On the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we recognise how an inclusive approach brings mutual rewards.
According to the United Nations, around 15 percent of people in the world live with some form of disability. That’s a significant number of people who, regardless of disability, possess knowledge, abilities and talents of value to the workplace and society as a whole. There is no reason why a disability should prevent an individual from having a fulfilling career and making a rewarding contribution.
At Mondi, we know we have a lot to do to bridge the gap and ensure we create an inclusive workplace for all our employees.
Birgit Hoettl, Group Head of Employee Experience, says, “We know that greater diversity makes our business stronger, and this includes the valuable contributions made by colleagues with disabilities. We’re striving to make our work environment and culture as inclusive as possible because we want all our employees to fulfil their potential and to have a positive experience.”
At our Group office in Vienna, we have partnered with myAbility, an Austrian social business that brings together companies and people with disabilities in order to foster more inclusive workplaces. Through the myAbility talent® programme, highly qualified students shadow our employees at work, raising our awareness while the students gain first-hand experience and contacts that can help their future careers.
Wolfgang Kowatsch, Managing Partner at myAbility (www.myability.org) and co-founder of the myAbility.jobs platform, spoke to us about his insights on disability and inclusion.
What does inclusion mean to you?
WK: One word I think of when discussing inclusion is ‘normality’. It’s like a natural, self-confident behaviour with each other where a disability is only one aspect of the person and not the most important one. That for me is inclusion.
How would you describe an inclusive workplace?
WK: For me, there is no ‘inclusive workplace’ as such; it completely depends on the individual and the setting. An inclusive workplace is accessible. It’s not the person who has a disability, it’s the obstacles around the person that are the disability. If you remove those obstacles – which are not only of physical nature but also unconscious bias – you achieve significant steps towards an inclusive workplace.
What advice can you give on how to foster more inclusivity at Mondi?
WK: One part is language. It’s not just about using the term ‘person with a disability’ but also how you talk about it. Treating disability as a taboo doesn’t help anyone. In our opinion it is best to be open and ask the person questions, such as “What is it that you need to work at your best and what can I do to support you?” This is really something you can ask all of your employees, with or without disabilities. Awareness is also an issue. For companies like Mondi it is very useful to have regular touchpoints or opportunities to meet and interact with people with disabilities to build mutual understanding and respect.
85 per cent of disabilities are not visible, so for many this goes unrecognised. What we really recommend is that companies develop a roadmap to understand and address these issues proactively in your processes and management.
What advantages do we gain by including people with disabilities at work?
WK: There are many advantages: for example, people with disabilities are loyal and very focused on doing a good job and making a valuable contribution. We have also found that there are many companies that say, “When we started to proactively include more people with disabilities, we noticed a positive shift in the company culture.”
If you would like to find our more about our Diversity and Inclusion approach, please go here.
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