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The Complex Benefits To Having People With Disabilities In The Workplace

Updated: May 1, 2019


According to the US Census Bureau, one in five people in the United States (or 56.7 million people) live with a disability. More than 50% of these people report to be living with a severe disability that makes it difficult to get a job or take care of themselves. The reintegration into the working world for individuals with disabilities has gained a lot of significance over the years, especially given the fact that politicians have put a lot of pressure to lighten the burden on social insurances.


For disabled people, taking part in the working world can be very challenging and sometimes impossible. However, as many of them admit, this is an essential condition to a uniform participation to society. When people are given the opportunity to work they often experience psychological benefits of feeling capable and valuable to society. However, it's not only disabled people that can take advantage of this, but also enterprises.


Diversity Management as a Foundation

Accounting for the advantage of an enterprise is a concept known as Diversity Management. This involves the process of handling diversity in the workplace, and its purpose is that of encouraging diversity and minimizing any negative aspects of societal prejudice.


For employers who decide to employ people with disabilities by applying the diversity policy, the chances of increased productivity and ROI are higher than those of other companies. However, the most important thing is the way an employer is able to make the most of the capacities and strengths of each disabled individual it hires. More specifically, it's very important for the employer to know how to effectively apply Ability Management. This concept aims to develop the capabilities of each employee, and it has a direct impact on the enterprise's success.

Almost everyone has already learned Ability Management through sports, school or work, it's the act of concentrating on the skills of the people. Many of us dispose of a lot of potential, more than we generally use. At the same time, managers make things worse by sanctioning unfulfilled goals and deficits. In the meantime, a lot of associations that care for the disabled concentrate heavily on the disability instead of working towards developing and improving the capabilities of their members. With a focus on strengths and capabilities, they can be valued and recognized within their profession, and eventually, within society.

Every teacher is aware that when a student needs to be privately tutored in a weak subject, their strong subjects will start to decrease. However, if they focus on the student's strengths, the student will achieve greater results in the strong subjects while also improving their performance in the weaker subjects. Even so, many teachers and parents continue to send kids to private tutoring. In the same way, many companies keep investing a lot of money in further education programs, trying to turn brilliant engineers into successful salesmen, with the results we're all aware of.


Increased Productivity and Reduced Fluctuation

Disabled people working in an accessible work environment and who are able to fulfill the work requisites, can easily give 110% on their job. Even better, if disabled employees are given the right work conditions, they can show excellent engagement, but also have a much higher motivation than most other non-disabled employees.


Disabled employees know that finding a job is very difficult, and that's why when they're hired they compensate their deficits by working harder. The limitations and hurdles they encounter every day is a great source of motivation that makes them want to accomplish more. Because of that, they show a greater level of motivation and loyalty to their employer. On top of that, disabled employees also stay a lot longer with an employer and are less costly to manage.


Creative Thinking Leads to Increased Profits

Disabled people need to confront a wide range of challenges every day. They are use to finding solutions for every one of those challenges by having an open mind, creativity, and flexibility. This creative way of thinking can benefit the entire company. Problem solving abilities have numerous advantages to the entire staff, and creative thinking can eventually spread through the entire company, even into teams that don't include disabled people.


A Better Image in the Public Eye

Employers with a strong social responsibility can show their engagement by showing commitment to areas like anti-discrimination and equality. This way, companies can stand out and present their philosophy to the public eye.


The successful integration of disabled people may also positively impact the company's reputation. As a result, this can become a decisive element in buying decisions. Besides the positive impact on suppliers and clients, staff is also more motivated to work for a company that cares about its reputation.


In a study performed by Towers Watson, it was shown that companies with a positive reputation have an easier time finding and attracting potential employees. In a "war of talents" scenario, this factor can certainly play a major role in their ability to secure new and skilled employees.


Strengthening of Corporate Culture

Working with disabled staff openly and without discrimination can go a long way in helping improve the work environment, but also the communication within the company. Colleagues with and without disabilities learn more about each other, show more empathy, and eventually learn how to work more effectively as a team towards achieving goals.


In most cases, the staff learns more about the experiences their disabled colleagues go through on a daily basis. As a result, they find it easier to accept the differences which creates a more dynamic and open atmosphere. For the corporation, this results in better social competences among the staff and improved communication.


Corporate Identity

Due to specialization and the division of labor, a lot of employees feel alienated at work. Given the fact that they don't identify with their employer makes it very hard for them to feel motivated to be more productive. Identification stems from concordance and affinity of one's personal values and those of the company.


People who have a strong social attitude find it easier to identify themselves with employers that apply principles of integration and hire disabled people. This can have such an effect on the employees that they can make the company's objectives their own. They feel connected to the company and are ready to work harder for the company's success.

This is one of the main reasons why people stay longer with the same company. In this day of frequent job rotation and reduced loyalty, this is a very important factor. It's true that there are still not very many employers that are open to hiring disabled people, but the positive results integration efforts will result in success for everyone and strengthen the company's sense of identification.


Social Security Savings

Every year, the number of people who request disability benefits is getting higher. Based on the US ORDP's yearly report, more than 10.9 million people between the ages of 18-64 received disability benefits in 2008. 62.3% of the recipients received SS benefits, 27.7% received benefits from the SSI program, and 11.8% received both SS and SSI benefits. A large number of the recipients were disabled employees.


Disabled employees receive about $478 from SSI and $1,063 a month. At the end of 2008, the government paid a total of $10.5 billion in disability benefits. Compared to the SS, SSI payouts do not have anything to do with the individual's insurance coverage. They're basically a social welfare program that's meant to help disabled individuals that have very little or no income.

So, if disabled individuals are allowed to completely participate in economic activities and get employed, this can have a massive impact on the amount of money the government spends on social welfare.


Commercial Benefits

Successful companies can benefit from the great resources, experiences, skills, and talents of disabled individuals. Disability confident companies have greater access to a motivated and productive pool of talent that is:

  • Reliable: Disabled employees stay longer at jobs compared to other employees, take fewer sick leaves, fewer days off, and are also more loyal.

  • Productive: With adequate support and in the right job, disabled individuals perform just as well as the rest of the staff.

  • Affordable: Compared to other employees, disabled people are involved in fewer ACC accidents and incidents at work, and are less costly to recruit.

Also, the benefits to companies include:

  • Employers appeal to investors with sustainability and corporate social responsibility interests.

  • The company improves its image amongst their clients, community, and staff.

  • The employer enjoys great productivity gains and massive cost savings through more efficient client processes, employment, and effective recruitment.

  • Flexible management allows older and disabled individuals to contribute. A lot of the adjustments made for disabled individual are also required by other staff, so when a company adopts a more flexible hiring practice, this can have a positive impact on its entire workforce.

  • Disabled individuals can contribute billions of US dollars to the economy as consumers, entrepreneurs, and employees.

Disabled Workers Make Businesses More Robust

The high cost associated with a low number of qualified workers and the elevated employee turnover rate represents a great risk to a company's competitive edge. Turnovers are quite expensive and the time lost can easily add up, not to mention the extra operating expenses required to search, recruit, and eventually train new staff.


Based on information from SAGE Learning, every 4 years enterprises experience an average 50% turnover. This costs them up to 400% for specialized high level staff, 150% for middle level staff, and anywhere from 5-30% percent of the yearly salary of an entry level employee to find their replacement.


Because of that, it's obvious why companies need to focus on finding and keeping competent employees instead of replacing them. Employing disabled individuals is a great solution for the high turnover rates many companies have to deal with. There is countless proof that hiring disabled people positively contributes to the company's success given the fact these people are motivated, reliable, and eager to work.


Research also shows that it's a lot less expensive to find accommodation for a disabled employee than to find a replacement that's not going to stay long with the company. According to the Job Accommodation Network, more than 50% of the accommodations that need to be made for disabled staff cost less than $500. Compared to the expenses required for finding and training new staff, the difference in cost is very obvious.


Furthermore, disabled employees not only match, but also exceed the healthy staff's attendance records. Disability is very different from sickness. An individual with blindness, deafness, or a physical/developmental disability can be physically healthy and fit.

That's not to say that non disabled staff aren't reliable and will leave the company soon after being hired. However, you need to think about the fact that a disabled person has a much harder time finding and landing a job. So, when they get it, they're motivated to work harder and prove themselves to the employer for the purpose of becoming a valuable employee that the company appreciates and loves to have on board.


In the end, longevity and reliability result in improved productivity. Also, increased productivity means higher economic gains and profitability. More robust companies produce employment and more services/products, measured by the GDP.


Conclusion


A lot has been done since the Americans with Disabilities Act was implemented. Still, there's a lot to be done so that disabled people can be recognized as qualified employees. After all, they also have valuable skills and abilities that many companies can use.


The strength of a nation lies in its people. If those with disabilities are allowed to develop their potential and skills through gainful employment, then that country can expect massive gains in productivity and economic returns.