The ROI of hiring people with diff-abilities


When you are working at something you are passionate about, it can take you in some unexpected directions. A couple of years back we were approached by an agency that needed help bridging some people who had ‘disabilities’ into the workforce.

Those conversations led to some tweaks of our technology, then a pilot, several projects, a speaking engagement, and we’ve suddenly found ourselves working with groups in the Autism space, with Veterans groups, with inner-city youth, with Indigenous groups – all what I describe as ‘pools of hidden talent’ who all too often find themselves, for no good reason, on the outside looking in.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of things I didn’t know I didn’t know about the employment of people with ‘diff-abilities’.

  • Disabled employees are often better suited to certain roles than their ‘neurotypical’ counterparts; they often perform better and require less supervision. A DuPont study showed that 90 per cent of workers who have a disability scored average or above average in performance ratings
  • One Walgreen’s Distribution Center in Connecticut (where 47 per cent of the workforce is ‘disabled’ posted the following results:
    • Highest productivity rate in the country, every year since they opened in 2007
    • 40 per cent lower accident rate
    • 67 per cent lower medical costs
    • 63 per cent less lost time
    • 78 per cent lower overall employee costs
  • Workers who have a disability are five times more likely to stay on the job. One multi-unit restaurant owner saw his turnover decrease to 35 per cent, compared to the company average of 82 per cent.
  • Accommodations are generally simple and inexpensive (most less than $500) – making the ROI insane.
  • Employing people with disabilities is good for business. It sends a strong message about your culture and values to customers and coworkers… and a recent study by IPS shows that public corporations that employ people with disabilities outperformed the NYSE by nine per cent.

These stats are not isolated cases. And it does highlight something that’s as true for our able-bodied folks as it is for those with disabilities: it’s not the disability that we need to focus on, it’s the diff-ability. When we are able to identify a person’s hidden talent, then focus them on work aligned with that talent, everyone wins.

It is projected that by 2020, more than 20% of the population will have a disability. Which means, if you or your company aren’t actively looking for ways to tap into the talent pool, you’re going to find yourself at a disadvantage.

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