What to Understand About the Power of Inclusive Hiring

Updated January 17, 2024

Filed under Inclusive Hiring

Reading time: 6 min | Posted by Dean Askin | Part one in a two-part series

The global coronavirus pandemic has rapidly changed the workplace; swiftly broken down some myths and misconceptions about disability that have lingered for decades; smashed some perceived barriers to employment for people who have a disability; and sparked more conversation about the business benefits of inclusive hiring.

Inclusive hiring drives success on many levels in businesses. That’s the power of inclusion. Whether we’re talking about a small business in a rural community, or a multinational company with offices around the world.

Some key ways inclusion empowers

“There are many ways people with disabilities can be integrated into the workforce. . .it’s certainly something that can be achieved through employers willing to open themselves up to hiring a person with a disability and reaping the rewards of doing that,” says Joe Hoffer, controlling partner of Cohen, Highley, LLP, a law firm in London, ON. The firm has practised intentional inclusive recruiting for decades, and Hoffer is a long-time member of the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s Business Champions League.

He says, when people “open their minds” and expect success not only of themselves but also of the employees they hire, “It amazes me how often you achieve that outcome. And by success, I mean not just in terms of operational success within the workplace, but success for that individual in their life.”

In Canada, a new report published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in November 2023 noted that 53% of small-to-medium business (SMB) owners surveyed, said labour shortages are hindering the growth of their businesses.

An October 2019 report by the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) noted, 85% of manufacturers have a hard time filling vacancies.

And a 2018 study by the Business Development Bank of Canada found 39% of SMBs, which drive the Canadian economy, are having difficulty finding new workers.

Meanwhile the Mining Industry Human Resources Council has said the Canadian mining sector needs 100,000 new workers over the next decade.

Labour shortages like this aren’t happening only in Canada.

A global Manpower survey showed that in the U.S., seven out of 10 companies reported labour shortages in 2019. That’s 70%. In 2009, it was 19%.

In the U.K., the British Chambers of Commerce says four out of five manufacturing firms has trouble finding workers. It surveyed 6,000 companies across the U.K. 

The talent exists

But there is talent available. It’s there, to help business owners, hiring managers and recruiting professionals meet the labour shortage head on and shock-proof their businesses. It’s in the disability talent market.

About 1.9 million Canadians age 15 to 64 who have a disability are not in school or employed. About 852,000 of these people have the potential to work. So there is a large pool of talent available.

For the most part, these jobseekers use their personal contacts and networks to find employment. They also enlist employment service professionals for assistance. The talent is there in the disability talent market — and businesses need to access the power of inclusion. Some are, but more need to. A joint survey by the National Organization on Disabilities (NOD), Harris Interactive and the Kessler Foundation found that only 40% of businesses accessed assistance from employment service organizations when recruiting new employees.

What else the power of inclusion does

Deloitte research also found that businesses which are intentional about inclusive hiring are more innovative than other firms; six times more able to effectively anticipate change; and twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial targets.

They also note, businesses that don’t start intentionally recruiting people who have a disability will, in the next few years, find themselves lagging behind rather than being more competitive.

Yet, there’s what Deloitte calls “a reality gap.” In its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report, Deloitte found that across the board, there’s now more focus on D&I, however “many businesses may be in denial about the reality in their own companies.” Deloitte’s research found that 71% of businesses aspire to have an inclusive culture. But only 12% have reached D&I maturity in Deloitte’s new four-level model.

There’s still a lack of knowledge that’s impeding businesses from capitalizing on the power of inclusion.  A survey of small-to-medium-size businesses in 2017 by the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work found, 71% of businesses are not hiring people who have a disability because of a “lack of awareness in skill level.”

Moving from acknowledgement to action on D&I

Lingering myths and misconceptions about the skills and abilities of people who have a disability are still common. They can deter businesses from making their hiring policies and procedures more inclusive. But things are changing. As Deloitte notes, more companies are starting to focus on “eliminating measurable bias” from their talent acquisition processes.

Saying it’s important in your business is one thing. Learning about, understanding, and putting into practice the power of inclusion is another, entirely. In part two of this series, we’ll look at the keys for implementing D&I in your business — the right way, successfully — so you can harness the power of inclusive hiring.

This post was originally published as part of a National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2020 article series.


Dean AskinDean Askin is the Communications Strategist for the Ontario Disability Employment Network.