I’ll start with the good news: globally, companies are employing the largest number of people with disabilities in history. Many have made a commitment to better understand what inclusion means for these contributors, their subgroups (such as neurodiversity, related to a person’s brain differences), and other communities (race, gender, LGBTQ, etc.) and have taken action to create favorable business climates for all.
Many do so because they are aware that hiring people with disabilities is proven to increase productivity, and many believe they have made significant progress: In a recent Accenture survey, 67% of the nearly 1,750 executives surveyed said they believe their companies support to employees with disabilities, which includes having the right technologies for it and the right environment.
Now here’s the bad news: Despite this clear progress, the survey also found that only 20% of the 5,870 employees surveyed who had a disability agreed that their workplace culture was fully committed to helping them. to prosper and be successful. On the other hand, 76% stated that they did not fully disclose their disabilities at work (for example, to HR, colleagues, supervisors / managers), and 80% of senior executives and their direct reports that they have disabilities do not reveal them either.
Company leaders need to know more about what they can do to create a more inclusive climate for employees with disabilities, in order to take effective action. However, as evidenced by the research, people with disabilities fear that disclosing their status will lead to retaliation, slower progress and less meaningful roles. And for most, disclosing the situation is a very personal and perhaps difficult decision, even in supportive settings.
It is important that companies and workers change the way they think (and talk) about disabilities, permanently. Employees who disclose their disability at work are 30% more committed – in terms of satisfaction and professional aspirations, trust and sense of belonging – than those who do not.
How to move forward? First, changing the role models. When employees with disabilities have leadership “role models” that have revealed their own disabilities, they are 15% more likely to have higher career aspirations than their peers in other organizations. And with this factor, employees are 26% more likely to be open about their disability. Working alongside executives who are willing to share their experiences in areas such as disability, gender identity or race influences the willingness to disclose them.
Second, company-wide training on inclusive practices is critical. In organizations with accessible training designed to advance awareness of inclusion and diversity issues and to help employees with disabilities thrive and advance in their careers, employees are 35% more likely to disclose their disabilities than others organizations.
Finally, companies should have groups for employees with disabilities (ERGs), which encourage open dialogue and networking not only among their own members, but also with members of other ERGs. When a company fosters a number of such groups and offers its support (interest and patronage from management and even modest financial support), people with disabilities benefit.
If there is something positive that this pandemic has left us, it is that the feeling of community and corporate responsibility have taken on much more relevance than before the crisis. Given this, moving towards an inclusive business world is an urgency like never before.