The idea that hiring a person with a disability can boost workplace productivity may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a fact that has been borne out by decades of research.
It is fair to say that whenever possible, people with a disability wish to be engaged in meaningful work. So much so that research has shown their motivational levels are not just comparable but significantly higher than those of other employees. Once hired, they appreciate the opportunity to work and often perform above what is expected of them.1
A case in point is the US company Walgreens. In 2007 it opened a new distribution centre with the express goal of creating jobs for people with a broad range of disabilities. More than 30% of the employees recruited lived with a disability and yet this distribution centre proved 20% more efficient than other Walgreens centres of comparable size.2
Catalysts for productivity
Beyond the individual level however, there is evidence that employees with a disability act as catalysts for improved organizational performance. Australian researchers surveyed more than 600 Australian employers about their experiences in hiring a person with a disability, and presented some interesting findings.3
They came up with three explanations as to how and why employees with a disability helped improve overall productivity. They theorized that:
- Recruiting an employee with a disability may raise awareness of previously less than optimal conditions in the work environment, such as basic workplace practices or health and safety issues. This heightened awareness may lead to improved practices.
- Recruiting a person with a disability into the workplace tends to have the effect of improving relationships between co-workers and with customers, which in turn leads to improved performance within the organization as a whole.
- When a person with a disability is recruited and performs better than anticipated, expectations and standards are raised among all employees, which in turn improves workplace performance.
There are countless other studies that firmly debunk the idea that people with a disability are less productive, and more still that extoll the many benefits of recruiting these job seekers.
For those wanting to improve their organization’s performance, taking another look at recruitment strategies and actively building diversity into the workplace may be one place to start.
- Aichner T. The economic arguement for hiring people with disabilities, Humanities & Social Sciences Communications 2021; 8:22
- Kaletta JP et al. Creating an inclusive workplace: integrating employees with disabilities into a distribution centre environment, Professional Safety, 2012; 57(6): 62-71
- Graffam J et al. Employer benefits and costs of employing a person with a disability, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 2002; 17(4): 251-263.