In part one of this Mindset Matters column, it was made clear that National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is no longer an afterthought of the American business landscape, but rather a critical tool for growth in this emerging work culture. Yet to get to a better understanding of how this is possible, we must move beyond platitudes and develop a greater recognition of the best way to apply this to the daily rigors of business life. The goal for this second column is to highlight some ‘next practices’ by developing a framework to incorporate the disability experience into the redefinition of business practice as we look beyond the pandemic towards a new model of growth.
So, the obvious question is how do business leaders commence in this process? One of the most important elements of leadership is imagination. When it comes to disability there has been a lack of understanding across corporate leadership to appreciate the true power of the relationship between business and disability. National Disability Employment Awareness Month offers these leaders the capacity to both examine and reimagine this relationship and identify the bond between the larger tapestry of business and the specific needs of this pool of human capital. As the great philosopher, consultant, and writer Edward de Bono wrote “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” C-level executives must actualize imagination as a key strategy and begin to explore the disability experience not as a separate entity, but rather critical to the growth of the business. Imaginative exercises must become part of daily business practice and be baked into the larger strategy that highlights the disability experience as a solution-oriented model for growth.
The second element of these next practices is sharpening organizational progression by discovering a level of sincerity within the business. There must be a direct investment to have an open and honest conversation about the value of needs. In this changing work culture, the how, where, and when we work is redefining the very foundation of business practice. The employer-employee relationship must become a highlight of this next phase. It is time for corporate leadership to look towards strategies that have evolved out of National Disability Employment Awareness month initiatives as well as disability ERG’s and incorporate them into the regular business cadence. However, to do this effectively shaping a wholistic communication strategy that embraces inclusive ideals are a fundamental building block for future growth. Organizational development will need to depend on soft skills such as social and emotional intelligence to be key drivers for future business progress. Being able to have discussions around disability within the corporate environment needs a level of psychological safety, but also needs a way to articulate the new role of disability as a value proposition across the organization.
The third element that needs to be discussed is a technique to merge National Disability Employment Awareness Month thinking as a central theme in business practice. This is a moment for organizational leadership to recognize that NDEAM should not just be a celebration of the potential of persons with disabilities in the world of work, but rather a framework to engage in the larger conversations around the future business itself. The disability experience has inhabited a space where adaptation is essential for survival and maturity. This is no different in the world of business, and particularly in an age where change is a significant focus in the expansion of any organization. Corporate executives must refine their approach to National Disability Employment Awareness Month and much like a puzzle by seeing where key pieces fit into the larger business objectives.
This Mindset Matters column is designed as an opening salvo to reimagine National Disability Employment Awareness Month so that it cannot only exist in this changing business environment but be the catalyst to redefine the way organizations are run in a multitude of ways. Corporate culture is fraught with numerous challenges, and it is at this moment where National Disability Employment Awareness Month can provide a structure where business leaders can be active participants in shaping a vision of tomorrow.