Are access employees the key to being an innovative business?

Forward thinking employers know the business benefit of having a diverse workforce, in terms of reflecting a diverse customer base. But the advantages go further than that, because diversity of thought means different perspectives that can make your company more innovative.

A clear lightbulb placed on a chalkboard, with a think bubble drawn around it.

There are many good business reasons for choosing to have a diverse talent pool in your company. According to EY, diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform homogeneous ones and in inclusive teams, employees are 3.5 times more likely to achieve their full innovation potential. So there are obvious bottom-line benefits – but how and why does this work?

In business, “matching the market” is a well established consideration – the recognition that it’s good to have a diverse talent pool that reflects your customer base. That’s very general, because there are many kinds of diversity. More specifically, hiring people with access needs can provide particular benefits. Access talent – problem solvers, innovative thinkers, flexible workers – can bring to your company the skills you need for the 21st century.

The innovation benefit

Research shows that diversity and innovation are closely linked, but why should that be?

Firstly, it’s about finding new ways of looking at issues. By broadening your workforce – bringing in different perspectives – you will also broaden your view of who your customers are.

As Melinda Brown, Change Manager at Westpac NZ, says: “Organisations that embrace diversity tend to be more open-minded and aware of differences. This creates a more innovative culture and enables them to design products and services that don’t exclude the one in four people who live with access needs.”

Hannah Booth, Senior Recruitment Consultant at EY NZ, makes a similar point: “I believe that access citizens offer a different perspective to those that do not have access requirements, which is another way of saying diversity of thought. I think diversity of thought is so important in order for organisations to succeed in today’s rapidly changing world.”


Secondly, it’s about hiring people with a specific skill set: problem-solving is something that many employees with access needs have learnt to be good at. Paul Scantlebury, Recruitment Strategy Implementation Leader for EY Asia Pacific, explains: “When faced with the need to look at the world through a different lens and find solutions to problems where society isn’t accessible, people with access needs often spend a lifetime thinking laterally and exploring different angles to problems. This is a valuable skill that relates directly to innovation.”

Employees with access needs will champion innovation, for example in areas such as inclusive design. Many tech companies have seen the benefit of this approach, but it’s something that can add value in any sector.

Hiring for diversity

If you don’t have a diverse workforce, you’re missing out. Basically, a company where everyone thinks the same is a company that is not going to grow.
“Diversity of thought” is becoming a buzzword in the field of talent management, and for good reason. Creative ideas happen when someone asks a question that you might not have thought of, because their perspective is different from yours.

Organisations with traditional employment practices are unlikely to attract this diverse talent. If you can present your company as a genuine leader in terms of accessibility, you’ll attract the best people.

It starts with the way you recruit. With a little thought, it’s easy to make your recruitment process more accessible: we’ve compiled some tips in this blog post. Then you need to look at accessible employment practices.

Supporting your diverse workforce

How do you as an employer support your employees to be successful in the workplace? Ask them! By inviting all employees across your organisation to tell you what they need to be successful, you are investing in the success of your talent, and your organisation.

Building an accessible culture is a big subject in its own right, but it starts with knowing why you want to do it.

As Be. Lab Leadership and Culture Lead Lesley Slade says: “To attract and retain the best talent across the board, you need an ongoing and evolving strategy. Your strategy must be based on genuinely and deeply valuing diversity from the very beginning, and it must be intentional and based on a long term commitment.”

Be. Lab Talent is a recruitment and professional development service that matches employers with diverse talent. We have fantastic talent pool, motivated and ready to add real value to your organisation.

Find out more about our Talent service here.

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