Could hiring a disabled person save you money, increase your guest counts, and bring your team to a new level of unity? Read what one Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Partner discovered, and the research that will surprise you.
We are excited to release our latest article, “The Power of a Blind Dishwasher.”
Would you believe someone if they told you their best employee was a blind employee? Could you ever imagine that hiring a blind person might improve productivity and even unite your team? When you have to make the decision, could you take that risk?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2013, 17.6 % of persons with a disability were employed. That number is expected to steadily increase in the next decade. When faced with the option to hire disabled workers, many employers reject the idea, fearing disabled employees could take away from productivity and negatively affect the business culture. While there are certain risks to consider, the benefits can outweigh these risks.
TONY THE BLIND DISHWASHER
Ed Culleeney, a veteran in the hospitality industry and Executive Recruiter at SHS, enlightens us through his experience hiring and working with disabled individuals during his time at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. A representative from The Chicago Lighthouse, a non-profit organization that aids the blind and visually impaired in achieving a better quality of life, approached Ed with an interesting proposition. They proposed that Ed hire a blind dishwasher after a three week non-paid training with a Lighthouse representative present.
“When faced with the option to hire disabled workers, many employers reject the idea, fearing disabled employees could take away from productivity and negatively affect the business culture.”
This training would prepare Tony for what the job would entail, and allow Ed to decide whether or not Tony was qualified to handle the job. This representative brought Tony, a middle-aged man with complete blindness, to begin training. Tony was excited to get to work.
“He was always on time, and he cleaned the dishes better than anyone else could. He had a way to use his sense of touch to make sure there was no residue at all on the plates. Nobody could do it like Tony.”
Ed Culleeney, Executive Recruiter – SHS
“People thought I was crazy, bringing a blind worker in to wash dishes,” said Ed as he described the reaction of his staff. Tony’s safety was everyone’s concern, and his coworkers would always ask if he needed help, but Tony insisted he could do his work on his own. Tony also developed his own meticulous system to sort and put sharp knives and delicate glassware into their correct storage places. Perceptions quickly changed and Tony rose to become one of the best employees in the restaurant. “He was always on time, and he cleaned the dishes better than anyone else could. He had a way to use his sense of touch to make sure there was no residue at all on the plates. Nobody could do it like Tony.”
CULTURE OF COMPASSION
Hiring a disabled worker was not only a compassionate act, but it also had a positive impact on the restaurant’s culture. Employees were brought together in their concern for Tony’s safety, creating a sense of togetherness in the workplace. Hiring Tony improved productivity and morale, which has also been the case in other studies that looked at employing individuals with disabilities1 .
Tony’s routine included frequent trips into the dining room to stock service stations, and customers asked the staff if Tony was blind. When they saw a totally blind dishwasher functionally working in a high-stress job they were always impressed and inspired. Many customers increased their visits to the restaurant because they considered management to be benevolent and even noble.
STUDIES SHOW SUCCESS
A study done by DePaul University and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) examined the costs and benefits of hiring disabled workers.
The data collected directly supports the information shared by Ed. One employer stated, “[An employee with a disability has] been with us for 35 years. He’s never missed a day and he’s never been late. Whenever there’s a snowstorm, he prepares to get to work on time and most of the time the manager’s not there. So, we look at that individual and say, Wow! We need more guys like that.” Prominent entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Carlos Slim have also taken a stance to support the employment of disabled workers by partnering with different organizations that also support the cause.
“These individuals are dedicated, skilled workers and it is clear that their involvement in the economic activity is relevant for all of society.” Slim noted.
If you are debating whether or not to hire disabled workers, instead of focusing on the potential liability, consider the proven positive effects on businesses:
- Employees with disabilities are described as loyal, reliable and hardworking and absenteeism rates are low2 .
- Recruiting and hiring disabled workers will have a positive affect on the bottom line3 .
- Work place accommodations can be low cost, and there are various programs that encourage this recruitment4 .
- Including disabled workers can unite your culture.
“All my pre-conceived ideas about hiring a blind employee were completely broken after working with Tony. Not only was he a hardworking individual, he was consistently on top of his game. Hiring Tony made such an impact on the business, that I hired two more blind dishwashers!”
by Joseph D’Alessandro, Founder/CEO with Tania Cardenas, Marketing & Social Media Assistant