Why inclusion of people with disability makes us a better employer
Work is more than about earning money – it is about learning, social participation, independence, being proud of one’s own performance, developing and implementing ideas together with colleagues and being constructively challenged.
Including people with functional diversity (aka disability) is more than just an ingredient of being a good company. Inviting all talent into a company means a learning opportunity for itself: to become a better employer, to develop smarter products and to serve customers better.
This is why Finnish company Konecranes – with a global footprint in over 50 countries – has continually taken action to be more inclusive for years.
Mara Zavagno, Chief Diversity Officer at Konecranes, explains: “Diversity and inclusion are not an end in themselves. We become a better company by being a diverse community. Our performance is improving, we are responding better to customers, we are becoming a better employer in a highly competitive market. Inclusiveness also embraces the aspect of employees with disability. People with disabilities enrich a company, business and society with different perspectives and sets of skills.
” An organization offers more attractive jobs overall if it does not assume that employees are 100% operational over a working life of several decades.
“Over many decades, many employees experience phases of limited performance, be it through family care work for children or elderly relatives, illness, an accident, phases after particularly difficult projects, or simply aging. If we can offer working conditions and workplaces that are adaptable, we gain capacity in all these phases,” says Jutta Chalupa, head of Human Resources at Konecranes’ Wetter, Germany site, where many inclusive activities take place.
How to be more inclusive as a company
The first step for development is to address the topic. About two years ago, Konecranes founded an employee resource group (ERG) called “Allies for Disabilities”. ERGs are voluntary and employee-led groups formed to achieve company visions and goals, promoting a diverse workplace in all the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion dimensions, and boosting inclusiveness and togetherness.
The ERG Allies for Disabilities develops plans, ideas, and actions to advance inclusion globally. As Konecranes is present in many countries, the level of inclusion of people with disabilities varies. This offers the opportunity to learn from positive examples and experiences within the organization and leverage these experiences throughout the company.
One example is the Konecranes site in Wetter. Training manager Jörg Schneider, who is responsible for the technical apprenticeship program, actively employs young people with disability, when possible, for example as interns in the workshop. This happens regularly in cooperation with a local vocational school, where young people with and without physical handicaps learn to be technical product designers. But he is also enabling the participation in the apprenticeship program where possible.
At the moment, two young autistic people are part of the Konecranes team in Wetter, one is an employee and one is an apprentice. What our apprentice needs to perform is a steady environment, therefore he will sit his final exams in the Konecranes training workshop, so that he will not be distracted by a new environment.
The examples above show that to provide inclusiveness for employees with disability, a company needs:
- The will to make it happen, both as a company and within individual teams.
- Facilitators and networkers who connect to institutions outside the company, and who build a strong network within the company.
- The willingness to adapt workplaces, for example through better lighting, ergonomics, accessibility, adaptation of safety measures e.g. in situations of evacuation, and the willingness to adapt processes where needed.
For Konecranes, this is the truest sense of equity: To provide everyone with the same opportunity by considering their individual diversity.