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6 February 2024

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Research by St Hugh’s Fellow suggests that having employees with disabilities is a source of competitive advantage for organisations

Professor Luisa Alemany, St Hugh’s Fellow by Resolution in Management is the co-author of some ground-breaking research which suggests that having employees with disabilities in its workforce can build a company’s competitive advantage.

The research, published in Harvard Business Review, highlights four ways in which organisations can benefit from employing disabled staff:

  1. Disabilities often confer unique talents that make people better at particular jobs
  2. The presence of employees with disabilities elevates the culture of the entire organisation, making it more collaborative and boosting productivity;
  3. A reputation for inclusiveness enhances a firm’s value proposition with customers, who become more willing to build long-term relationships with the company;
  4. Being recognised as socially responsible gives a firm an edge in the competition for capital and talent.

Commenting on the research, Luisa said, ‘Employing people with disabilities is usually seen as a social cause—one best suited to nonprofits or the public sector. That is a mistake—and more importantly, a missed opportunity. Not only can it raise an organisation’s competitive advantage, it can also lead to long-term profitability.

‘I believe the culture of an organisation is one of the major contributing factors towards its overall success. We surveyed HR executives at 57 companies that had hired one or more people with disabilities about their experiences with those workers and about the effect they had on the organisation as a whole. No fewer than 88% of the HR professionals agreed that the internal culture of their firms had improved significantly since they had hired employees with disabilities.’

Read the full article on the research here. You can also listen to Luisa talking about the research in this HBR IdeaCast podcast.

Co-author: Freek Vermeulen is a professor at London Business School

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