Companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforces have outperformed their peers, according to a recent report.

The report, compiled by Accenture in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association with People with Disabilities, analyzed the disability practices and financial performance of the 140 companies participating in the Disability Equality Index (DEI)—a benchmarking tool that gives US businesses an objective score on their disability inclusion policies and practices—over the past 4 years.

The 45 companies that Accenture identified as standing out for their leadership in areas specific to disability employment and inclusion had, on average over the 4-year period, 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins than the other companies in the DEI. Accenture analysis also revealed that US GDP could get a boost of up to $25 billion if more persons with disabilities joined the labor force, notes a media release from Accenture.

Persons with disabilities continue to be underrepresented in corporate America. Despite the strength of the US labor market, only 29% of Americans of working age (16-64) with disabilities were employed as of July 2018, compared with 75% of those without a disability, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This results in an untapped talent pool of 10.7 million people. Additionally, the unemployment rate in 2017 for persons with a disability was more than twice that for those without a disability—9.2% versus 4.2%.

“Persons with disabilities present business and industry with unique opportunities in labor-force diversity and corporate culture, and they’re a large consumer market eager to know which businesses authentically support their goals and dreams,” says Ted Kennedy Jr, disability rights attorney, Connecticut state senator and chairman of the AAPD board, in the release.

“Leading companies are accelerating disability inclusion as the next frontier of corporate social responsibility and mission-driven investing.”

While previous research has shown that employees with disabilities offer substantial business benefits—including increased innovation, improved productivity and a better work environment—the new research reveals that best-in-class companies participating in the DEI have also performed better financially.

For example, the research shows that the 45 leading companies were twice as likely to have higher total shareholder returns than those of their peer group. Furthermore, companies that have improved their inclusion of persons with disabilities over time were four times more likely than others to have total shareholder returns that outperformed those of their peer group.

“This groundbreaking research indicates that it pays to be inclusive: When companies create an inclusive culture for persons with disabilities, everyone benefits,” states Chad Jerdee, Accenture’s general counsel & chief compliance officer.

“This research is the first to correlate an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities with financial performance. By making companies aware of the potential gains and sharing success stories, we can get more persons with disabilities into the workforce, where they can thrive.

The study reveals four key actions that organizations can take to attract, hire, retain and advance diverse talent, the release continues:

  1. Employ: Organizations must ensure that persons with disabilities are represented in their workplace. Beyond hiring, employers should implement practices that encourage and progress persons with disabilities.
  2. Enable: Leaders must provide employees with disabilities with accessible tools and technology and/or a formal accommodations program.
  3. Engage: To foster an inclusive culture, organizations must generate awareness-building — through recruitment efforts, disability education programs and grassroots-led efforts (for example, an employee resource group).
  4. Empower: Organizations must create empowering environments for employees with disabilities through mentoring and coaching initiatives, as well as through skilling/re-skilling programs, to ensure that they continue to advance and thrive.

“The Disability Equality Index is the most trusted benchmarking tool for businesses to evaluate their approach to including persons with disabilities across the enterprise,” comments Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability:IN.

“This research further validates that companies leveraging the DEI have also achieved significant performance improvements. It’s time for more companies to use this tool to their advantage.”

[Source(s): Accenture, Business Wire]