"What Does Being A Red Head Have To Do With Business?"

I’m different from you. I’m made up of recessive genes. I have red hair. Guaranteed, I’m also shorter than you, which might prove that I can probably wear stilettos better than you — probably (I have had tons of practice). How long does it take you to read 10 pages? It takes me one hour. I was labeled as a “resource room kid” and was proud of it. Why am I sharing my personal information with you? Well, because I made it to an Ivy League Master’s program. To you (as an employer), it doesn’t matter how I got there, but it matters to me. I am now a Director. An important moment to exemplify that being different in multiple ways does not matter as much as my skills sets and being able meet the needs of my employer.

Take a journey with me through the key words that seem to scare businesses the most, whether because of Government Legislations, stereotypical beliefs, and what I’ve observed to be factual, a lack of education in the area of Special Needs. What I call, “Different Abilities”. This article is not about me, it is about creating better business.

Diversity, by definition, is “difference; unlikeliness; multiformity; the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, color, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc…” I guess “disabilities” falls into the etcetera category. Let’s explore that word, “unlikeliness”. It means, “Improbable”. Synonyms for diversity is “change” and “variation”. Interesting how the synonyms are more positive than the actual definition. Inclusion means, containing parts that make up an element, “to place in a category, and to involve as a factor”. Then, comes the term Wellness; to be defined by “the quality of being healthy in body and mind, preventing illness and diseases”. (www.dictionary.com)

So, how does all of this relate to business? A High Performance Organization (HPO) follows the methodology of incorporating goals to achieve superior business outcomes within its business strategy. The three common questions to any business leader are, “Where are we? What do we need? How will we get there?” How about a fourth question; “Who will help us get there?” Have you ever heard that saying, “We have to have the right people on the bus”? Now believe that having the “right people” becomes incorporated into your business plan. (www.wikipedia.com; www.hpocenter.com)

I have never understood why individuals with different abilities have been isolated from their own communities as much as they have. I guess this is how my mission began, where my passion has found itself, why I value employment as the #1 educational tool to all of society. After spending a few years, trying to find the most updated research, I finally found the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). While Cornell University shared their research from 2011, i4cp shared theirs in 2014. We, at the Supported Employment provider agencies, cannot promise businesses anything, but we can share the facts. According to i4cp, businesses that incorporate diversity & inclusion (D&I) into their business strategies become an HPO by 65% over other lower performance businesses. Of these HPOs, 70% have shown a positive relationship between supporting the strategy of D&I into its culture (rather than a compliance factor) to a whopping “57% increased positive relationship to market performance by finding good talent matches”. What does having a positive culture inclusive of a talented workforce also result in? A workforce of “89% dependability, 88% engagement, 87% interaction with co-workers, 86% motivation, 84% attendance [because employees now want to be working], 79% work quality, 74% productivity, and 59% adaptability”. (Institute for Corporate Productivity, 2014)

Every day, my team and I hear, “we’re not hiring” despite the “we’re hiring” sign in the window. Other common responses, “you can apply online”. Sorry to tell you, not EVERYONE can apply online, and we know that not everyone does. Reality is, employment planning starts at birth, not the NYS education law of transition planning students at 12. It is the process that it takes an individual to achieve their employment that makes us who we have become today, better people for your better business. By adding the recessive genes and including wellness with preventing illness in your business culture, you too, can become an HPO, and our individuals with different abilities can gain long term employment in the competitive workforce. We “providers” learn our individuals best to assure that they are your “better business”.

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