In today’s competitive business environment, savvy leaders are striving to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces. Yet many leaders are unsure where to begin.

‘Diversity’ is a hot topic in the business world right now. Diversity begins from the top down, by creating a warm and welcoming environment that celebrates difference on every level – whether it’s in relation to gender, cultural background or age. It’s also about ensuring workplaces are accessible for people with disability.

The more diverse, inclusive and accessible a workplace is, the greater the returns and competitive advantages for your brand. While most leaders want to build a more diverse workforce, they tend to overlook people with disability in business planning.

For example, in a recent Forbes report on achieving innovation through diversity, it was found that organisations are falling short in areas of disability inclusion.

The missed opportunity

Around 18% of Australians have a disability. Despite this, many leaders don’t consider people with disability in their recruitment efforts – and this is a missed opportunity.

Responsibility for building inclusion lies with senior management and requires genuine commitment to change. Going forward, increased diversity, inclusion and accessibility will be a crucial element of business strategy and workforce management. It is time to unlock the potential of people with disability in the workplace.

What can diversifying into the disabled community do?

Diversity in the workplace encourages the sharing of ideas and is often a pioneer of industry disruption. Here are five ways you can attract and retain people with disability, benefiting your brand:

  1. Attract the best people.

    In recruitment and workforce planning, clearly communicate to employees that their unique contributions are valued, regardless of their background. Doing this will mean that the very best will want to work for you – including people with disability.

    Company culture is key to employee retention. In today’s candidate-driven market, companies can no longer afford to forget their social responsibility – one of the three prongs of the modern triple bottom line. Be sure to include this 18% of the job market in your candidate pool.

  2. Foster Collaboration.

    People with disability are natural problem solvers, navigating a world that isn’t always accessible or mindful of their needs. Having faced unique challenges, people with disability have fresh perspectives to bring to the workplace.

    Bringing creative thinkers into your business will help to drive innovation in the face of any obstacle. By hiring people with disability, you can foster collaboration efforts and create a stronger and more cohesive team environment.

  3. Represent your community.

    The customer market is made up of vastly different social groups – why should your company not represent this?

    A workforce that accurately represents the needs and values of different demographics will attract a greater variety of customers. It also makes room for varied perspectives when guiding the way customers interact with your brand and product. Going back to the triple bottom line concept, promoting a message of inclusion will increase brand value.

  4. Adopt inclusion as a practice.

    Adopting methods to support diversity, such as inclusive technology, can benefit the entire company – not just people with disability.

    For example, texting was invented to enable mobile communications for people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. Texting has since become a widely used technology by everyone. Designing your workplace technology, ergonomics and culture to be as inclusive as possible has potential benefits for all employees.

  5. See greater returns.

    Employees with disability are known to have a higher retention rate and stronger motivation, lowering the potential costs of training and turnover for businesses.

    By hiring people with disability, you are likely to see improved productivity and margins within your business. At the same time, you are showing people with disability that their individual contributions are valued and appreciated.

A robust workforce should include people from all walks of life – including people with disability.

Neglecting this social responsibility will negatively impact businesses as we move into a more customer and candidate-driven environment. Fortunately, the way forward is easy. There are plenty of technologies available to help businesses cater to the needs of people with disability. These technologies can make the transition more seamless for candidates and leaders alike.

So, will you step up or ignore the potential for a true competitive advantage?