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SG Enable's Inclusive Business Forum highlights hiring people with disabilities

Singapore

SPEAKERS at SG Enable's biennial Inclusive Business Forum highlighted the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

"It makes good business sense. Not only are they a source of talent, they can provide insight to your companies on how to open new markets and broaden service range through accessible services," said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who gave a welcome address at the event on Wednesday. "Greater workforce diversity can also guard against groupthink, and foster innovation and creativity," he continued.

For Susan Hwee, managing director and head of group technology and operations at United Overseas Bank (UOB), it is true that people with disabilities - or as she prefers to say, people with different abilities - can bring diverse skills to the table. In 2012, the bank experienced a large need for staff to digitise its documents, but this job area faced a turnover rate of approximately 50 per cent.

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Concerned with the business implications that this would bring, Ms Hwee and her team decided to look for a group of people with the specific skill sets to complete the task. After working closely with the Autism Resource Centre, Ms Hwee found that some graduates of Pathlight School had the necessary methodical working style and sharp eye for detail to not only take on the scanning responsibilities, but also detect discrepancies and accurately index files. In 2013, UOB hired them and launched Scan Hub, which now consists of just under 100 workers.

Besides boosting company talent, hiring people with disabilities will also improve a company's image.

"If you embrace people with disabilities, it is one way to show the workforce that your company is one that takes diversity and inclusion seriously. And I think you'll be an attractive place for anyone to work - whether they have a disability are not," shared Ong Hua Han, client outreach analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, a panelist at the event, and a person with physical disability himself.

However, Mr Ong noted that this should not be the only reason that a business hires a person with disability. "You don't want to feel like you have been employed because you have a disability. There is a crucial feeling that you're just as anyone else - employed because you have the right skills and qualifications. That is key," he explained.

Marc Chiang, process architect at Keppel Data Centres, also addressed the importance of retaining talent with disabilities. The panelist, who developed visual impairment during his time at Keppel, shared about his employer's willingness to adjust his job scope for him to stay in the company, because he had extensive experience in his area of work and strong relationships with his colleagues.

To further encourage employers to hire people with disabilities, SG Enable offers its Workplace Disability Inclusive Index, which they can use to identify areas of improvement for their companies.

SG Enable also conducts workshops, online courses and consultancy services aimed to equip such employers with the necessary skills.

Along with Workforce SG, it also provides job-redesign grants to promote skills training for new employees and help companies make their workplace environment more accommodating.