Australian businesses should see employing people with disabilities as, first and foremost, a good business strategy, according to Deb Russell, the former corporate manager for diversity and inclusion at Walgreens, a large US drugstore chain.
People with disabilities represent the last untapped talent pool for Australian employers grappling with skills shortages and an ageing workforce, according to Deb Russell, the former corporate manager for diversity and inclusion at Walgreens, a large US drugstore chain.
Russell says that Australian businesses should see employing people with disabilities as, first and foremost, a good business strategy. “All businesses can learn that with simple flexibility, they too can achieve the kind of success that Walgreens is enjoying and access the last untapped resource of labour available,” notes Russell, who oversaw Walgreens’ commitment to including qualified people with disabilities in its workforce.
According to Russell, the model of workforce inclusion proved so successful the company was adopting a similar strategy to be implemented across its national retail network. “The turnover rate for people with disabilities was half that of co-workers without disabilities, productivity is the same and they are much safer,” she states.
Russell states that the major challenge for businesses looking to adopt a similar model of workforce inclusion was changing the presumption that people with disabilities cannot do jobs to the same standards as people without disabilities.
Russell will explain how Walgreens improved its business by embarking on a deliberate journey to increase the number of people with disabilities in its workforce at Smart 2013, to be held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre from 26 to 27 June 2013. Russell’s visit to Australia is being supported by Mission Australia and the organisation’s general manager of employment solutions (Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia), Kylee Bates, will further highlight the opportunities for Australian businesses to access employees with disabilities at Smart 2013.