Employers Should Focus on Capabilities, Not Disabilities

(ATR) Shanthi Flynn says hiring people with different abilities leads to a more diverse workforce and broader perspectives.

(ATR) Shanthi Flynn of the Adecco Group says including people with disability and impairments in the workforce can give the company a broader perspective and ability to solve problems in different ways.

"If you focus on ability rather than disability you’re much more likely to get a good result," she told attendees of the International Paralympic Committee Inclusion Summit in Rio. "I believe that competence and skills are much more important than the things that you can’t do."

As the human resources chief at Adecco, Flynn helps lead the IPC Athlete Career Program. The program seeks to help athletes with learning skills, career transition advice and gaining specific training and development in order to help them achieve their workplace aspirations.

Flynn kicked off day two of the IPC Inclusion Summit during the Rio 2016 Paralympics explaining the beginnings of the program and why companies need to start becoming fully inclusive.

"I think that hiring people with different abilities is to focus on what people do really well," she tells Around the Rings. "When you see the Paralympians – their passion, their focus and their abilities in sport – it’s just a very short step to transfer that into the world of work.

"There’s no reason why those skills can’t be used to generate powerful high performing teams in any work environment," Flynn says.

She says in order for companies to realize that people with impairment are just as capable, they need exposure that showcase the incredible abilities of the para-athletes.

"I think that when you watch the videos of the Paralympic athletes, you just have to watch them to be inspired by them," she tells ATR. "And having the privilege of physically being here at Rio you can see how amazing they are and it allows the perception to change. Unless people are exposed to it it’s hard to shift perception."

She adds that unlike Olympians, the Paralympians often prefer to work at the same time they are competing in high level sport. This likely comes from necessity, a result of the difficulties Paralympians have finding the same types of sponsorship opportunities that Olympians often enjoy.

"Certain types of jobs may not be as practical for them to access and those jobs might come later so the challenge for them and for us as a facilitator of employment is harnessing their skills in the right way but that’s always possible," Flynn said."Work is becoming more flexible and people are expecting this more whether they have impairments or not."

She says that the athletes' sporting abilities can make them valuable members of the workforce.

"It’s not just inspirational, it’s incredible how focused the athletes are and how they have an ability to drive for success against the odds, how they work in teams and when you watch them you know you can’t do the things that they do," she says. "There’s no reason that with that kind of passion you can’t translate that into the workplace."

Written by Kevin Nutley in Rio de Janeiro.

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