However, BMO’s ‘Count Me In’ campaign contributed to a ‘lift’ in hiring of people with disabilities at the bank – can the same work for small businesses?
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.”