Businesses are struggling in their search to find talent, with 50% of UK employers in large businesses unable to find the skills they need. And, failure to find qualified people with the right skills is costing companies dearly – an estimated £2 billion a year – due to increasing recruitment costs and temporary staffing bills.
Recruitment efforts are being further hampered by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, with BMW and Airbus the latest companies to issue warnings about Britain’s exit from the EU putting jobs at risk. As Brexit looms, some industries will have more difficulty finding talent than others – for instance, there’s already been a 50% drop in foreign job applications in the tech sector since the referendum. With this uncertainty in the market, businesses need to ensure they are not missing any opportunity to tap into hidden talent pools and narrow the skills gap.
According to new Government data, there are now 13.9 million people living with a disability in the UK – more than one in five people. And, as a result of our ageing workforce, more of us than ever before are likely to develop a disability before we retire. By making workplaces more accessible to people with disabilities, employers can bring fresh perspectives, creative thinking and innovative working styles into the working environment.
Despite this, disabled people remain heavily underrepresented in the workplace, and are twice as likely to be unemployed as able-bodied people in the UK. Failure to address the challenges that these individuals face is a failure to recognise the value that they can bring to businesses. While the Government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap is a positive step in the right direction, employers should also take responsibility by making the necessary adjustments to enable people with disabilities to thrive in the workplace.
Untapped spending power
Of course, businesses must hire individuals that represent their target audience, and by making their workforce as diverse as possible, they are, by default, increasing the potential reach of their product or service. It’s estimated that the ‘purple pound’, the term used to describe the spending power of disabled people, is now worth £249 billion, making them the largest untapped consumer market in the UK. This should inspire employers to consider hiring people with disabilities, who can bring valuable insights to the business. Armed with these different perspectives, organisations can better serve and understand their entire customer base, giving them a competitive edge.
Attracting and retaining people with disabilities
Creating more inclusive working environments can also have a real impact on business culture and engagement. At ManpowerGroup, we have a long history of supporting individuals with disabilities and are proud to be a Disability Confident Leader. The Disability Confident initiative is a Government scheme that supports employers who want to make the most of the talent that disabled people can bring to the workplace and help all employees reach their potential. It provides a framework that challenges perceptions around disabilities and helps organisations build programmes to support a greater number of disabled people in work.
Take our work with Jaguar Land Rover as an example. To make open job vacancies at the company more accessible, we partnered with Enable and Remploy, two charities that work to support individuals with disabilities. Through our partnership, we helped Jaguar Land Rover’s Engine Manufacturing Centre (EMC) make reasonable adjustments throughout all stages of the recruitment process, ensuring a British Sign Language interpreter was available for deaf candidates during interviews, and for those who have commenced full-time employment with the company.
But it’s not just about attracting disabled talent, retaining and developing people with disabilities is equally important. As the working population gets older, employers will need to ensure they are prioritising health and wellness in the workplace.
As a Disability Confident Leader, we’re committed to helping organisations retain disabled individuals in the workplace and develop their skillsets. For example, this year, we partnered with a leading charity that supports people with visual impairments to provide work placements for visually impaired individuals. These placements are designed to increase their work experience and confidence by providing them with interview training workshops and CV writing skills.
By making their working environments open and accessible to all, organisations can empower people with disabilities, grow their business and revitalise their company culture. However, for those employers looking to create an inclusive workplace, they must look at addressing the issue at a company-wide level, rather than perceiving it as a simple HR initiative. It’s about securing buy-in from the senior leaders at the top of the business to achieve genuine change. It’s about focusing on individuals’ knowledge, skills and experience, not their impairments. Ultimately, it’s about creating an environment where talent from every background can flourish and fulfil their potential.
Richard Elliot, HR Manager at ManpowerGroup