Why employing people with disabilities benefits both businesses and communities
It's episode 26 of Leader Talk! On this episode we spoke to the amazing Yasser Zaki, CEO of Tender Loving Care Disability Services.
Yasser is a certified and registered NDIS provider that delivers high-quality support for individuals with disabilities. With over 12years of experience, he has gained extensive experience in the disability services sector. Yasser’s vision is to develop a service where people aren’t limited as a result of their bodily functions, and is passionate about making regular services more inclusive for those who are physically and cognitively disadvantaged.
In our chat we spoke about why diverse teams are stronger, why businesses of all sizes should hire people with disabilities and the importance of giving back to your community.
Authored by Yasser Zaki, CEO of Tender Loving Care Disability Services.
Diverse and inclusive teams do wonders for a workplace and its people. So, in this day and age, why is it still significantly harder for people with disabilities to enter the workforce? If diversity and inclusion is seen as something that should be celebrated, why are businesses still not making more effort to be inclusive of people with disabilities?
Take a minute to think about how inclusive your business really is. It’s never too late to improve your diversity and inclusion efforts! As CEO of Tender Loving Care (TLC) Disability Services, I work with people who have disabilities daily and I understand first-hand the challenges they face every day. As a result, I am passionate about supporting them and educating communities and businesses on the incredible value of our disabled communities. I’ve witnessed countless examples of organisations and their people being transformed for the better after adopting an inclusive workplace culture. Let’s look at how and why any organisation, including small to medium businesses, can be more inclusive of people with disabilities.
Diverse teams are stronger
Just like diversifying our investments and business options is important, diversifying our workplace is also key to business success. When we talk about a diverse workplace, the discussion is often centred around racial and gender inclusivity, and while these are crucial, we also cannot forget about including people with disabilities into the discussion.
I’m sure we’ve all seen the research about how diverse workplaces improve productivity and create stronger teams. Having a disability-friendly workplace environment can also boost the morale of your overall team, with 89% of employees wanting their organisation to be inclusive of those with an intellectual disability. By being inclusive of those with a disability, your team can better learn from one another, become more innovative, and broaden their perspectives. Employees at highly inclusive and diverse companies are 20% more likely to stay at their job, indicating that workers are attracted to inclusive workplaces and appreciate working with a diverse team.
Teams that are diverse and inclusive of people with disabilities often perform at a more productive rate. One example, cited by the American Society of Safety Professionals Journal, was when Walgreens opened a distribution centre where over 30% of employees had a disability. The centre ended up being 20% more efficient than centres without employees with disabilities, as well as having half the employee turnover rate and around 30% less accidents. Overall, the disability inclusive team performed stronger than non-diverse teams, demonstrating why we need to focus on people’s capabilities and skills rather than dismissing them for their weaknesses.
Hiring people with disabilities
In Australia, working-aged people with a disability are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to those without a disability. If your organisation is not willing to adopt an inclusive attitude to employ people with disabilities, then you may be part of the problem.
Studies show that compared to workers without disabilities, employees with disabilities tend to work harder, be more productive at work, and are more loyal to their business. Research also shows that people with a disability build strong connections with customers, boost staff morale, and establish a stronger sense of teamwork in the workplace. So, why wouldn’t you hire people with a disability?
If you’re a small to medium business, you may be under the impression that you just don’t have the resources to support employees with disabilities in the way that a large company can. However, I believe that smaller businesses actually benefit the most from hiring people with disabilities. One study determined that employing people with disabilities comes with minimal costs and contributes to having a positive work environment. Australian businesses also have access to government support for employees with disabilities, including disability employment services, Commonwealth funded services, and wage subsidies. Once you educate yourself on what it really takes to hire people with disabilities, you’ll find that the benefits greatly outweigh the potential costs.
During our recruitment process, we need to be focusing on people’s abilities, regardless of whether or not someone has a disability. A company that only focuses on job candidates’ weaknesses could be missing out on amazing talent. To avoid unconscious discrimination during the recruitment process, I recommend that during interviews and application reviews, hiring managers should follow a set criterion of employment and have a process that is committed to equal opportunity and selecting the right person for the job, regardless of their external circumstances.
All too often, I see people treating people with disabilities differently, as if they are half their age or need to be coddled, regardless of what disability they may have. This very common attitude towards people with disabilities encourages the misconception that they may not be fit for the workplace. We need to stop infantilising people with disabilities when they are fully functioning, intelligent, and capable adults. After all, people with and without disabilities have virtually identical school grades and graduation outcomes. This highlights that the stereotypes of many intellectual capabilities of people with disability are often ableist misconceptions and not based off evidence.
So, the next time you’re going through the hiring process, check yourself and make the effort to ensure you are not making hiring decisions based on disability stereotypes and misconceptions. Treat your candidates with equal respect and care and you will end up with a strong, diverse team.
Giving back to our community
At TLC, we strongly value our community, and we are passionate about supporting those who come from vulnerable communities. Hiring people with disabilities can allow your business to have a stronger community presence and attract more returning customers. Think of it this way – most successful restaurants and cafes these days cater for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and lactose intolerant dietary requirements. Not only does this create a more inclusive venue, but it also attracts a wider range of customers who have dietary requirements. It’s a win-win situation for both the community and the business, so why wouldn’t you do it? The same goes for hiring more people with disabilities and being a disability-friendly venue. With around one in six Australians having a disability, we as a community are obligated to support those with a disability and create venues where everyone is welcome.
A Clutch study found that 68% of consumers believe social responsibility and giving back to the local community is the most important attribute of a company. Similarly, a Nielsen report revealed that 52% of consumers around the world made at least one purchase within a six month period from one or more socially responsible companies. The data speaks for itself – consumers reward organisations that are committed to social responsibility and their local community.
Employing people with disabilities and creating a disability-friendly business is one of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to social good, and as a result, perform better as both a business and member of your community.
A necessary business investment
I’ve experienced numerous instances where having a disability-friendly environment has directly improved an organisation’s revenue. As one example, I once talked to a restaurant owner about how they could become a more disability inclusive environment. I suggested that they could train their staff to learn basic sign language to communicate with hard of hearing customers. On top of this, they have started an autism awareness day every week, adjusted their lighting to cater for people who are prone to seizures or have epilepsy, have revamped their menu to be more visual and accessible to those who cannot read, and are also working on a tactile menu that enables touch-based browsing for people who are visually impaired.
From a community point of view, the restaurant is clearly being inclusive and ensuring that anyone can come in and enjoy their meal without barriers. From a business point of view, their business diversified their revenue streams by catering to a wide range of different customers and is attracting more clientele. It also becomes a unique selling point of the restaurant and encourages returning customers. If a restaurant’s only selling point is the food they serve, then they are not diversifying their revenue streams and are therefore more prone to failure. By having inclusivity and accessibility as a selling point in addition to their food, the restaurant diversifies their business and isn’t putting all of their eggs in one basket.
After I suggested that the restaurant could be more disability-friendly, they reported that they experienced a significant increase in various revenue streams and as a result, are continuing to seek more ways of being disability-friendly for all their customers. An accessible and disability inclusive business clearly benefits the community, customers, and the business, so why wouldn’t you make the investment?
Employing people with disabilities and creating a disability-friendly business environment can clearly benefit both your community and business. As businesses, we have a social responsibility to ensure that our venues and services are accessible to all customers and alleviate barriers that people with disabilities may have to our products and services. Accessibility and inclusion are the way of the future and it is clear that an increasing number of businesses are focusing more on being disability-friendly. If you miss the boat, your business may fall behind.