How Hiring People with Disabilities
Has Paid Off for
Habitat International, Inc.


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Excerpted from Able! How One Company’s Disabled Workforce Became the Key to Extraordinary Success (2005, BenBella Books) by Nancy Henderson Wurst

  1.  Zero back orders in 24 years. The overall fill rate is 99.9 percent; the .01 percent of unfilled orders stems from outside factors, such as shipping mistakes caused by freight lines.

  2.  Product defect rate: Less than one-half of 1 percent. Fewer than 10 rugs have been miscut in the company’s history, and the return rate is so negligible it is not even recorded.

  3.  Zero accidents among the workers with disabilities. Since Habitat opened for business in 1981, there have only been three on-site accidents. All three involved “able-bodied” supervisors, not disabled employees.

  4.  Practically no absenteeism. Sickness, inclement weather and other challenges seldom keep loyal Habitat employees from coming to work. Many times, their supervisors have had to insist that they see a doctor or stay home when they have the flu.

  5.  Very little turnover due to job dissatisfaction or firings. When employees do leave the company, the single biggest reason is lack of transportation. Even when someone quits or takes a sabbatical because of a physical or mental disability, the person often returns to Habitat months later.

  6.  Cross-training for all employees, thereby ensuring job flexibility and reducing the need to call in extra workers to fill in for someone who’s out. The entire staff, even the most severely disabled, can perform at least three out of four job tasks, and most are trained on every single function in the plant.

  7.  Fewer supervisors, not more. In many factories, productivity slides when supervisors are away. At Habitat, however, there is no need to micro-manage employees. They do their jobs, and do them well, whether the boss is around or not. Two managers oversee the entire plant, even on high-volume days.

  8.  Less time and money spent tracking comparative data. Because some events, such as accidents and firings, are extremely rare, there is no need to keep detailed quality-control records, thereby saving additional administrative costs.


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