with a disability. So here it is, hope it's enlightening for you and inspires you to increase the diversity of your workforce.
1. Talent Pool
One of the biggest ongoing complaints from business in the western world is often a lack of a suitable talent pool from which to choose potential new employees. There may be a number of reasons for this, but businesses can maximise their talent pool by consciously attracting people with disability and making their premises attractive and accessible. People with disabilities are just as educated, just as ambitious, often just as experienced and motivated as the rest of the population. We also make up 15% of Australians of working age (15-64 years) so if you're excluding people with a disability this is a big amount of potential talent you are missing out on.
Moreover, you may bring additional skills into the premises (sign language being one such example). Having one person with that skill will make it easier for others to integrate. “People with disability are a resource of abilities, of willpower - they are real economical and social actors” according to President of the ACCOR hotel group.
2. Image and Staff Morale
It will be good for your company image to promote a diverse workplace, accessibility and not keeping your talent pool to narrow criteria (which is against the law in most countries anyway). Companies who actively promote diversity usually gain recognition in trade or national press and have potential to win awards; recent studies have shown that people look favourably on businesses with inclusive employment policies.
There are extra benefits to your existing staff. It can enrich the working lives of your other employees by exposing them to people with disabilities that they may not encounter in other aspects of their life. Breaking down prejudice in the workplace can be immensely helpful to removing the barriers that prevent people with disability from participating in the workplace on an equal footing.
People with disabilities want to work and prove themselves as individuals just like anybody else. Statistics and studies have persistently shown several eye-opening facts:
- They are just as productive and motivated as able bodied people
- There is a greater level of retention with employees with disabilities – in short, they are less likely to move on and more likely to be amongst your longest-serving employees
- A report in Salon in 2013 reported high levels of reported efficiency amongst business leaders when discussing the performance of their employees with disabilities
- Most importantly, there are reported much lower levels of sickness and other unscheduled leave
Further, the Salon article states “Studies of Walgreens’s experience at a few distribution centers show disabled workers are more efficient and loyal than nondisabled workers. Absenteeism has gone down, turnover is less, and safety statistics are up. And the cost of accommodating such workers with new technologies and education is minimal.”
If you are retaining staff for longer, experiencing less unscheduled leave, increasing productivity, improving staff morale and your image what do you think will happen? Your business will grow, you will attract more business, you will attract better employees and you will increase your profits. Now, that's not a bad thing is it?
It is largely the cost of accommodating employees with disabilities, and not prejudice, which sometimes may put off businesses from actively engaging the wider workforce pool. This may be particularly true of small to medium enterprises that have less capital and lower turnover. Fortunately, in the 21st century most countries in the developed world have specific bursaries and funds available to help businesses meet the costs of workplace modification and most modifications are inexpensive anyway. Charities and commissions are on hand to offer advice and services like Enabled Employment remove all of these barriers anyway.
So why aren't you employing more people with a disability? It's very easy and as above you can see the benefits it will make for your business. As always, I love to keep the conversation going so ask me some questions or leave some comments below.
Keeping in theme of my last blog post about telework and the results only work environment, I thought I would go into some more detail about how telework can benefit your business. I know through my discussions with business it is not so easy to see why telework might be right for your business so here are my top five reasons reasons that you should consider telework.
I am positive that teleworking is right for a lot of businesses, it is just a different way of thinking, but once you have seen the results and the potential cost savings in practice, you will want to do more!
In a period of economic difficulty, recession or even the early stages of recovery, a business’ performance is most important to its survival or success. This is the time to look at streamlining operations, cutting unnecessary costs and attempting to maximise output. Telework increases work efficiency by focusing on the targets of individual employees rather than the amount of time they are at work. “Work smarter, not harder” is a common business phrase today and telework allows the business and the employee to work smarter.
Consequently, the focus on targets and achievement encourages the employee to understand the importance of targets, deadlines and amount of work that you are looking to achieve as a business.
2. Job Satisfaction
Many studies have demonstrated that employees are far more productive and happier when offered flexible working patterns. Parents often make decisions about where and when they work, taking into account their extra responsibilities. The ability to set his or her own hours around those responsibilities leads to less stress for the employee and more work produced for the employer.
Never underestimate the importance of a bond of trust. If you have a system in place for your employees to work from home, they are going to feel trusted and valued that they have more freedom and satisfaction in that freedom. Job satisfaction also means greater staff retention.
3. Expands Potential Work Pool
Single parents, people with disabilities and mental illness who may not be able for one reason of another to get into a place of work are able to work from home or any other suitable place of their choosing. Some jobs may exclude these groups merely by requiring them at a place of work. When that is also their home, many of the stresses of other commitments become negligible. With a flexible working system such as telework, geography, commitment and disability need not be limiting factors in the way that they may be with traditional working environments.
4. Saves Money
In a conventional office environment, you are likely to have many overhead costs – particularly in relation to utilities, which can be astronomical if you are running many computers, printers, scanners all at once all day, every day. If you then remove most of those staff to telework, this will drastically reduce your utility costs. Consequently, you may even be able to reduce your total office space and reduce your costs further.
Though an employee’s transport costs may not affect the business, some jobs do pay a bursary for commuting – especially for mid to high-level employees – and usually are responsible for the costs associated with sending an employee to a different work site. Telework will eliminate the costs associated with that; you will also be able to increase your business prestige by reducing your carbon footprint.
5. Unexpected Time Off
Studies have demonstrated that the amount of unscheduled time off such as sick days when the employee was capable of getting in to work and well enough to work, is greatly reduced. When at home, people are more likely to simply get on with their tasks and work through a minor ailment. It also means a whole working day is not lost if they happen to feel better at lunch time.
Have you got some tales about how telework has benefited your business? I would love to hear them. Leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation.