Potential employees with disabilities represent an untapped market

Companies want employees that will excel in their jobs and stay with the organization for a long period of time. People with disabilities are a group that are often overlooked by hiring managers, but have a proven track record of success and loyalty. Studies have found that workers with disabilities were five times more likely to stay on the job than their colleagues without disabilities, and these findings have been reflected in several real-life industries. Further, people with disabilities are frequently well educated and highly innovative, after a lifetime of navigating societal systems that could otherwise leave them at a disadvantage.

Data has long shown, that unfortunately, people with disabilities are greatly under-employed as compared to their non-disabled counterparts. But some say this represents a large, untapped market.

“…[I]n today’s market, when we are always hungry for growth, by ignoring that market you are ignoring a huge opportunity to grow,” says Rich Donovan, an expert on disability and corporate profitability.

Advocating for people with disabilities in the workforce

Donovan, a former Wall Street trader living with cerebral palsy, is also the founder and CEO of the Return on Disability Group, a company that manages a tool that helps measure the impact of the disabled workforce. He has dedicated his life to promoting the employment of more people with disabilities in the workforce as well as advocating for a market that attracts more customers with disabilities. But he does not see this as a charity effort.

“We tell our clients, ‘You want to do this to benefit your shareholders’,” Donovan says. Return on Disability provides data and strategies that allow companies, governments, and investors to act on disability in ways that add value to many types of shareholders. The company’s long-term vision is to be the firm that unlocks the economic potential of disability globally and creates catalysts and processes for their customers to act on this market.

In 2006, Rich founded Lime, the leading third-party recruiter in the disability space, and has worked with Google, Pepsi, TD Bank, and others to help the companies attract and retain top talent from within the disability market.

In his book, Unleashing Different: Achieving Business Success Through Disability, Donovan writes that there are over six million Canadians who identify as having a disability, and that group controls $55.4 billion in disposable income. Globally, Donovan says the population of people with a disability – a population of 1.3 billion, about the same size as China – is the world’s last emerging market with billions of dollars of untapped potential.

“We want businesses to understand how including people with disabilities can be beneficial to the company’s bottom line or their top line. That it would help enhance their profitability, rather than looking at this as an act of charity,” says Donovan.

With major companies setting the trend for hiring people with disabilities, attitudes are certainly changing. More brands are running ads including people with disabilities, and incorporating disability into their core messages and campaigns. Donovan says that he now hears companies talk about how workers with disabilities improve customer satisfaction, increase market share, and drive value. The success of these companies further shows that hiring people with disabilities is not only a positive step towards inclusivity, but makes good business sense.

*Image courtesy of https://www.reward-strategy.com/news/news/guidance-update-access-to-work-4629

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Andrea Donaldson

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