The benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce: A JobAccess Employer Seminar co-hosted by Flinders University

Getting outside the comfort zone vital for employers to access a large talent pool

Adelaide, 3 April 2019
Getting outside the comfort zone vital for employers to access a large talent pool

Image: (left to right) Romana Challans, Tammie McDonald (standing), Ellen Fraser-Barbour, Tim Cahalan, Daniel Valiente-Riedl (standing) and Katrina Webb OAM at the JobAccess Employer Seminar co-hosted by Flinders University in Adelaide.

Employers need to challenge the misconceptions about employing people with disability to access and realise the potential of a large talent pool. A range of experts including employers and panellists came together at the JobAccess Employer Seminar, hosted in collaboration with JobAccess alumni partner Flinders University, to discuss how Australian businesses can remove any barriers and reap the rewards of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Here are key highlights from the event:

Employers can break the cycle and make a change.

Emcee and keynote speaker Katrina Webb OAM, Triple Paralympic Athlete Winner, encouraged employers to get outside their comfort zone and challenge their thinking about employing people with disability. “When we look inwards, we realise what holds us back. And, what eventually holds the organisation back. You don’t have to continue the same cycle – you can be the cycle breakers, you can be change makers,” she said.

Katrina shared some pivotal moments in her journey to finding success both on and off the sporting field, right from winning Paralympic medals to representing the International Paralympic Committee. “The gift I got by being an athlete was being coached and learn about my weaknesses. It helped me find myself, and when I found value through my difference, amazing doors opened!”

Employers can break the cycle and make a change.

Image: Katrina Webb OAM addressing the audience

The strong business case for disability inclusion.

Daniel Valiente-Riedl, General Manager at JobAccess, explained the business case for disability employment, workplace diversity and inclusion. “Evidence for workplace inclusion is strong, as inclusive workplaces are ten times more likely to be highly effective and nine times more likely to innovate,” he said citing findings in Inclusion@Work Index 2017-18 by Diversity Council Australia.

Daniel also highlighted a 2018 research report by Accenture which found that organisations that embrace disability inclusion and employ best practice to support people with disability outperform their peers on profitability and value creation. “Disability inclusion champions are able to gain 30% higher in economic profit margins and, on average, two times more likely to perform better their peers in terms of total shareholder returns,” he said.

Play to strengths, not weaknesses.

The seminar panel consisted of people with lived experience who shared their experiences on topics ranging from encountering misconceptions and talking about their disability with others to their vision for disability inclusion in 10 years.

  • Ellen Fraser-Barbour, PhD candidate and casual academic at Flinders University, explained the challenges of assessing when and which situations were appropriate to share information about her disability, and what were the benefits of sharing this information with others. “My visible disability puts me at a backfoot as my capability is often underestimated,” said Ellen. As an advocate of human rights and disability inclusion, Ellen believes every individual is different, and that our differences should be celebrated.
  • Romana Challans, Senior e-Research Officer at Flinders University, emphasised the importance of language when talking about disability. “I think the language of disability tends to be negative. But when people with disability talk among ourselves, we are very positive,” she said. Romana also explained that when it comes to sharing access requirements, employers need to focus on strengths rather than the disability. “Employers don’t need to know every detail. What you need to know and ask is what I need to do my job.”
  • Tim Cahalan, Administration Assistant at the Department of Human Services, shared some of the misconceptions he faced when looking for a job. “People don’t see past the disability; they don’t know I’m passionate about my work. I spent four years applying for jobs and I never really got a chance to prove myself,” he said. Over the next ten years, Tim hopes to see more disability representation in the Australian Parliament.

Image: Tammie McDonald speaking at the seminar

Image: Tammie McDonald speaking at the seminar

Sometimes, you just need to start.

HR Business Partner Tammie McDonald said employers may not have all the answers to disability inclusion in the workplace, and shouldn’t expect so because “when they do, the answers change”. Tammie said, “Sometimes, you just need to start. You may not have everything in place but take the first step, learn as you go and build on it. Lots of little steps are better than no steps at all!”

She also highlighted the importance of getting buy-in from the top management. “It is essential for business leaders to be invested and promote the initiative to ensure your disability employment efforts are sustainable.”



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