October is a month of resonance, a time that marks the celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It isn’t just a month but an intense reminder underscoring the meaningful employment people with disabilities can and do make in our workforce. As we reflect on recent years, there’s something noteworthy happening in the staffing landscape.
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that as of 2022, about 21.3% of individuals with disabilities were employed compared to 19.1% the year prior. Although this upward trend proves promising, there is still much work to be done. More importantly, it serves as evidence that a substantial portion of the skilled and capable workforce is left untapped.
If you dig into the research, the benefits of hiring people with disabilities become clear as day.
Increased profit margin. Research suggests that hiring people with disabilities can play a crucial role in improving a company’s bottom line. Accenture’s research showed that companies proactive about inclusive hiring practices enjoyed 28% higher revenue. This financial benefit isn’t limited to any particular industry. Numerous studies have shown that companies with a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities, tend to perform better and are more productive.
Increased market share and shareholder value. A diverse and inclusive workforce allows companies to better serve a diverse customer base. Companies investing in inclusive practices find themselves comfortably seated at the high table of greater economic outputs — a result of increased market reach fueled by shareholder satisfaction.
Lower absence and turnover rates. Studies conducted by Walgreens’ disability-inclusive distribution centers demonstrate employees with disabilities had lower absenteeism rates compared to their peers sans disabilities. Employees with disabilities also tend to have higher retention rates, which has the effect of reducing turnover costs. Various studies have shown that accommodating disabled workers leads to decreased workers’ compensation and training costs over time.
Increased productivity. Contrary to popular belief, workers with disabilities are equally, if not more, productive than their non-disabled peers. The unique perspectives emerging from navigating life differently help people with disabilities develop creative problem-solving skills.
Federal and state tax incentives. Businesses making conscientious efforts towards hiring people with disabilities stand eligible for various federal and state tax incentives. For instance, the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit alone provides credits of $2,400 to $9,600 per eligible employee.
Innovative solutions. Companies leveraging the unique set of skills and alternative thinking styles stemming from neurodiversity often witness a surge in innovation. You’ll find many tech-centered and creative companies hiring workers on the autism spectrum solely to tap into this potential. Employers can train these individuals and provide accommodations to support their success in the workplace, leading to a win-win situation for both parties.
Improved brand reputation. Companies known for their commitment to social causes attract modern consumers who are hyper-vigilant about corporate ethics. A survey confirmed that 70% of online consumers choose to favor brands committed to societal contribution, which includes inclusivity and diversity hiring.
Improved company culture. Organizations championing inclusivity benefit from the ripple effect it has on all levels of the company’s culture. These range from enhancing team camaraderie, boosting morale and endorsing an environment of mutual respect, leading to overall better productivity.
There is a peculiar downside accompanied by excluding people with disabilities from your workforce. It’s proven shortsighted from a business viewpoint. Not capitalizing on this unsung talent pool arouses missed opportunities. Ultimately, it negatively impacts a company’s productivity and innovation potential while limiting creativity within the workforce.
Legal penalties for inaccessible facilities or discriminatory hiring practices can be substantial. Companies without diverse talent pools may struggle to retain employees or connect with certain consumer demographics. Finally, they may miss out on the increased innovation that comes with diverse perspectives.
Inclusion matters not only because it’s ethically sound but also because it makes stellar business sense. Simple steps like flexibility in work arrangements, inclusive job postings, skill-based assessments and customized accommodations can make a major difference. Employees with disabilities have much to contribute.
Embracing NDEAM serves as a reminder about our shared responsibility to create opportunities for everyone — including individuals with disabilities.