NEHRA Insights - Spring 2014 - (Page 9)

COVER FEATURE The Diversity of Disability By Kathy Petkauskos and Sean Driscoll I t is widely recognized that companies that embrace diversity and inclusion have a competitive advantage when recruiting employees and winning the loyalty of customers, particularly the younger generation that increasingly expects companies to demonstrate good corporate citizenship. While early diversity efforts focused primarily on gender, race and ethnicity, current approaches include age, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status and disability. In 2011, Forbes Insights published survey findings of large national and multi-national companies in which more than 80% of senior executives described diversity efforts that included gender; more than 70% included ethnicity, age, and race; and 52% included disability, which was most often identified as the area where improvements were needed. A 2010 University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that employers with greater knowledge of the Americans with Disabilities Act and job accommodations had more positive perspectives on hiring people with disabilities than those with lower levels of knowledge. Other studies have shown that employers with experience working with individuals with disabilities have more favorable attitudes toward employees with disabilities, and display greater willingness to hire other individuals with disabilities. Surveys of employers who have hired people with disabilities found that employers perceive workers with disabilities as easy to supervise, to have productivity levels equal to or higher then employees without disabilities, and to have low absentee rates. The emerging emphasis on disability in company diversity strategies is a positive development. Similar to other diverse employee populations, employees with disabilities bring diverse perspectives and innovation to the table and are generally known to be loyal employees who are good problem solvers and planners. ACCOMMODATING A DIVERSE WORKFORCE Today's workforce includes employees who represent diverse populations, including workers who are aging, immigrants, global and virtual, all of whom may require accommodations to stay employed and maximize productivity. Companies are managing flexible work environments that can include employees who are working in different countries and time zones, speaking different languages, representing different cultures, and working from home. Accommodations for employees with disabilities can be very similar to what many employers already offer to employees without disabilities, and in some cases the accommodation may be no different at all. For example, By creating comfortable workplaces, companies make it easier for employees to be themselves and not feel the need to hide an element of who they are. telecommuting may allow for the accommodation of not being "at-work" to do the work. Other effective and frequently used accommodations include adjustments in the start or end of work hours, leave for medical treatment or recovery, and flexibility in scheduling breaks. Accommodations play a vital role for employees who have disabilities. According to research fi ndings from the Job Accommodation Network (, the benefits employers receive from making workplace accommodations far outweigh the low cost. Employers reported that providing accommodations resulted in direct benefits such as retaining a valuable employee, increasing the employee's productivity, and eliminating the costs of training a new employee. Indirect benefits included improved interactions with co-workers, and increased overall company morale and productivity. The study reported that 58% of accommodations cost absolutely nothing, while the rest typically cost only $500. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY 'PERSON WITH A DISABILITY'? A person with a disability may have a pre-existing disabling condition when they come under a company's employ, or they can develop a disability while employed. Disability can occur at birth, early in childhood, or later in life due to an injury or illness, perhaps even causing an interruption mid-career. Read Insights online anytime at * 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NEHRA Insights - Spring 2014

A Message From NEHRA’s Chief Executive Officer
Employment Law Update
The Diversity of Disability
Driving Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: What Is HR’s Leadership Role?
A Culture Prime for Innovation
Covidien Creates a Culture Prime for Innovation
Diversity Study and Strategies
New Study Highlights Growing Need for HR Strategies to Fit Diverse, Younger Global Workforces
Index of Advertisers

NEHRA Insights - Spring 2014