The topic of diversity, equity and inclusion tops the priority list of major organizations’ strategic plans. However, there’s more to DEI than gender and ethnicity. An inclusive workplace also means your organization is welcoming and well-suited for individuals with disabilities, too.
While social consciousness is reason enough for companies to hire disabled employees, there’s another one these profit-seeking entities will find compelling: an improved bottom line. Companies that onboard team members with disabilities benefit from special skills, improved collaboration capabilities and increased marketability. When looking to add to your roster, consider these three ways employees with disabilities can give your business a competitive leg up.
1. You’ll Get Better Work From Team Members With Special Strengths
Job satisfaction is key to employee productivity, but satisfaction is more than just job fit based on one’s education. Job fit encompasses natural tendencies, preferences and the unique way an individual thinks and experiences the world.
Individuals with disabilities learn how to navigate a landscape that doesn’t often keep their needs in mind. However, it’s that type of adaptability that can enable them to fulfill business needs in better ways. For example, Harvard Business Review reports that companies are finding customer service reps with disabilities well suited to soothing angry customers. Their distinctly empathetic approach and problem-solving savvy leads to higher customer satisfaction compared to typically abled CS agents.
Beyond empathy and adaptability, other disability-related skills are worth noting. A person who is blind or has low vision may be well-suited for roles requiring mastery of other senses. Individuals with autism often excel in jobs that demand pattern recognition, extensive focus and attention to detail. Technology roles like cybersecurity and software testing need people whose vigilance stands at the ready.
2. You Can Improve Your Company Culture in Profit-Yielding Ways
Company culture can be a nebulous concept, but business leaders know how essential a good one is to achieving high performance. That same HBR report notes that employing individuals with disabilities can improve company culture in three key respects: collaboration, motivation, and retention.
Collaboration is vital to team success, but achieving it is no cakewalk. Healthy collaboration requires people to keep their egos in check; it also demands psychological safety. Employees with disabilities appear to encourage both. By occasionally requiring additional support, they prompt their fellow team members to offer help more frequently. Furthermore, they make it more acceptable to ask for help, fostering a more cooperative environment overall.
When it comes to motivation, it’s not the needs of disabled team members but rather their strengths that make the difference. Until they work with colleagues with disabilities, many people aren’t aware of the obstacles these individuals routinely overcome. Seeing their co-workers excel despite the barriers in their way can motivate typically abled employees to up their game.
Finally, there’s the matter of retention. Business leaders know that frequent turnover is both costly and bad for team morale. Perhaps because of their sadly high historic unemployment rate, disabled individuals make very loyal employees. Once you hire them, you’re likely to benefit from their skills and collaborative capabilities for a long time to come.
3. Disabled Employees Help You Reach More Customers and Cement Their Loyalty
A diverse team naturally brings in different perspectives and lived experiences, and employees with disabilities can offer valuable insights. An individual who uses a wheelchair might mention that your recent marketing campaigns have inadvertently skewed ableist. She could offer ideas to develop more inclusive and appealing campaigns that just might change the game.
Simple representation matters, too. People with disabilities and their friends and family form a sizable market segment. Companies have discovered that a visible commitment to hiring disabled employees attracts customers with disabilities—and their loved ones. When a disabled customer is served by someone who faces some of the same issues they do, it creates a lasting bond with a brand.
Nor are these bonds limited to those in the disabled community. Experiments by London Business School researchers showed that hiring people with disabilities can become a strong selling point for a business. When consumers learned that a product was made by disabled employees, they liked the company more. That, in turn, made them inclined to pay a premium for the product and more apt to give the company repeat business.
Creating a High-Performing Team of Diverse Players
Your business has a variety of unique needs, and your team’s makeup should be just as unique. With all the competitive advantages employees with disabilities offer, they need to be part of your talent mix.
Make a concerted effort to enhance your recruitment approach to attract individuals with disabilities and modify your business processes as necessary to meet their needs. Show up at targeted hiring events and network with those in the disability community, building relationships and sharing opportunities. By recruiting diverse talent, upgrading your operations and nurturing your people, your diverse team will give you the competitive advantage you seek.