Published in the October 13th print edition of The Leesburg Daily Commercial newspaper and the Palm Beach Post

Allison Chase, President & CEO, The Able Trust
Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President, Florida TaxWatch

Securing and retaining strong talent that delivers results is the not-so-secret key to business success.  What is surprising, particularly as many Florida businesses struggle to fill job openings, is that employers often overlook one of the largest pools to secure reliable talent — persons with disabilities.

A 2018 Accenture study revealed several ways that businesses who hire persons with disabilities (PWD) outperform their peers who do not hire PWD:

  • 28% higher revenues,
  • double net income, and
  • 20% higher profit margins.

A 2018 study conducted by the National Institute of Health indicates that competitive advantage, including attracting diverse customers, customer loyalty, innovation, productivity, work ethic and safety, goes up when PWD are employed.

Surveys of employers, including a 2020 Able Trust Survey, indicate that PWD would be welcome in the workplace by both management and co-workers:

  • 87% of respondents identified disability inclusion as important to their hiring practices,
  • 81% felt that PWD perform the same or better as non-disabled workers.

Why then do the jobs numbers not reflect these findings?

The gap between workforce participation of the general population (75%) and PWD (30%) has remained consistent at 45% for over 40 years. National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) suggests respondents to surveys like ours report what they think the interviewer wants to hear rather than expressing their true attitudes, which may be socially unacceptable or run counter to legal requirements.

It all boils down to one simple concept that all of us experience at points in our lives: fear of the unknown.  NIDRR research show that most employers have simply not been exposed to successfully employed workers who are disabled or are not familiar with success stories from other employers.

Lack of familiarity with anything can feed stereotypes and many employers believe PWD are poor job performers, are often absent from work, and that customers are uncomfortable dealing with them.

We know the opposite is true.

A 2017 Harvard Business Review study uncovered innovative potential in hiring and empowering employees who have disabilities because they excel in designing products for consumers with disabilities. The study found PWD tend to be innovative because they face (and solve) problems every day, and demonstrate agility, persistence, drive, strategic planning and creativity.

The five million PWD in Florida represent a potential talent pool that is frequently overlooked. We encourage business and community leaders to resist the fear of the unknown that may prevent you from a resilient and talented pool of job seekers, and The Able Trust is here to help.

To take the first step:

  • Learn the facts about the benefits of disability workforce inclusion, by visiting https://www.theablenetwork.org/.
  • Host an industry tour for job seekers with disabilities.
  • Join one of The Able Trust Business-to-Business round tables
  • October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. If you’re interested in having us speak to your business or local chamber about the benefits of hiring PWD, contact Allison Chase at [email protected].

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.