Broader definitions of workplace diversity

11th February 2019 by Kevin Mullaney

The definition of diversity is still fairly narrow – we tend to focus almost solely on women and people from minority ethnic groups. While there is no doubt that these groups deserve a great deal of attention, there are also other demographics to consider. Workplaces need to think about how to ensure equality between the sexes and different ethnic groups in business, but they also need to think about catering for those with disabilities.

Workplace diversity is a big issue and for good reason. With continued reports asserting that diversity is key to business success, many organisations are working to find the solutions to improve their diversity record. Yet few talk about disabled people in the workplace and little attention is given to the fact that only around 50% of disabled people are in employment, while the employment rate for people without disabilities is around 80%.

Research has revealed that 20% of employers would be less likely to employ a disabled person, yet the truth is that disabled people have a huge range of skills to contribute to the workplace. Perhaps it’s partly because people are simply unaware of the huge amount that these individuals can contribute to organisations, but a couple of pointers can go a long way.

The key thing businesses can do to get started, and tap into a huge pool of talented individuals, is to look for support from the experts. Charities can offer a huge amount of resources and advice as well as case-studies on how to do it right, such as Mencap who specialise in learning disabilities.

However ultimately it can be simpler than many businesses think. As with any recruitment challenge, it’s just about matching the right person with the right type of role. And if you commit to making minor changes to your business which may allow a disabled person to more easily work with you, you’ll usually find it’s quite easy to provide what they need.

Realistically the easiest place to start might be by beginning with employing people who need a small amount of support and then building on that, as Jan Tregelles, CEO of Mencap has commented in a recent article with Changeboard. And, as Tregelles went on to say, when a business does get this right it sends such an amazing message about the organisation and what it stands for.

In an age where we are seeing consumers putting increased pressure on businesses to commit to social activism, and diversity has been proven to lead to increased business prospects, then perhaps a commitment to broader definitions of diversity could be key to success.

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