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Corporate social responsibility and employing the disabled – marketing, PR or untapped reserve?

Authors: Tomáš Sokolovský Published:

Employing physically disabled workers is not an image trick but a HR policy that affects the whole mentality of an organization.

The social pillar of corporate social responsibility (CSR) (hereafter SP CSR) is an integral part of the social responsibilities of companies. However, it has different characteristics. Typically the “social pillar” refers to the cultivation of a positive corporate atmosphere, employee benefits, promoting employee identification with the company, and other similar procedures. As a rule, it is not about and cannot be a short-term investment, but the benefits of this kind of CSR for the company – and for its image and marketing – should be considered long-term investments.


The disabled may face many obstacles in their career path.

Photo: stock.xhng

Calling for a more inclusive recruitment policy

A relatively neglected part of the SP of CSR is the inclusion of disadvantaged-disabled or otherwise handicapped people into the organizational culture of the company. Here, I refer to aurally (hearing) and visually impaired people, as well as people with physical disabilities.
Prejudice plays its role in this neglect, whether consciously or subconsciously, as well as fear of unforeseeable problems at the workplace or a lack of necessary knowledge and information.

Physical and communication barriers are rapidly disappearing in the modern labour market, which should have a favourable and positive effect on the inclusion of disadvantaged employees. At the same time, however, psychological barriers based on patterns of thought and the nature of today’s individualistic society, where diversity, selflessness and solidarity are somehow not ‘in’, are growing. Pragmatist managers are inclined to plead, ‘no more problems, please!’

Disabled workers are an untapped reserve

Employing disadvantaged co-workers, actually welcoming them into work teams, and understanding their individual needs (often surprisingly easy) cannot be taken as merely ‘superficial’ compliance with the law on meeting quotas. It is the unforced and voluntary fulfilment of the social dimensions of internal relations within the company, which paves the way not only to improving these internal relations, but to also having a clear economic impact.

If we forget about the payments required for failing to meet mandatory quotas (which are extremely low in the Czech Republic compared to some countries), it is also a matter of opening up significant reserves of human resources for the period 2017-20. This period is significant, as a decline in labour force in the Czech Republic is expected after 2020.

A long way to go

Studies of available sources in the Czech Republic and abroad make it clear that the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility in the part dedicated to the social pillar is fulfilled only superficially. The motivation of Czech companies to employ people with disabilities is far and away in last place (4%) compared with commercial motivation (30-76%). The main reason for this situation is the continuing negative image of the disabled (PwD) from the perspective of mainstream society. There is an ignorance of everything what would be needed for an individual approach to PwD. This applies to PwD both as employees and as clients and customers. What both approaches – “employee” on one hand, “client” on the other – have in common, however, is that they define the contents of SP CSR in a usually vague manner, one that does not respect the need to focus on the ‘core business’ of the company.

Typical for the current situation of using the concept of CSR in the Czech Republic is the fact that this approach to HR management is used only in the subsidiaries of multinational companies operating in the country. This is because the foreign parent companies of Czech subsidiaries insist on the implementation of CSR in both basic corporate documents and in the organizational culture of these regional institutions. The wider implementation of CSR in Czech companies (especially large ones) is limited by the fact that, for the social pillar, companies lack motivation, examples, and, as mentioned previously, a practical and usable manual and patterns of behaviour in individual components of SP CSR useful for the specific conditions of this country.

Image polishing or long-term investment?

The practical HR learning techniques needed to successfully include handicapped people into the workplace would merit an article of their own, and hence cannot be elaborated here.
Suffice it to say that a more inclusive recruitment policy is not just about making an irreversible and usually short-term investment of available funds into the company’s image, but it also entails a gradual adaptation of the environment, relationships and mentality of people (long-term and recurring). This can indeed be used for marketing and image building (long-term), but also for well thought-out means for opening up a vital segment of human resources. These people can not only be productive and useful, but also extremely loyal.

This article was produced in collaboration with InfoNet adult education network.


Project:”Social pillar of CSR and labour market for disabled”

There are several advantages in a more inclusive labour market. This author is a coordinator in a recent Czech project “Social pillar of CSR and labour market for disabled“. The anticipated methods of this project are:

1) Comprehensiveness, based on a wide range of knowledge about problems of inclusive labour market both acquired and developed, from general to very specific recommendations and procedures, including managerial and economic perspectives.
2) The second method is to provide advice on employment of disabled at the labour market for employees by using recommendations in a language and manner understandable for managers and co-workers, not to confuse the actual environment of the company with its scale of values, nor its priorities with social services or even charity towards its employees.
3) The third method is to give non-disabled workers a view of what it is like to be a disabled worker – a so-called view from the other side.

The Project is supported from ESF and the state budget of the Czech Republic (OP LZZ).
Project website (in Czech only)

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Tomáš Sokolovský Tomáš Sokolovský is an independent consultant and project coordinator, based in the Czech Republic. Contact: Show all articles by Tomáš Sokolovský
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