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The Blue O c e a n Theory
Leads to Disability Inclusion


Human Capital

Employment Equity

The Blue O c e a n Theory

Leads to Disability Inclusion

Lesa Bradshaw (Psych Hons, Psychometrist in Independent Practice, Dip

HR Management, MBA) is a co-owner of Bradshaw Le Roux Consulting. As

a leading specialist in creating inclusive disability cultures at organisational,

governmental and societal levels, Lesa combines her professional experience

with her journey as a person with a disability, to deliver an impactful message

about the value of diversity today. She is a seasoned international speaker

on the issue of disability inclusivity. She was the recipient of the 2018 BWA

Regional Business Award and the Umyezani Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year

in 2018

Let’s start this article by taking stock of how South Africa is progressing in using disability as a form of value adding diversity. A recent

survey by the World Health Organisation over 51 countries reveals a 52.8% employment rate for males with a disability and 19.6% for

women. While these statistics reflect the double discrimination faced by women with a disability, the stark fact that should be staring

you in the face is how far behind South Africa is in terms of its representation of persons with a disability in the workplace, regardless

of gender. According to the 18th Commission for Employment Equity Report, South African employers report the following dismal

results for persons with a disability:

> Top and Senior Management, as well as Professional Occupational Levels, reflect 1.3%.

> Semi-skilled and Unskilled Occupational Levels reflect 0.9%

Compared to the 2015 results, the 18th Commission for Employment

Equity Report results reflect a notable drop in the representation of

persons with a disability at all occupational levels.

These results are shameful indeed! In essence, as employers, we are

moving in the wrong direction despite the increased focus on achieving

compliance. At this point, I imagine that many of those reading this

article are throwing their hands up in exasperation. “What are we doing

wrong? We invest in learnership programmes and spend money on

Skills Development for persons with a disability, so why are we not

making headway?”

The answer to this is relatively simple. We have been lured into the dark

side of the ‘quick fix’ approach as the pressures of compliance loom

before us. Scorecard strategies, which include those seen in many

outsourced learnership programmes, simulated learnership solutions

and segregated off-site learnerships for persons with a disability, are

presenting employers with ‘quick fix” solutions for achieving compliance.

These are, more often than not, presented as ‘hassle-free’ solutions

for creating an inclusive disability culture. However, this is not the

case in reality, as these solutions move disability inclusion from the

‘transformation’ agenda to the ‘compliance’ one, principally fueled by

financial efficiency and favourable B-BBEE scorecard outcomes.

The result is, persons with a disability are continuously swirling

around in a whirlpool of learnerships without gaining any meaningful,

relevant work experience. Worse still, there is no safety line to move

out of the whirlpool of compliance solutions into meaningful permanent

employment. I am fond of using the ‘bait ball’ analogy, which I will

highlight with a point in question. Have you ever watched a national

geographic documentary, which shows a school of fish swimming in a

tight ‘bait ball’ in the ocean, with predators circling, then all grabbing

from the same source in the same manner?

The outcome is a mad opportunistic scramble, where every predator is

using the same strategy. It is messy, competitive, frenzied and, due to

the scramble, many of the predators fail to get enough to sustain them.

However, there is usually the one predator that chooses the alternate

path, the one that applies a different, smarter, more structured hunting

strategy, which is the one that trumps all others, taking the ‘lions share’.

Now I will apply this analogy in the disability inclusion space. In reality,

there is a relatively small pool of persons with a disability who have

qualifications and workplace experience which allows them to access

skilled and higher occupational levels in our national workforce. Such

expectations result in numerous exclusionary barriers in society, like

education, the environment, attitudinal and political barriers, to name

but a few.

In the unskilled level, the focus is mainly placed on Learnerships to

build skills; however, the ‘quick fix’ methods currently applied are not

producing a skilled or experienced labour pool necessary for us to have

a national workforce that is inclusive.

So, there is our small ‘bait ball’ of persons with a disability. They must

have a matric, must be able to access inaccessible environments, be

able to use an inaccessible transport system, have work experience that

cannot be obtained through ‘quick fix’ learnerships, and know how to

compete in an environment which places little work value on disability as

an economically beneficial demographic. This is known as the tiny ‘bait

ball’, the one currently targeted.

The Blue Ocean Theory suggests that, for organisations to gain a

competitive advantage, their resources used and strategies undertaken

should be unique or rare, valuable to all and creative, using new tactics.

It suggests the need to move away from the ‘red ocean’ surrounding

the ‘bait ball’; where competition is fierce, actions are reactive and

quick rather than focused and well calculated, where each follows the

common tactics which to date have not yielded results.

The theory in the context of disability inclusion calls for employers to

think creatively rather than competitively in their approach to sourcing,

developing, empowering and retaining talent with a disability at all

occupational levels. It recognises that there are very few resources

which support empowerment and inclusion in the disability space and

that a collaborative, creative and committed approach to flexing the

way we do things is necessary to pave the way towards sustainable

inclusion. Applying the Blue Ocean Theory in a strategy for disability

inclusion is by no means a ‘quick fix’ solution. It demands a top-driven

transformational commitment; it asks employers to move their focus

from ‘compliance’ to recognising the value that diversity in disability can

bring to a business. It demands standing firm against the lure of the

‘quick fix’ solutions, that more often than not contribute to the continued

exclusion of persons with a disability.

In reverting to the opening paragraph, the results are clear; inclusion

can be, and has been, better achieved globally. So there is no excuse

for South Africa. Our entrepreneurial, tenacious, creative and passionate

spirit allows us to survive in business and remain competitive despite

many hurdles. In my experience as a business owner with a disability,

the advantage of insight into the realities of disability inclusion, both

practically and strategically, have proven invaluable. This unique insight

into disability has allowed Bradshaw LeRoux to develop a model of

inclusion that can be applied across different organisational cultures

and industries, both nationally and globally. Inclusion can be achieved;

however, at the beginning of the process, it is imperative to have

the right conversations with professionals that can guide you in a

sustainable journey of inclusion which challenges ‘status quo’ thinking

and encourages creativity in the disability space

Ocean Theory
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