Extractive summaries and key takeaways from the articles curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed business decision-making | Since September 2017 | Week 307 | July 28-August 3, 2023
Disability as a Source of Competitive Advantage
Employing people with disabilities can significantly improve an organization.
By Luisa Alemany and Freek Vermeulen | Harvard Business Review Magazine | July-August 2023 Issue
In recent years many companies have become sensitized to the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion. But in most organizations, DEI initiatives focus largely on gender and ethnicity. A group that has received less attention is people with disabilities, and that has led to disparities in the workplace. Employing people with disabilities is usually seen as a social cause—one best suited to organizations that are not-for-profit or in the public sector. That is a mistake—and more important, a missed opportunity. The authors’ research suggests that having employees with disabilities in its workforce can build a firm’s competitive advantage in four ways:
- Special Abilities. Distinctive or unusual skills frequently go hand in hand with disabilities. For instance, academics who study autism, notably Cambridge University’s Simon Baron-Cohen, have found strong links between autism and aptitude at tasks requiring attention to detail. Managers at the international IT consultancy Auticon, which offers quality assurance and testing, report that their autistic consultants are often especially adept at recognizing patterns, which makes them better than others at seeing correlations and interdependencies in large amounts of data. Moreover, they can often stay focused for unusually long periods of time, even when doing work that is routine and repetitive.
- Organizational Culture. Working with disabled people could foster a more collaborative culture. Not only is such a culture a recognized source of competitive advantage, but it’s also difficult for rivals to imitate, which is why many businesses invest considerable resources and effort in trying to build one. Having disabled colleagues made others realize the importance of helping one another out and being aware of one another’s needs and abilities. In addition, it let them see that it’s acceptable and even desirable to ask for help themselves.
- Market Appeal. The employment of disabled people can be a significant part of a company’s value proposition to customers. For instance, in the restaurant & cafe business, we know from research that customers value not just the content of a product and its functionality but also how it is produced and by whom.
- Access to Capital and Talent. Hiring people with disabilities can give companies an advantage with key stakeholders besides customers. In Europe, venture capitalists have started taking ESG factors into account in their investment decisions, and a growing number of social impact funds are looking to put considerable sums into socially responsible start-ups. Employee diversity is an increasingly relevant consideration in those decisions. Moreover, hiring people with disabilities makes a company more likely to be seen as an attractive employer for people without disabilities.
3 key takeaways from the article
- In companies’ efforts to inculcate diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations, a group that has received less attention is people with disabilities, and that has led to disparities in the workplace.
- Employing people with disabilities is usually seen as a social cause—one best suited to organizations that are not-for-profit or in the public sector. That is a mistake—and more important, a missed opportunity.
- Employing people with disabilities could contribute to a firm’s competitive advantage in four ways: (1) Disabilities often confer unique talents that make people better at particular jobs; (2) the presence of employees with disabilities elevates the culture of the entire organization, making it more collaborative and boosting productivity; (3) a reputation for inclusiveness enhances a firm’s value proposition with customers, who become more willing to build long-term relationships with the company; (4) being recognized as socially responsible gives a firm an edge in the competition for capital and talent.
Topics: Strategy, Business Model, Competitive Advantage, Inclusion