Most of the developed world is now entering economic recovery. But Australia is not doing quite as well as some other countries, and there is a looming issue with something all too common during economic growth: a skills shortage. Skills shortages also occur during economic decline but it can be more pronounced during periods of growth.
Each one of Australia’s states and territories is presently reporting skills shortages in multiple areas and the problem can come in many forms:
- Not enough qualified people to fill vacant roles
- Lack of experience of qualified people applying for those roles
- Disparity between employment package and employee expectations
- Jobs that regularly attract no applicants
- Unwillingness to relocate.
Tackling the Problem
One way to address the skills shortage is for businesses to offer better conditions and higher wages, but this is not always going to have the desired effect, especially if you are looking for people with niche skills who may not be looking for work. The newly-qualified aren't always going to have the experience you desire. There is another answer and it means changing your business practice and outlook to focus in on expanding the talent pool.
Considering the disability employment participation rate in Australia and the high unemployment rate (which means they are willing and able to work), it is apparent that there is large untapped resource available to address some of the problems that Australian businesses face.
The Advantages of Employing People With Disabilities
I have discussed on this blog numerous times the impressive statistics regarding employees with disabilities:
- They take less sick time and are just as productive as any other worker
- They stay in jobs longer (are less likely to move on which is critical in jobs that require a lot of training)
- Are willing and motivated, largely because of the low participation rate of their demographic.
A company called Gitanjali Gems of India came up against a skills shortage in the latter part of the last decade. They faced two problems:
- Jewellery manufacturing is a niche skill requiring a lot of training; and
- the industry has a high dropout rate.
Their directors decided to actively pursue potential new employees from a new demographic – a group with just 8% workforce participation and a devastating 0.1% full time employment rate. Thanks to this programme, 10% of Gitanjali Gems’ employees are now people with disabilities. There has been a noticeable effect on the company, including greater productivity and lower turnover.
Actively encouraging people with disabilities into your business has clear and measurable benefits whether you have a skills shortage or not. When you expand your talent pool as far as possible, you will see only benefits.
We have 150 highly qualified and skilled employees ready to start working for your business now, so if you're finding it difficult to recruit because of a skills shortage, think outside the square.
How many people with disabilities does your business employ?
We want to hear your examples of people with disabilities improving your business outcomes. Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going. And if you want to increase your productivity, address the skills shortage and have a more reliable and stable workforce, call us at Enabled Employment. We can help.
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.
Telework is a growing trend and thanks to cheap and efficient internet-based technology of the last few years, the 9-5 communal office is not always the most beneficial way to get maximum productivity from your staff. Both employers and employees alike are seeing the benefit of working from home rather than insisting on the office-based environment. For employees with disabilities, telework could be beneficial and practical for all parties concerned.
Introducing the possibility for your employees to work from home can be hugely beneficial to your business but you will need a clear plan of how it might work. Logistically, there is a lot to think about and thankfully, there are already clearly defined programmes, presently working in the real world, which allows businesses to diversify to home-working employees. One of the best-known systems is the Results Only Work Environment or ROWE.
So what is ROWE and how does it work? In a move designed to reward productivity rather than hours worked, ROWE seeks to encourage managers to think about achievable goals for their department and for individual employees. The number and pattern of hours worked is irrelevant – this is about agreed achievable targets. Through it, businesses no longer need to work on the minutiae of their employees, merely their output. It seems to be working – ask clothing retailer GAP who fully embraced the method in 2008.
Telework is ideally suited to the ROWE method for its philosophy of working practice and patterns. The benefits for both employers and employees include:
- A focus on performance and targets leads to greater efficiency during a working day. Neither employee nor employer is watching the clock. The employee can use their own judgement on when to start and stop work and to take necessary breaks
- Employees who work from home and use the ROWE method report higher levels of job satisfaction from the flexible nature of the work pattern – set hours are a thing of the past, so long as scheduled tasks get done on time
- It builds trust between the employer and employee. Never underestimate the greater satisfaction that employees get from greater autonomy and accountability
- The employee will develop a greater understanding of the importance of business targets – why a certain project is vital to the company or why this target must be reached by the end of the month
Employees can be recognised and rewarded for measurable results
Have you heard of ROWE or seen it in practice before? What do you think of it? Leave us a comment below and we can start a conversation about it.
Despite the fact that one in four Australians have a disability of some description, the employment statistics are shocking! 54% participate in the workforce compared to 84% of the general population. Telework, or working from home, provides a number of benefits to those who are able and willing to work but are restricted by a disability. Here are some great reasons why telework is going to totally change employment participation for people with a disability.
- Accessibility – Access to the building of a place of work and transport are the biggest barriers to the employment of people with disabilities
- Based on other studies from around the world, telework will increase disability employment levels anywhere from 3,230 (for those will a mild disability) to 14,868 (inclusive of all people with a disability in Australia)
- 9% of all people with a disability who are able to work identified flexible working hours as a major barrier – telework permits flexible hours
- A similar percentage identified transport as the biggest barrier – telework negates the travelling associated with most work
- A massive 66% of people not presently employed due to disability said they would take up a job if telework was an option
- Independent living modifications will already be present in the home – the environment will be suitable for their particular disability
- Technology necessary for a home offices is no longer cost-prohibitive – VoiP and Cloud technology makes for easy file sharing and communication
- A lack of flexible working hours is also a barrier to carers – a telework arrangement will help them work and remain focused on their caring commitments
- The Commonwealth Bank of Australia piloted a telework test scheme and calculated a 27% increase in productivity
- It’s good for morale too – over 70% of all employees who had used a telework option said they were happier in their jobs
- This in turn means your employees are less likely to leave. Replacing them can be expensive
- Geographical location need no longer be a barrier to employment
- Telework will allow people with disability to engage more fully in employment, productivity will increase and employees will overall be far happier in their jobs
Do you have any more reasons why telework is awesome, or even a personal story? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!