Why practise inclusive leadership?

Did you know that nearly a third of all working-age adults have some form of disability?  Also, this number is only expected to grow over the coming decades? While this number may seem high to you, even more, astonishing is the fact that of those with identified disabilities, only 18% of them are currently employed. This is a seriously untapped workforce which for those practising inclusive leadership can harness.

Perceived barriers

For those potential employees who are not yet in the workforce, nearly two-thirds have never dared to venture into the world of work. While much of this may be due to national regulations around benefits, a far greater force driving this trend is the perspective that has been historically prevalent in various cultures related to those who have disabilities.

This is a perspective, which sets apart those with perceived disabilities as less than productive.   Driven by the simple fact that the way in which they best operate differs from their able-body counterparts.

A valuable asset

The result: of the many who want to work, nearly 82% of those with disabilities compared to 64% of those without, are left without the opportunity to engage in meaningful work.

Even more importantly, however, is that by having these individuals absent from the workforce, there is an important element of creativity, perseverance and diversity missing from much of today’s work environment.

Ironically, this does not have to be the case. In fact, studies have shown professionals with disabilities continually demonstrate higher productivity. They show greater company loyalty and have fewer absences than their colleagues without disabilities. Most companies could do a great deal more to effectively capitalise on this valuable asset.

Concerns around hidden costs

Yet, many organizations have concerns about potentially hidden costs as well as fears related to productivity. It is natural for people to reject what, at one level or another may seem different.

So how, then, do we move beyond our personal fears? How do we to tap into and harness these powerful resources that are our disposal? It’s clear these would do much to enhance the company’s bottom line.

1. Getting a Foot in the Door

Do you remember how difficult it was to call a potential employer about a job opportunity? For those with speech impediments or other obvious disabilities, this can create a barrier that is difficult to move through. Training hiring managers and human resource professionals on ways to appropriately engage in conversations around the topic of disability to create a culture of inclusion can be valuable.

2. Affordable Tools and Technology

Develop mechanisms and protocols which allow employees to self identify. In this way, they can request physical accommodations to make their work more productive. According to the Offices on the ADA, upwards of 80% of accommodations are less than $500. 20% cost nothing at all. Technological devises, including video conferencing, now have many built-in applications that make them more accessible to users of all types of abilities.

3. Creating an Inclusive Culture

Creating an environment of inclusion may include establishing a committee for employees with disabilities, exploring alternative or flexible work environment, retaining an inclusion coach, or it may be as simple as establishing needs and boundaries for both the employer and employee.

4. Training and Coaching

There are also tools to support individual employees and/or entire teams to create greater inclusivity, teamwork, communications, and understanding to ensure that work is both designed and completed in the most effective way possible.

All of these aspects can do a great deal, not only in empowering professionals that have a disability themselves, but also to enhance the culture of productivity of all employees, not to mention greatly enhancing the productivity of the organization itself.

How can inclusive leadership propel your company to the next level?

In working with organizations and businesses design inclusive cultures, we help management teams go beyond the perceptions of ability to the source of their creativity, collaboration, and resourcefulness.

We would love to hear from you with comments or questions.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Barton and Megan Cutter are leadership coaches, disability inclusion experts, and national speakers. They combine their experience of living with a disability, uncompromising wit, and professional background in leadership development to support corporations and businesses. Owners of Cutter’s Edge Consulting, they work with human resources, hiring managers, and leadership teams to leverage the talent of all abilities within their organizations through inclusive program design and coaching. Authors of Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll in 2012, they inspire transformation. Their blog, resources, and inspiration can be found at http://cuttersedgeconsulting.com and discover daily inspiration on Twitter at @inkinthewheels.