Persons with Disabilities and Work: Beyond Barriers
The process of placing persons with disabilities into three very different organizations – e-work, Google Italia, and Banca Intesa Sanpaolo – was at the center of a broader study sponsored by Accenture and conducted by the Diversity, Inclusion & Smart Working Observatory of SDA Bocconi. The cases analyzed show that the organizational effort made by the three companies was very variable, and depended on various organizational factors, including the capital of experience accumulated on the subject of “diversity and inclusion,” the type of person with disability included, and the role played by the superior and the working group in managing the placement.
On November 24, a few days before the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, established 30 years ago by the United Nations (December 3, 1992), a conference was held at the Accenture headquarters on the subject of disabilities. On that occasion, the results were presented of the study “Persons with disabilities and work: beyond barriers. Data and stories of work inclusion in Italy.”
In particular, in the context of this study, as the Diversity, Inclusion & Smart Working Observatory of the SDA Bocconi School of Management we worked on observing the processes of placement of people with disabilities in three very different organizations: e-work, Google Italia, and Banca Intesa Sanpaolo. Other studies have already shown that the role of the direct superior and of the members of the working group is central for the success of inclusion of a person with disability. The goal of our work was to examine the role played by these individuals, interviewing them before and after the person was entered into the organization. The research took place between January 2020 and March 2021, thus while the pandemic was in full swing.
First of all, the case of the e-work employment agency, with the participation in the JOB Stations project, shows how the inclusion of a person with a mental disability entails the need to focus great attention on the micro-planning of tasks and constant operational and emotional support for the person, with active daily involvement of various actors (inside and outside of the company). If this fragile equilibrium is absent, integration can be difficult. The case of e-work, as well as the relationship with JOB Stations, also underscores the advisability of making use of protected and specialized structures in some cases, but also shows the limits linked to the construction of a place in and of itself, that is something different and other than the company.
The case of Google Italia shows that the aspects of reasonable accommodation relating to ergonomics and technology are a necessary but not sufficient condition to include a person with disability. Technology can simplify and favor access, but it must be accompanied by listening and attention on the part of the superior and the members of the working group. Although these aspects may not be so problematic when the person with disability is autonomous and has resolved their “minority stress,” they could be critical in relation to the insertion of a person with different characteristics.
Lastly, the case of Intesa Sanpaolo shows the strength of having constructed a disability management group within the organization, and thus a group trained to manage the issue of disabilities. The person whose inclusion we observed found themself in an ideal place, in terms of both direct superior and working group, and the duties assigned. Although the accommodation worked perfectly, and rapidly as well, the person’s path of growth was much slower. This case in fact shows that placement and integration into a group represent only the first phase of the process of inclusion of persons with disabilities. Where the conditions are present, the direct superior, in concert with human resources, should foresee a process of development and growth, as takes place for any other worker.
The cases show that the organizational effort expended by the three companies was very variable, and depended on different organizational factors (including the capital of experience accumulated by the single companies in relation to the management of people from a “diversity and inclusion” perspective, the type of person with disability inserted, the role assumed by the superior and by the working group in focusing attention on relationships, and the daily interactions that shaped the placement). In all cases, the companies, thanks in part to the participation in our study, reflected critically on the dynamics of inclusion, initiating a process of organizational learning.
 The complete results of the study can be consulted on the site of Fondazione Italiana Accenture at the following link: https://fondazioneaccenture.it/disabilitaelavoro/.
 The study was carried out by me, Simona Cuomo, and Silvia Cinque.
 We had already discussed this in S. Cuomo, Z. Simonella, “Gestire la disabilità oltre lo stigma”, Economia&Management, 2021-4.