Can employees with learning disabilities really improve your workplace?
Quality of Life Observer
- Mar 4 2014
In short, yes they can. Known for their creativity and resourcefulness, individuals with learning disabilities are often characterized as out-of-the-box thinkers. Integrating an employee with a new skill set or unique way of thinking and working could improve your business and the quality of life at work.
Reaping the rewards
“The value of people with a learning disability is not found in a spreadsheet or on a bank statement, but in how it makes everyone feel at the end of the day,” says Sean Callaghan, General Manager of Sodexo’s Loblaws account in Toronto, Canada.
Indeed, when evaluating the effects of diversity in the workplace, it is essential to note the overall improvement in quality of life. The integration of employees with disabilities has been related to increases in productivity, safety and notably, company morale. Furthermore, the employee’s own quality of life improves as well. A 2014 study published by Vanderbilt University shows that working in an inclusive environment can have a positive affect of the symptoms of autism.
Finding success by finding the right fit
“Working with a person with a disability is about understanding the employee’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Callaghan. Within his team of 36 employees, Callaghan oversees four employees with learning disabilities that include autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
Throughout their lives, people with learning disabilities have come to develop and rely on unique strengths. As employees, these strengths make them a valued part of the workforce
In other cases, the characteristics of a disability can prove to be beneficial in certain work environments. For example, Anthony, a Sodexo employee for more than five years, lives with autism – a disability characterized by the importance placed on routine. “It is the routine involved in Anthony’s job that enables him to stay focused and succeed,” says Callaghan. Similarly, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that the characteristics that autistic people possess make them perfect for tedious, detail-oriented jobs such as analyzing computer software
“Working with individuals with disabilities is not complicated,” he says. “It’s simply about communicating, using common sense and practicing patience and respect.” Managers who incorporate respect, as well as other “diversity behaviors”, such as cooperation and flexibility, improve the workplace culture for everyone.