Book Review: Secrets and Big News

If you are an inclusive employer wishing to engage more effectively with disabled candidates or employees, or if you are a disabled candidate or employee, then this book is a “must read” for you.

Although based on extensive research, Kate Nash has written this book in a very engaging way. At its heart, it is really about “what it means to be human, how employers can keep and retain talent and how employees can be who they are.”

The research was carried out by Kate Nash Associates with two groups. One with employers, to explore monitoring practices, and what employers felt their challenges and concerns were, and the other with disabled employees to explore what makes it easier or challenging to share and discuss disability at work. The research involved 55 employers and 2,511 disabled employees.

The results from the research is fascinating (you’ll have to buy the book to see it all!). For example, disabled employees were asked if they were concerned about repercussions for their future employment if they shared their health issues with their employer. A shocking 68% in the public sector were, with 50% in the private sector. Another issue discussed, which I found particularly interesting, was around the language used. In many monitoring questions, candidates or employees are asked to “disclose” or “declare” whether they have a disability. These are both words I have found myself using, but having read the book I can see how off-putting they are. Both words imply revealing some guilty, dark, hidden secret. 76% of the employers in this research used those terms (I suspect they won’t for much longer!).

Whilst the research makes very interesting reading, the real value of this book is in the following two sections. The first is called “15 Big Ideas for employers to try”, and the second “15 Big Ideas for disabled employees to try”. What came out of the research was that organisational culture is more important than numbers. The author recognises that each employer and each disabled employee are different, and at different stages on the journey, and she puts forward ideas for them to think about. The ideas for employers are very practical and reassuring, and go a long way towards dispelling some of the myths that the research had found were holding back employers.

The ideas for disabled employees are also very practical and reassuring, and again are based on what came out of the research.

The rest of the book contains a section on case studies – real life examples of good practice that has been initiated by employers, and how it has been received by their employees. These are really useful for employers who are keen to improve their practice in this area but aren’t really sure how to go about it. This is followed by a section on good practice, and then next steps. There are some real gold nuggets in this book, from a variety of sources, scattered throughout.

As both an employer and a disabled person I found this book very useful and it gave me a lot to think about. It’s one of those books that you keep coming back to, and finding new things to think about. I really feel this should be required reading for every employer and every disabled employee, because it’s only by working together and making the difficult conversations easy and safe that we will move forward.

It’s available here on Amazon. If you are looking for an academic textbook, this isn’t for you, but if you want some practical, effective and successful ways to engage with your disabled employees, or your employer, then buy it today (and no, I’m not on commission!)

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