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Evaluation of contemporary approaches to managing workplace inclusion with regards to disability.

Evaluation of contemporary approaches to managing workplace inclusion with regards
to disability.
This review will focus upon workplace inclusion strategies for people with a disability and
provide an overview of common approaches supported by literature for diversity
management of people with a disability.
Workforce inclusion strategies often sit within organisations diversity approaches. Diversity
may have different interpretations and contents, however its central focus is upon difference
and inclusion. (Prasad et al., 2006) Diversity has historically focused upon race and gender,
however it’s breadth is far wider and “encompasses sexual orientation, religious affiliation,
ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic status, age, and personality traits.”, with this description
being far from exhaustive. (Gonzalez, 2017, p. 29)
Defining disability can vary depending upon the approach taken. The World Health
Organisation defines disability “as an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity
limitation, and participation restrictions.” (World Health Organisation (WHO), 2017) In
Australia disability is defined by the ABS as “any limitation, restriction or impairment which
restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months.”
(Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2016a)
The largest minority group in Australia is people with a disability, the ABS has estimated that
4.3 million Australians have a disability, 18.3 percent of the population. ((ABS), 2016b,
(ABS), 2016a) The Australian 2015 Survey of Disability, Aging and Carers ((ABS), 2016a),
found that people with a disability aged 15-64 years of age experienced both lower
participation (53.4 per cent) and higher unemployment rates (10 per cent) than people without
disability (83.2 and 5.3 per cent, respectively).
Taking a global outlook, this result is replicated with the OECD Sickness, Disability and
Work Report revealing that 44 per cent of people with disabilities are employed compared to
75 per cent of non-disabled people across the OECD. (OECD, 2010) McLaughlin identifies
the lack of research on diversity and disability given its size and growth. (McLaughlin et al.,
The literature researching contemporary approaches to inclusion of people within the
workplace fell into four core areas: Policy and practice, including Human Resource
Management approaches, training for employees with a disability and organisational
diversity training, partnerships and leadership.
Policy and practice highlighted the importance to overtly identify the inclusion of people with
a disability. Ball found that. “Although many corporate diversity policies include racial,
ethnic, cultural, and gender components, fewer than one-half of those on the Fortune 100 list
have written diversity policies that expressly include persons with disabilities within the
definition of diversity” (Ball et al., 2005, p. 98) A large portion of these inclusions weonly
encompassed equal opportunity policies in, leading to a failure in permeating the
organisations. (Davis et al., 2016)
Research conducted by Kalargyrou and Volis on disability employment and the hospitality
industry showed that “establishing diversity inclusion councils, teams, foundations, or task
forces is important to the proactive recruiting, hiring, and supporting of employees with
disabilities.” (Kalargyrou and Volis, 2014, p. 444) Proactive approaches within policy such as
disability hiring policies and disability training were positive indicators of hiring success.
Support of actions in the workplace together with policy led to a more positive outcome,
(Schur et al., 2016, Ball et al., 2005, Meacham et al., 2017)
Human resource management was identified as pivotal in ensur ing policies are turned into
practice. The importance of creating a workplace culture that connected people beyond policy
and legalities is a pivotal role for human resource management into the future. Meachim
believes “that for organisations to be effective, human resource (HR) needs to play a greater
role in creating organisational values around the importance of respecting differences among
organisational participants” (Meacham et al., 2017, p. 1382)
Training to improve workforce inclusion of people with a disability is separated in the
literature between training for the individual with a disability and organisational diversity
training, with both being viewed as contemporary practice.. Training was not seen as once off
for individuals, including the adoption of work mentors, champions and ambassadors within
the organisation.
The inclusions of people with a disability in the development and delivery of diversity
training was highlighted as a successful approach. (Ball et al., 2005) The provision of
diversity training for employees appears to have increased, however Phillips identifies a lack
of research on the use and effectiveness of disability diversity training and if it increased
employment outcomes for people with a disability. (Phillips et al., 2016)
The importance of partnerships that utilised local resources and disability groups were a
successful indicator not only in the provision of individual and diversity training but
additionally these partnerships led to further recruitment of people with a disability within the
local community. Partnerships have also extended to the usage of specialist external support
to bring in expertise to the organisation. (Kalargyrou and Volis, 2014)
Leadership within an organisation at all levels was pivotal in successful inclusion, “CEOs and
members of top management should adopt a pro-active championing role in valuing diversity
(Gilbert& Ivancevich, 2000), since their values and behaviours cascade to lower ranks of the
organization (Boehm, Dwertmann, Bruch, & Shamir, 2015)” (Dwertmann and Boehm, 2016,
p. 58) To improve inclusion there is a need to ensure that there is multi stakeholder
engagement, throughout the organisation at all levels. “A general lack of management
support makes it difficult for employers to employ workers with disabilities.” (Meacham et
al., 2017, p. 1383)
Improving the inclusion of people with a disability in the workforce involves, “the process of
building a culture that explicitly values differences between individuals operates at three
levels: strategic, managerial and operational.” (Davis et al., 2016, p. 85) Organisations that
focus upon supporting and harnessing diversity, support multi stakeholder involvement and
improve their internal capacity, particularly in the human resources area) are more likely to
achieve better outcomes that not only impact upon the individual, but improve the entire
workplace and can lead to improved financial returns. (Gonzalez, 2017)
Given the limited research in this area, this review provides a start in exploring contemporary
approaches to inclusion for people with a disability.
(ABS), A. B. o. S. (2016a) 2015 survey of disability, ageing and carers (SDAC). Canberra:
Commonwealth of Australua. Available at:
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(ABS), A. B. o. S. (2016b) 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015
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