By the Editorial staff
People usually complain that it’s expensive to employ people with disabilities. There are two reasons for this: financial reasons and management reasons. When you come from this perspective you are blocked when faced with all the potential disadvantages that come to mind. Let us now try to unblock this jammed mechanism, imagining instead all the possible advantages that people with disabilities can bring to the workplace:
– It never occurs to us that people with disabilities are a wasted pool of talent: just think of their ability to adapt and problem-solve, of the lateral and critical thinking they have to put into practice when facing their personal daily difficulties. These are all attitudes that nurture creativity, innovation and improvement, which have an impact on a company’s competitive advantage;
– creating a work environment that is safety-conscious and provides a variety of accommodations to meet multiple needs means drastically reducing the risk of accidents in the workplace, but also making it more comfortable for everyone, with a positive impact on employee performance;
– the presence of people with disabilities leads to a more open working environment, which values uniqueness and pays attention to the needs and wellbeing of each individual, thus helping to increase the sense of belonging and lowering the turnover rate;
– ethical behaviour generates reputational value, thus increasing talent and customer attraction, while also having a positive influence at the financial level, given the huge and growing attention consumers are paying to sustainability criteria;
– employing people with disabilities provides a better understanding and meets the needs of a large segment of the market, given that around 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability (a number that is set to rise as the population ages), with positive effects on customer loyalty to the brand.
If we want to talk about data, we can cite a survey conducted by Accenture in 2018 that aimed to investigate the correlation between disability inclusion and financial results, which reported a 28% increase in revenue, net income that was twice as high, and 30% higher profit margins. So, unless they are ‘disabled’ by society, people with disabilities are not actually a burden: including them should no longer be considered a luxury or a burden, but a necessity for business.
At Findomestic, the journey of inclusion for people with disabilities started with the 2017 edition of Diversity & Inclusion Week, accompanied by the slogan #Distinti, mai Distanti (#Distinct, never Distant). We invited Simona Atzori, a dancer, painter and writer who was born without arms and who, with her extraordinary strength of will, taught us an unforgettable life lesson: to face life with a smile, leverage the skills that each of us develops to compensate for what life has not given us, and ignore those self-limiting beliefs that too often prevent us from achieving the goals we set ourselves. Findomestic’s journey continued with numerous meetings between colleagues who worked together to develop creative strategies aimed at fostering inclusion in our working environment, passing through experiential events such as lunches and aperitifs in the dark (held respectively in Rome in collaboration with the non-profit organisation Dialogue in the Dark and in Milan with the National Institute for the Blind). Findomestic also supports our friends at Dynamo Camp, a magical place, which we have chosen as our home for numerous training courses, where we have seen colleagues reflect, get excited, and work together to break down the walls of prejudice and mistrust.
Following a personal experience in Paris, which led me to reflect on how different the attitude of the vast majority of people is towards those with an invisible disability, I looked for a supplier who could help me to organise an awareness-raising campaign on this type of disability: cooking activities were launched, in which colleagues, one without the knowledge of the other, ‘acted out’ a visible or invisible disability while having to complete their task: making a dish. This team-building activity leads people to face their limitations and prejudices and encourages reflection about the self and behaviours towards others, as well as the interesting group dynamics that are created during the test. If 15% of the world’s population has a disability, 85% of these disabilities are invisible: very few people with an invisible disability manage to declare it in their workplace.
This silence leads to misunderstandings and discrimination, which severely affect the relationships and wellbeing of the organisation’s employees. This aspect is particularly close to our hearts and is the reason why, even during the lockdown, we continued with meetings focused on the different perspectives of those living with a visible or invisible disability and the negative impacts that the pandemic has had both on a personal and family level.
In March, our disability awareness programme was further enriched with a course dedicated to all our managers (over three hundred). The aim of the course was to help them better understand the world of disability and to support employees with disabilities by enhancing their abilities. This experience allowed us to understand the difficulties our managers have in managing some people with disabilities, as they feel completely alone and inadequate and, consequently, unconsciously not inclusive. The course also allowed us to understand their needs and fears and discuss them with experts, good companies and speakers who can help them acquire more awareness.
There is still a long way to go. Since October 2019, we have taken part, together with other companies, in the ForAll project, which aims to sow the seeds of D&I in the supply chain. In February, we also joined the Abilitiamo la disabilità (Let’s enable disability) workgroup, a project many large companies participate in to exchange views, share experiences, and work together to value employees with disabilities: the aim is to focus on the person’s talent and skills, not on their disability. Moreover, within a global BNP Paribas project dedicated to disability, Italy proposed a social media campaign with the following slogan, which still remains our focal point: “Know me for what I can do, not for what I can’t”.