‘Innovation’, ‘Diversity’, ‘Return on Investment’, ‘Social Responsibility’, ‘Increased Market Share’. What does all this jargon have in common? The obvious answer: they’re all topical elements of success in today’s business environment. Obviously, everyone wants to be successful. But how often does this jargon match our paradigms around the employment of disabled people? The truth: not very often.

In business, there tend to be many preconceived barriers to employing disabled candidates. Over and above the perception of the high costs involved in meeting the requirements of ‘reasonable accommodation’, sometimes the thinking is that disabled employees are likely to have lower attendance rates, higher attrition, along with increased risk of lower job performance and safety records. A good ROI? Not so much.

Safer to avoid these problems altogether? Actually not. For two reasons: 1. These paradigms are unfounded in fact and 2. legislative policy increasingly isn’t giving SA employers any choice in the matter.

Since false premises typically lead to false conclusions, we are about to examine our premises. So let us examine the six facts debunking these myths of the risk of employing disabled people.

First: Studies show that less than 50% of workers with disabilities actually require reasonable accommodation. And that’s not all. Even where these are necessary, the costs are so minor that they effectively become productivity enhancements. About half of reasonable accommodation costs range between R0 – R5000. Indeed, surveyed companies often indicate that the return outweighs the cost.

Second: The employment of disabled people increases your organization’s BBBEE scorecard (providing you with direct return on investment by contributing to the BBBEE Level your organization is able to achieve). In addition, it also enables you to access tax rebates from SARS, as well as access to additional SETA grants (especially relating to Skills Development).

Third: Statistically, employees with disabilities, compared with non-disabled ones, actually tend to demonstrate lower attrition. On average, they score higher on the three fronts of attendance, job performance and safety records.

Fourth: Employing disabled people helps improve your social responsibility status. This serves as an additional means to promoting your brand and, as a result, growing your market recognition. The fact is, between two companies that offer the same product/s or service/s at similar quality and pricing, the consumer will tend to favour and chose the brand that supports a good cause. And it plays well to Gen-Y’s values, especially when promoting yourself as an employer-of-choice in the never ending ‘war for talent’.

Fifth: Organisational diversity, in and of itself, is known to lead to an increased market share. Externally, it allows a brand to expand its market-base, while building consumer trust. Internally, it enables a culture of innovation that can lead to the creation of new products and services. Familiar with the phrase, ‘Are people our biggest differentiator’? Well, if you’re the people you hire represent true demographic diversity, then this will be doubly-true. As Apple said, ‘Think Different’. As we say, ‘Hire Different; Hire Difference’. Hiring diversity enables you to unlock talent pools that your competitors aren’t yet fishing in, so to speak.

Sixth: Innovation. Employees with disabilities will often contribute to your competitive edge by offering fresh perspective on how to accomplish and implement tasks. At the same time, their accommodation -by its very nature- will challenge you and the rest of your employees to think outside the box and find new ways to attain objectives. Ultimately, it leads to empathy and an ability to understand a ‘customer’s
needs’ and one that is operating in a context different to one’s own. Empathy and
consideration is what underpins all the best innovative products and services.

 Finally, there is a question of attitude, of work ethic. A question of gratitude
and approach. Are you familiar with the saying ‘Take care of your workforce and they
will take care of you’? It turns out that it’s doubly-true when it comes to workers with disabilities.

Conclusion. Contrary to widely held beliefs, it turns out that not only are the costs involved in hiring people with disabilities surprisingly minimal in relative terms, but, in fact, that tapping into the talent pool of disabled employees can effectively benefit our business. And it’s often a solution hidden in plain sight, in a world where finding and retaining skilled employees is increasingly difficult. In a world where the right person in the right career is your brand’s biggest differentiator. In a world where talent matters! Then so does supporting SA’s talent