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Getting the most out of an inclusive workplace

Companies can learn about the value of hiring persons with disabilities at the Inclusive Business Forum 2018.

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DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam speaking at the inaugural Inclusive Business Forum in 2016. The second Forum on July 25 will highlight the various resources available to companies when it comes to hiring PwDs in their organisations.

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Ku Geok Boon, CEO of SG Enable.

AS businesses increasingly recognise the benefits of fostering a diverse workplace, more of them are putting in place processes and policies to attract a wider range of different talents, including those with disabilities. The argument goes that employees are likely to go the extra mile when they feel comfortable in their working environment.

Yet, many companies in Singapore are still reluctant to hire persons with disabilities (PwDs) due to a lack of knowledge and the perceived costs of integrating them into their operations. To help them overcome these hurdles, the government - working through agency SG Enable -- provides technical and funding support to encourage the hiring of PwDs. Established in 2013, SG Enable works to enable PWDs by enhancing their employability and employment options.

"Persons with disabilities are a valuable talent source. When companies focus on their abilities, persons with disabilities can bring needed skills and competencies, and there could be increased productivity and lower turnover as a result," said Ku Geok Boon, chief executive officer of SG Enable.

"Many companies also see that as employees interact with colleagues with disabilities, they develop greater empathy and have a deeper appreciation of how everyone can contribute to the organisation's success," she added.

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SG Enable will be holding its second Inclusive Business Forum (IBF) on July 25 to share with companies best practices and highlight the various resources available to companies when it comes to hiring PwDs in their organisations. Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee will be guest-of-honour at this year's IBF. Companies that have successfully implemented programmes to accommodate the hiring of PwDs will also be sharing their experiences.

"The IBF is a platform for employers to hear from fellow employers who have been on that inclusive hiring journey. Employers can learn about how others have tapped the talent pool of persons with disabilities, and how employees with disabilities can add value to organisations," said Ms Ku.

One of the keynote speakers at the event will be Jim Sinocchi, who heads the Office of Disability Inclusion at JPMorgan Chase. Mr Sinocchi works with the firm's leaders to ensure that the necessary tools and processes are in place to support PwDs. "People with disabilities are in the workforce with the right qualifications and competing for the same jobs that able-bodied people are doing. We shouldn't be just a diversity metric. We have the skills to build professional careers and want to be part of a thriving business," said Mr Sinocchi.

Another keynote speaker is Susan Hwee, head of group technology & operations, United Overseas Bank (UOB). Ms Hwee is a champion of inclusive employment and led the creation of employment opportunities at UOB for people with autism. Under her stewardship, UOB's inclusive employment initiative received in 2017 the Special Recognition award for Best Flagship Initiatives at the Sustainable Business Awards and the Leader Award at the SG Enable Enabling Employers Awards.

Help wanted

The range of assistance schemes and tools available to help companies establish disability-inclusive practices in the workplace will also be showcased at IBF 2018. These include the Workplace Disability Inclusive Index, a free self-assessment tool that allows employers to assess their organisation's readiness for inclusive hiring and identify areas of improvement.

Developed by SG Enable, with support from the Singapore Business Federation Foundation and in collaboration with Cornell University, the index covers six categories, including recruitment and hiring, diversity and inclusion, and accessibility and accommodation, among others.

There are also various workshops that companies can sign up for to help them on their inclusive journey, such as the SG Enable High Impact Retention & Employment (HIRE) Workshop Series.

The programme provides a comprehensive and structured training framework for employers. SG Enable has also developed a series of HRM guides to equip employers with practical tips to build up their capabilities and programmes to hire, retain and develop PwDs in their workforce.

Funding support

The costs involved in making the changes required to integrate PwDs into the workplace is another obstacle to the hiring of such individuals. As such, the funding support available to help companies in this area will also be another key topic at IBF 2018.

One such funding scheme is the Open Door Programme (ODP), a government-funded initiative by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Workforce Singapore (WSG). The scheme is part of WSG's Adapt and Grow initiative and administered by SG Enable.

Employers who hire PwDs will be eligible for grants and employment support services under ODP. Meanwhile, the Job Redesign Grant funds activities related to the re-designing of jobs, such as purchase of equipment and workplace modification.

Get involved

There are many ways for companies to start on their journey of creating an inclusive workplace. These include job-shadowing, mentorship and internship programmes. For instance, the RISE Mentorship initiative is a 12-week programme where students with disabilities are matched with business leaders from local corporates, multinational corporations and other inclusive employers. Through the programme, PwDs get a chance to showcase their skills and abilities to employers, build their professional networks, and tap into their mentors' knowledge and experience.

Students with disabilities can also get valuable work experience through the SG Enable Internship Programme. Participants will be matched with inclusive organisations in various sectors based on their courses of study and interests. Companies which have successfully implemented these programmes will be on hand to share their experience at IBF 2018.

Following on the success of the inaugural IBF in 2016, this year's instalment aims to further raise awareness within the business community of the value that PwDs can bring to an organisation, and highlight the ways that employers can kickstart their journey towards an inclusive workplace.


INCLUSIVE BUSINESS FORUM

Host: Desmond Lee
Minister for Social and Family Development
July 25, 2018
1.30pm - 5.00pm
Grand Hyatt Singapore

Organiser: SG Enable

Official Media Partner: The Business Times

Partners:

  • Autism Resource Centre (Singapore)
  • EDEN + ELIE
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co
  • Pan Pacific Hotels Group
  • Singapore Business Network on DisAbility
  • Singtel
  • Trampolene
  • United Overseas Bank

Supported by:

  • Ministry of Social and Family Development
  • Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore
  • National Council of Social Service
  • SBF Foundation
  • SkillsFuture Singapore
  • SPD
  • Tote Board
  • Workforce Singapore