VANCOUVER – Mark Wafer, who owns seven Tim Hortons’ franchises, has a 30 per cent lower turnover rate than other Tim Hortons. It’s not because Mark’s a better operator. It’s because Mark hires people who have disabilities.
“By including employees with a disability I make more money,” says Mark, noting people who have a disability stay in their jobs longer. “That, ladies and gentleman, is the business case right there. That’s the message you need to share.”
Mark presented the closing keynote session at Abilities in Mind’s (AIM) first national conference on inclusive hiring.
He says the notion of meaningful work and competitive salaries remains elusive for most people who have a disability. The official unemployment rate for people who have a disability in Canada is 49.9 per cent.
If you include people who’ve given up trying looking for work out of sheer frustration, the number is closer to 77 per cent. This is alarmingly high, says Mark, and is a major economic cost. In Ontario alone, the government will pay $3.8 billion per year in benefits, with a growth rate of eight per cent a year.
Not only is the current model not sustainable, it ensures a person who has a disability lives a life of poverty.
Change is needed.
Mark encourages organizations working with people who have a disability to shift their mindset on inclusive hiring. Too often, business owners are encouraged to hire people with disabilities out of charity. Business speaks the language of business, and it’s this message business need to hear.
“If your approach is to tell a business owner that they’re going to make more money and have less turnover, they’re going to sit up and take notice,” Mark tells the audience.
The economic benefit of hiring people who have a disability is something Mark knows firsthand, having hired 82 people who have a disability in the past 17 years.
He’s found people who have a disability are more likely to stay in their jobs and call in sick less. People who have a disability also have equal if not higher safety standards. Productivity is equal if not higher. Walgreens, a U.S. drugstore chain, has found people who have a disability have a 20 per cent higher productivity rate.
People who have a disability often have innovative ways to solve problems, as a direct result of their lived experience, says Mark.
Other staff members are more likely to stay working at your organization, as they enjoy being part of an inclusive workplace.
While the business case is the message that needs to be shared, it’s best delivered by the business community, adds Mark. To encourage this, Mark helped set up Rotary at Work with Community Living Ontario. The partnership sees business owners who have hired people with disabilities speak to other business owners about their experience.
“One hundred and eighty-nine people with disabilities have found meaningful work because of that peer-to-peer discussion,” he says.
While shifting the myths around disability is still the No. 1 change needed, Mark notes how far we’ve come.
“In the last four years I’ve seen more changes in disability employment than in the last 20 years,” he says. “There is a tidal wave coming, we’d better be ready for it.”
AIM participants received a copy of Rethinking disAbility in the private sector, a federal report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, of which Mark is a member.
AIM’s national conference took place March 12-13 at the Empire Landmark Hotel.
AIM is an innovative program of the BC Centre for Ability that has a mission to inspire the business community to work collaboratively in hiring, developing and retaining employees with disabilities.
If you have feedback on this article, please contact the writer, Camille Jensen, at firstname.lastname@example.org