By Sheryl Estrada
Photo courtesy of the National Organization on Disability
The National Organization on Disability (NOD) is making a corporate connection.
Headed in a new direction of corporate services, the organization’s endeavors are supported by a $1 million lead corporate grant from the Prudential Foundation.
For more than 30 years, the NODhas championed advancing opportunities in the workplace for people with disabilities through its standard-setting data and best-in-class disability employment models. And the organization is now expanding its corporate services. A for-profit service enterprise is currently available to companies across the country wanting to not only hire but also retain employees with disabilities.
“We’re changing a program that’s been funded by mainly philanthropy for the past five years, in which NOD has worked with a dozen Fortune 1,000 companies and we’ve helped them to hire more people with disabilities and better support those already in the workforce,” NOD President Carol Glazer told DiversityInc.
Recent rule changes by the U.S. Labor Department require nearly 50,000 companies who do business with the federal government to create a goal of having seven percent of their workforce comprised of people with disabilities, according to Glazer.
“Propelled by that, we’re taking [Corporate Services] and changing it into a social enterprise,” she said.
According to Lata Reddy, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility atPrudential Financial (No. 8) and President of The Prudential Foundation, hiring and retaining employees is an important issue to the foundation, which is why they chose to partner with NOD.
“We really are a leading organization in the States when it comes to identifying talent and helping to place people with disabilities, then supporting them at the backend,” she told DiversityInc. “We were looking for best in class partners and we selected [NOD].”
Reddy said the Prudential Foundation previously funded the NOD for a successful program specifically geared toward veterans. This gave the foundation confidence in NOD’s latest endeavor.
“There are many employers who have a commitment to this issue and to onboarding people with disabilities,” said Reddy. “But it does take quite a deliberate commitment and the resources to support that commitment. And so, the NOD, again, is a perfect partner to kind of bridge that. We, on the corporate side, have the desire and the resources and so they can help us with what is the most effective and efficient way to recruit and retain this population.”
CEO of DiversityInc Luke Visconti was recently elected a NOD board member. He noted that only one in five working-age Americans with disabilities is employed.
“That means corporate America is missing out on the productive power of nearly 30 million potential workers,” said Visconti.
He also explained that companies earning a place on the 2015 DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities have learned that “hiring people with disabilities pays bottom-line dividends,” he said. “Not to mention that there is a strong consumer preference for companies that hire people with disabilities. It’s just smart business. NOD is ready to help right now.”
The NOD has launched effective disability employment initiatives with companies such Lowe’s, which has worked with the organization since 2010.
“We have helped them with every single aspect of disability hiring from looking at their policies, walking their facilities, looking at accommodations, helping to train their managers and coworkers when new people with disabilities are coming in,” said Glazer. “We also help employers make the match with sourcing agencies in their communities. Then overtime, create a pipeline, a reliable pipeline.”
Lowe’s Chief Supply Chain OfficerSteve Szilagyi said the organizationhas helped the company bringpeople with disabilities into their workforce.
“NOD has been a great help to us in connecting in our local communities finding the right vocational rehab services providers, helping them learn our goals,” Szilagyisaid.”NOD helped us learn about training and developing people with disabilities and finding what they can do instead of what theycan’tdo.It’s been a tremendous relationship for us and it’s exciting to know that more companies soon will be able to benefit from their expertise.”
In addition to corporate sponsorship, the organization will also receivea$1.5 million investment from the F.B. Heron Foundation andmajorsupport from The Cookie Jar Foundation.
NOD’s Corporate Services will be led by Managing Director Andy Traub and Deputy Director Howard Green. Services include Bridges Advisory Services, CEO Council of Corporate Leaders and Benchmarking through the Disability Employment Tracker.