Despite evidence that people with disabilities are more educated, more engaged, more productive and more loyal to their employers than the general workforce, small business owners continue to ignore this talented cohort in their hiring plans. In 2013, only three in ten small business owners indicated they had hired someone with a disability - essentially unchanged from 2012.
"Canada's ability to compete internationally is predicated on its ability to innovate, to create, and enhance the productivity of its businesses. As an engine for growth and employment, it is critical that small businesses expand the talent pool upon which they rely, to include university and college educated people with disabilities who are ready, willing and able to help them compete, not just within their local markets but on a world scale," said Sonya Kunkel, Managing Director, Diversity, BMO Financial Group.
According to a BMO Bank of Montreal survey, conducted by Pollara, 69 per cent of small business owners said they have never hired a person with either a visible or non-visible disability while two per cent said they 'didn't know' if they've hired someone with a disability.
"The irony is that business owners readily recognize the advantages of a diverse work-force - 80 per cent said new Canadians bring fresh ideas to the workplace and 79 per cent see diversity as an asset - yet they seem not to understand that people with disabilities can add to this diversity and make a significant contribution to their efforts to improve business results," said Ms. Kunkel.
"So we have to ask ourselves, what's stopping small businesses from hiring people with disabilities and what do we have to do to move the needle? At a time when business owners across Canada lament the shortage of skilled workers and their ability to compete, it's time we moved People with Disabilities off the unemployment line and onto the productivity line. We're missing a wonderful opportunity to improve our businesses and the lives of Canadians who can't find work because of unfounded myths and misunderstandings about their capabilities."
Ms. Kunkel says the time is right. According to the BMO survey, 46 per cent of Canadian business owners who plan to invest in their businesses in 2014 indicate they plan to hire more employees. "We need to impress upon business owners that people with disabilities do have abilities that will help them succeed and grow."
BMO has seen its own numbers grow over the past two years after the bank made a concerted effort to dispel the myths surrounding People with Disabilities. Its 'Count Me In' campaign encouraged all employees, including executives, with non-visible disabilities, to step forward and serve as compelling examples that people with disabilities can indeed make meaningful contributions to the success of the organization.
"The 'Count Me In' initiative has exceeded all our expectations," said Simon Fish, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, BMO Financial Group and the bank's Executive Diversity Champion. "We're changing perceptions which, in turn, is changing behaviour. Seeing successful employees and executives who are unabashed about discussing their disability not only reinforces that BMO is a welcoming, inclusive organization, but also has had a positive impact on the lift we are seeing in our own hiring practices."
All results come from a Pollara telephone survey of 301 Canadian business owners, conducted between August 22nd and September 10th, 2013. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 5.6%, 19 times out of 20.
About BMO Financial Group
Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $549 billion as at July 31, 2013, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
- BMO conducts a Diversity Workforce survey throughout the year which seeks to encourage employees to 'self-identify', confidentially and anonymously, if they have a visible or non-visible disability. This information helps the company track progress towards its goal to build an inclusive workplace and to identify efforts required to sustain progress towards that goal.
- In 2012, BMO made changes to its annual diversity workforce survey that made it easier for employees to confidentially self-identify. This led to a positive increase in our people-with-disabilities total for the year.
- As a result of the 'Count Me In' Campaign last year – a need was identified for more resources to assist with successfully hiring and managing people with disabilities. Consequently, BMO created the new Managers Guide to Hiring and Leading People with Disabilities.
- Disabilities can be visible or non-visible – some examples include: learning, pain, psychological, addictions, non-visible physical (ex., cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and migraine headaches), agility, memory, developmental, mobility, hearing, seeing, speech.
- People's circumstances change. Individuals may not be aware that changes to their health can be considered to have rendered them with a disability. Self-identifying ensures that employees and their managers can seek and receive the support they require to maintain their path to success within the organization.
- In 2006, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 8.6 per cent vs. the Canadian average of 6.3 per cent. (Statistics Canada 2006)
- In 2006, the total percentage of the Canadian population with a disability was 14.3 per cent. Within this, people from the ages of 25-44 made up 8 per cent and 18.3 per cent for people aged 45-64 (Statistics Canada 2006).
Ralph Marranca, Toronto
Valerie Doucet, Montreal
Laurie Grant, Vancouver