Imagine if….

‘companies believed that having a diverse workforce was essential for good business. ‘

‘employing people with disability was not seen as an add on, something else to consider in the equity mix, but was regarded as absolutely core part of an organisation’s culture.’

‘pressure was put onto HR from above to recruit, support and engage  a diverse workforce.’

‘companies recognised that employing people with disability could help bring out the best of all their employees.’

‘the lived experience from across disability types was recognised as a valuable skill in the labour market for the valuable contribution and input it could make into product and service design.’

‘a disability awareness film made by an Australian company somehow started to win awards at international Film awards. ‘

So could this every really happen or are we just dreaming?

A group working in a large well lit room.
Will workforces of the future embrace people with disability?

We’d like to share with you two exciting case studies from well-known companies that are embracing the opportunities of having a diverse workplace and turning our dream into a reality.

Chances are most time you fire up your computer you use a Microsoft product.  You may know that it’s one of the biggest global companies and has created three billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from its employees. It’s influence in the world is regarded as large as the influence of America, China, Russia, Japan, Europe and India all combined.

But did you know that it has a mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.  One of the key ways it believes to fulfil this ambition is through a firm commitment to employing a diverse workforce and fostering an inclusive culture.

Microsoft sees being inclusive is much more than something they simply do, but is integral for what they stand for.  It gives strength and meaning to the culture that they want to build in their company. And is seen as essential for their long term success.

“The diversity of our workforce and inclusion of talented people from different backgrounds is the fuel that keeps the engines of innovation and growth running,” states Microsoft.

Microsoft recognises that having a diverse workforce of talented people with a range of abilities, will keep them innovating, growing and building the best products for everyone.   For example, they know that in the case of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder there is an untapped pool of talent with skills aligned to their everyday work.

A person sits in a quiet zone working on a mobile device.
Not just for chilling out: Quiet spaces are important in workplaces.

Employees welcome Microsoft’s willingness to flip disability and embrace it in the workforce. It shifts the focus from a ‘let’s accommodate the individual,’ to more of ‘building cultural competence for the company’.

“The shift does more than include diverse people—it empowers them,” says Pixley, one employee with disability at Microsoft.

One way that Microsoft is supporting this cultural shift is through their disAbility Employee Resource Group (ERG) that represents employees with conditions such as hearing loss, blindness, visual impairments, ADD, mobility disabilities, and dyslexia. This group has more than one thousand members from around the world.  It’s responsible for sponsoring activities at an annual internal company event known as the Ability Summit that focuses on the engineering side of accessibility, as well as the social impact of disability in the workplace, community and home.

More at home Australia Post is leading the way through the implementation of their current Accessibility Action Plan.  They believe that a “diverse and inclusive workplace brings out the best in our people and helps us to provide better products and services.”

Within this plan, Australia Post has made the recruitment, support and ongoing engagement of people with disability as one of it’s key goals, and to make sure that this happens they have made it a responsibility of their senior leadership team to drive and implement this strategy.

What is also refreshing about their strategy is that have shown the integrity to publicly own up to the fact that they have significant work to do to understand why the proportion of people with disability in their workforce is declining.  And that they need to improve the situation of their current employees with disability report being less engaged in their work than those without disability.

A drawn light bulb on paper with a crumbled up note placed on top.
Do you need to be perfect to get started? No. But your organisation needs to see a bright future which includes people with disability.

Australia Post continue to keep raising the awareness of access and inclusion across their organisation, through a network of Accessibility Champions and eLearn packages to help employees manage their physical and mental wellbeing.

One of their big successes to date has been the development of a short film – Work Mate – to help managers and teams breakdown stereotypes and focus on what people with disability can do.  This creative approach features the real story of Charlie McConnell, an Australian Post employee with vision impairment.  And not only has this raised awareness within, it’s had a ripple effect around the globe.  The film continues to win international film festival awards and shown to audiences far and wide.

These case studies show that perhaps we are not dreaming after all.  Microsoft and Australia Post show that with a firm commitment, integrity and drive it is possible to create workplace cultures that place the experience of disability firmly at the centre of purpose and mission.

So, imagine if…  we keep asking these questions and raise the bar for other companies and enterprises.

And imagine if… we share these stories of ‘how and why’ having a diverse and inclusive workplace is essential not only for good business, but for extraordinary business.

But why is this two private companies and not two government departments as examples? There are some options available in Australia for people with disability to work in Government departments.  To learn more, read “Application tips for graduates with disability”.

To learn more about USEP and our graduate employment support for students living with a disability, read about Sam and our goals.