diversity and inclusion graphic

LGBTQ+ Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

I read a quote from Rainbow Railroad that I want to share with you: “All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” With it being Pride Month, we want to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion. What is your company doing to make sure your LGBTQ+ employees feel safe and comfortable? Do you have diversity initiatives in place? Are you actively taking steps to build a culture of belonging? I’m hoping this article will help guide employers on the path to creating welcoming and supportive workplaces for the LGBTQ+ community during the month of June and every day of the year.

What Does LGBTQ+ Mean?

LGBTQ+ is an inclusive acronym that represents a diverse range of sexualities and gender-identities. The LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning people. The plus sign represents other gender and sexual identities, such as nonbinary, pansexual, asexual and intersex. 

The Benefits of a Diverse Workforce Are Proven

Diversity is, of course, crucial for social justice. But it also makes sense from a purely business standpoint. A McKinsey study found that diversity can positively impact a company’s bottom line. How? By:

  • Boosting creativity and innovation. Diverse thinking leads to more creative results. When you bring together multiple perspectives, you foster new ways of thinking, which drives innovation.
  • Creating a more inclusive culture. When you have a company culture that authentically encourages diversity across the enterprise you are creating an environment where people feel accepted and valued. This in turn enhances employee engagement, which boosts productivity. Plus an inclusive culture improves a company’s reputation and brand, helping to retain and attract talent.
  • Making better decisions. Research by Cloverpop shows that diverse teams are better at making decisions – 87% of the time! As Laura Sherbin, CFO and Director of Research at the Center for Talent Innovation notes, “Diversity and inclusion must go hand-in-hand to drive results. Cloverpop’s research bolsters the case that employers who build diverse and inclusive teams see the best outcomes.”

Tips for Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion at Your Organization

Now that you know that diversity and inclusion makes sense from a bottom line standpoint in addition to being the ethical thing to do, let’s explore some strategies for building a more LGBTQ+ friendly workplace.

  • Establish Formal LGBTQ+ policies. Whether it’s making sure that LGBTQ+ inclusion is part of your overall diversity policy or creating a separate policy around it, your formal policies need to demonstrate your commitment in this area. Be sure to address topics like parental leave, adoption, dress code expectations, and restroom use. 

 

  • Provide comprehensive LGBTQ+ training. This applies to both new hire onboarding and ongoing training sessions. It is a powerful way to educate your entire workforce about LGBTQ+ issues as well as your policies, expectations, and repercussions for violations.

 

  • Set employee expectations. While you cannot force employees to condone or agree with each other’s lifestyle, you can require your workforce to treat each other with respect. Define behaviors that help foster inclusion, such as using preferred names and pronouns. 

 

  • Use personal pronouns. In an inclusive workplace, it’s important not to assume anyone’s gender. Encouraging the use of pronouns you identify with in email signatures, social media and other written forms of communication can help trans and nonbinary people feel more comfortable around their peers. 

 

  • Adopt gender neutral language. Transition language in company documentation from he/she to they for more inclusive communications.

 

  • Create an LGBTQ+ network. A great way to show your support is to create an LGBTQ+ network in your organization. Creating such a group also provides opportunities to identify ways to improve your inclusive initiatives. In addition to this group, you can also seek out inclusion allies who can also offer support. 

 

  • Recruit purposefully. Start promoting a welcoming workplace from the start during the recruitment process. Include stories of diversity and inclusion on your website. Make sure your job postings use gender neutral language. Include references to same-sex partner benefits. Post on LGBTQ+-friendly job sites. 

With it being Pride Month, now is the time to take action and review and reassess your LGBTQ+ policies and initiatives. 

 

do you offer employee wellness programs

How Employee Wellness Programs Benefit Employers

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

If I had to pick one HR topic for organizations to focus on in 2022, it would likely be employee wellness. The pandemic has shown us just how important it is to focus on the physical and mental health of the workforce. While doing so is obviously key for the employees themselves, it is also necessary for companies to survive and thrive in our new work world.

The scares and challenges of the last two years have changed how employees view their jobs. Not only are they demanding a better work-life balance, they are also looking to align themselves with organizations that value them and genuinely consider their wants and needs. One way for employers to demonstrate that they see and hear them is through wellness programs. 

As an HR professional, I am often asked by leadership and CFO’s as to whether the benefits are worth the investment. My answer: unequivocally, yes! 

A Cost Benefit Analysis

By creating wellness programs, organizations reap a variety of benefits making it well worth the investment, such as:

  1. Providing a competitive edge in a tight labor market. Today’s job seekers expect health and wellness benefits from employers. They want more than just a good salary. In fact, candidates often include wellness programs on their list of job benefits that are important to them. 
  2. Retaining and engaging existing talent. Employee wellness goes hand-in-hand with employee engagement. Offering initiatives that are focused on an individual’s wellbeing lets workers know that they are not just another number or cog in the wheel. This helps employees feel they play an important part in the function of the organization and provides greater job satisfaction.
  3. Creating a positive corporate culture. When a company has a genuine concern for the workforce’s wellbeing, it fosters a culture of trust and respect, which in turn boosts morale and a feeling of belonging. A positive culture is not only important for engagement, but also for recruiting
  4. Lowering absenteeism and turnover. Initiatives that improve employee health and reduce stress levels in turn tend to decrease sick days and resignations. Employees who are healthy, well-rested and energized are more motivated to complete their work and perform their best – and are less likely to start job hunting.
  5. Reducing healthcare costs. When the workforce’s health improves, they are less likely to get sick saving the organization in healthcare expenses. Studies show that for every dollar an employer spends on wellness programs, the company saves an average of $3.27 in health care costs.
  6. Decreasing losses. The American Institute of Stress found that job stress costs the US industry more than $300 billion in losses due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, and accidents. 

The benefits employers gain from offering employee wellness programs are definitely worth the investment. 

Not sure what types of offerings to include in your wellness program? Read our blog Employee Health and Wellness Program Ideas

 

employee burnout

Employee Burnout Symptoms and Prevention Strategies

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

The stats don’t lie. American workers are experiencing heightened rates of burnout. 

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey, 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey, with three in five reporting negative impacts of that stress.

And Gallup found that about three in four American workers experience burnout on the job at least sometimes, with 29% reporting they feel burned out at work very often or always.

I don’t need to see the results of these surveys to know that burnout is real. My team has been helping business owners, C-suite professionals, and management address the stressors their workforce is experiencing since well before the start of the pandemic, although things have certainly progressed at warp speed since its eruption! 

Why have organizations reached out for our assistance? They know the toll burnout is taking on their employees, and in turn, the organization overall. Successful companies are built on happy and productive workers. Burnout impacts employee performance, which affects a company’s bottom line. To put that into dollars and cents, the American Institute of Stress notes that job stress costs the US industry more than $300 billion in losses due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, and accidents. 

Common Signs of Employee Burnout

Chances are you’ve experienced symptoms of burnout yourself – almost everyone I know has, including myself. Below are some of the most common indicators that your team is struggling.

Exhaustion – Emotional, Mental and/or Physical

If your employees seem tired all the time, they may be experiencing burnout. Increased work stress can carry over into home life, impacting the ability to unwind, relax or sleep. Not being able to restore or re-energize with down time impacts someone physically, mentally and emotionally. You can become irritable, unable to focus, and experience other physical ailments, such as chest pains, panic attacks, and headaches.

Mistakes and/or Decreased Productivity

A key signal of burnout is an increase in mistakes and/or a slide in productivity. Missed meetings and deadlines are also telltale signs.

Disengagement

Losing interest and disconnecting are common with burned out employees, along with a lack of enthusiasm, no longer socializing with coworkers, not actively pursuing new projects or tasks, and failing to return calls or emails.

Increased Absenteeism

Overworked employees tend to take sick days, whether as a way to renew energy or to avoid the stressors causing the burnout.

Heightened Sensitivity to Feedback

Stress can cause us to not see things clearly, as a result, workers may overreact to criticism by getting defensive, angry, or upset.

So What Steps Can Employers Take to Prevent Burnout? 

It benefits employers to invest in workplace wellness initiatives. Some preventative strategies include:

  • Mandatory management training. It’s important to give managers the skills and tools they need to be effective supervisors. Poorly trained managers can create employee stress.
  • Prioritizing workplace wellness. Creating a less stressful environment with quiet places to unplug and relax for even a few minutes a day can make a world of difference. Encourage mental health days and offer robust physical and mental health benefits, such as counseling and gym memberships.
  • Monitoring workloads. Employees should not be expected to maintain unreasonable workloads, schedules or timelines.
  • Encouraging employees to use their vacation time. So many workers fail to take their allotted days off because they have too much to do at work or they fear someone could replace them. Create a culture where vacation time is actively supported.
  • Promoting work-life balance. This should be lived from the top down in order for such a practice to work. Offering flexible work arrangements, such as where and when you work, can help to foster employee wellness, as can providing time off for family events and self care.
  • Supporting professional development. Oftentimes stressors arise around frustration over lack of opportunity for advancement. Showing interest in employee aspirations, helping to define career paths, promoting educational training, fostering a mentoring environment, and reminding employees of the importance of their roles all go a long way in supporting career development.

 

Employee Health and Wellness Program Ideas

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

Pandemic aside, a new poll from Gallup indicates that the percentage of workers who feel that their employer cares about their wellbeing has plummeted. Back in May of 2020, 49% felt that their organizations had a genuine concern for them, their work and their lives. But that number has now drastically dropped to 24%! 

Employers need to take serious note of this double digit decrease. Why? Because according to Gallup’s findings, workers who believe their employer actually cares about their wellbeing are:

  • 69% less likely to actively seek out a new job
  • 71% less likely to report experiencing significant burnout
  • Five times more likely to strongly promote their company as a place to work 
  • Three times more likely to be engaged at work

One way to demonstrate your organization cares is through the development of a robust employee health and wellness program. 

What Is a Wellness Program?

A wellness program is a workplace initiative specifically created to support and improve the physical and/or mental health of employees. There is no standard one size fits all approach to employee wellness programs. They should be tailored specifically for your team and evolve to meet shifting needs and wants. 

What to Offer in Your Health and Wellness Program

Wellness programs can include a multitude of features. In having worked with organizations across sectors and industries throughout the United States, I’ve found that wellness programs tend to offer a mix of the following, among other things:

Health Screenings

Providing in office screenings like blood pressure checks and BMI measurements can arm employees with medical information they may not routinely seek out.

Health Workshops

Your employees may want to improve their health but aren’t sure what they should be doing. Offer educational events such as stress reduction, healthy cooking classes, and smoking cessation workshops.

Gym or Exercise Class Memberships

Workers may not exercise because it is simply too cost prohibitive or they don’t have time to fit it into their schedule. Subsidizing gym memberships or providing a fitness center on site can help them pursue the healthy lifestyle they want but have been unable to achieve.

Fitness Challenges

Motivate employees to improve their physical and mental health with challenges and prizes for things like walking a mile each day, giving up smoking, eating more healthily, losing weight, or drinking more water.

Walking Groups

Organize early morning or lunchtime walking groups. Your teams could use the break and also benefit from the socialization.

Company Sports Teams

Team sports such as softball not only provide an outlet for exercise, but also an opportunity for workers to bond and form friendships.

Healthy Snacks and Meals

Stock your workspace with snacks like fresh fruit and protein bars. If you have a cafeteria, make sure it includes healthy options. Healthy eating can lead to better energy and more productivity.

Recreation/Game Rooms

Taking a break can help you see things in a different light. Create a space where your team can work as a team in a non-work setting to clear the mind and foster collaboration.

Relaxation Rooms

It’s no secret that today’s workers are experiencing unprecedented rates of burnout. A quiet place can help them destress and re-energize during the day.

Onsite Health Clinic

Depending upon the size of the organization, an onsite health clinic may be a great perk and help to address absenteeism.

Monthly Massages

Create a monthly spa day where employees can receive 10 minute chair massages.

Wellness program options are limitless. The above list is just some ideas to get you going. I’d love to hear what your organization is doing to improve the health and wellness of its employees.

How to Talk to HR About Mental Health

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

You are seen. You are heard. You are not invisible. You are valued. You are wanted. You are welcomed. You are not alone. In a crisis, call the NAMI Helpline at 800-950-NAMI or text “NAMI” to 741741

The last two years have increased anxiety – about jobs, family, finances, and our daily life in general – having a detrimental impact on our overall mental health. And as we don’t live in a bubble, our feelings are overflowing into the workplace, making mental health an employer problem.

I, as well as family and friends, have felt the effects of the stressors brought on by the pandemic as we juggle our work and personal lives. And we’re far from alone. A recent Lyra Health study found that 31% of workers said their mental health has declined over the past year, up from 24% at the end of 2020. And 42% reported that over the last 12 months mental health had some impact on their job, while 12% said it had a significant impact.

While many employers started prioritizing employee mental health prior to the pandemic, COVID pulled back the curtain and shined a spotlight on what has been a taboo topic. As a result, employers are recognizing the stressors impacting their workforce and are taking steps to create better work-life balance, reduce pressure in the workplace, and provide more robust mental health benefits. 

We’ve been working hand-in-hand with our clients helping them do just that by assisting them with setting up physical and virtual outlets for employees to discuss mental health issues, providing training sessions for employees on the mental health resources available to them and how to use them, organizing wellness reimbursements, and offering flexibility during work hours. Our goal is to make it acceptable to discuss mental health so that employees will feel comfortable seeking out the help they need, which benefits both the employees and the company overall. After all, a successful organization requires a happy, productive workforce.

We believe we’re making strides in this area. And according to the Lyra Health study, it seems that our colleagues are as well. 74% of those surveyed said they were very comfortable discussing mental health with their HR leader and another 22% were neutral on the question.

Tips on How to Start the Mental Health Conversation with Your HR Team

While all of the focus on mental health support is positive, it’s still a difficult subject to broach with direct managers. It’s scary because you don’t know how they will react. You may be afraid of losing your job, being judged or misunderstood, or even bullied. It may be easier to first talk to your company’s HR team. They can provide you an overview on the benefits available to you, as well as insight on possible accommodations to help you during this time. Below are some suggestions to help prepare you mentally for the conversation and tips to help guide it in the right direction.

Think of talking about your mental health in the same way as if you were reporting a physical health problem.

There isn’t a difference, it just feels different because of past stigma. Don’t be paralyzed by how you may be perceived. The pandemic has changed the playing field. So many workers have been suffering, so much so, that record numbers quit their jobs resulting in the Great Resignation. You are not alone!

Focus on your productivity. 

Let the HR team know how your mental health is impacting your work performance, rather than how you’re feeling. Give suggestions on how they can support you. This will help them figure out how to best help you. You may be able to work a more flexible schedule, take time off during the day to attend a therapy session, or get assistance streamlining responsibilities. 

Confirm what type of mental health benefits and programs your company offers. 

There may be more assistance available to you than you realized.

Remember that it is up to you how much you would like to disclose. 

HR professionals cannot ask you about your mental health, what you want them to know is strictly up to you. You might just want to let them know that you have been dealing with some major changes in your life and the stressors of them are impacting your work and you would like some assistance in addressing them so that you and the company are in a better position. 

Your employer has invested significant time and resources into training you and they have a vested interest in your performance. By talking with HR about your mental health, you can help yourself and the company overall.

 

 

 

graphic depicting neurodiversity

Neurodiversity Recruitment – Trends and Tips

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

With it being World Autism Month, I want to call attention to a topic I’m very passionate about: neurodiversity. You might have heard this term being thrown around as the latest workplace buzzword, but do you understand what it means and why it is so beneficial for organizations to take it to heart?

In his book The Power of Neurodiversity, Thomas Armstrong encourages people to realize that there is no standard for the human brain. Rather, there is an infinite range of brain function and behavioral traits. This is the concept of neurodiversity – and it is so empowering! The term is usually used to describe people who while bringing a host of talents to the table, may also need some extra support. The referred to group tends to include people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other neurological conditions. 

Many leaders have mistakenly clung to the notion that this extra support is not worth the effort, but research actually indicates that neurodiverse workers can be 30% more productive! In fact, some of the world’s leading companies have successful neurodiverse programs. Here are just a few and the benefits they have experienced:

  • Microsoft not only has a neurodiversity program, it has built an entire hiring program that affords neurodiverse individuals the ability to demonstrate their strengths and qualifications in non-traditional ways.
  • PwC believes “attracting, retaining and developing talented, diverse professionals — including individuals with disabilities — is a business imperative to help spur innovation, drive growth and sustain competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
  • JP Morgan has stated that their autistic employees achieve 48% to 140% more work than their typical colleagues. 
  • SAP started their Autism at Work program back in 2013 and has a 90% retention rate of employees on the autism spectrum. 
  • EY found that its neurodivergent employees excelled at innovation with their diversity of thought being the differentiator.

What organizations need to start understanding is that when they truly embrace neurodiversity, they can tap into a pool of talent that can successfully tackle the required tasks in today’s data-driven world, boosting the bottom line. Neurodiverse individuals often excel in key areas, such as interpreting data, analyzing data and thinking logically. Plus, neurodiversity offers other benefits like overcoming groupthink and tackling talent shortages. 

 What are you doing to include neurodiverse talent in your organization?

Here Are Some Tips to Help You Attract and Retain Neurodiverse Talent

1. Determine where your organization can benefit from diverse skills

Take a deep dive and identify the right fit in terms of needed skill sets and where the neurodiverse worker will be comfortable. 

2. Pay Careful Attention to the Language You Use

By language, I mean both how you refer to neurodiverse candidates and workers, as well as in your recruitment strategy. You want to make sure your job descriptions capture the eye of neurodiverse candidates. Avoid fluff, wish lists and generic descriptions. Instead, get down to the basics, focus on values, and highlight how your company welcomes neurodiverse talent. 

3. Include Your Neurodiversity Initiatives in Your Employer Branding

Let everyone know about neurodiversity in your workplace. Include a page or section about it on your website, share employee stories on social media, and promote your initiatives on LinkedIn.

4. Tweak Your Recruitment and Hiring Process 

There is no greater place to acknowledge that there is no standard or normal brain than in your recruitment and hiring practices. While they have the skills to do the job, the neurodivergent tend to not interview well. As I mentioned above, Microsoft built an entire hiring program around neurodiverse individuals. Many of the “normal” recruitment and hiring processes almost immediately rule out the neurodivergent. Just small talk or eye contact alone can be overwhelming. A few tweaks can make all the difference in your recruitment:

  • Let candidates “show” you what they can do rather than tell you
  • Send the candidates your interview questions in advance to help them better prepare verbal answers
  • Avoid vague questions
  • Consider using online assessments and/or phone screenings

It’s time to end the stigma and embrace all that a neurodiverse workplace can offer to both workers and the organization overall. But if you want to attract the talent, you need to make sure that your recruitment and hiring initiatives enable you to do so.

 

inclusive workplace

Characteristics of an Inclusive Workplace Culture

By Kimberly Kafafian

I’m 5 minutes late to every meeting. I don’t do it on purpose and my only explanation is that my neurodiverse brain has set my internal clock 5 minutes slow. I try and try and try, and yet I’m still 5 minutes late. I’ve asked my team, humbly, to accept it and they have. Why? Because simply, an inclusive workplace is good for business. Inclusivity is not just a hot topic or a trend. It’s a practice that drives real results – and one that companies should be embracing and supporting if they want to thrive and grow.

As an HR professional, I’m fortunate to have a close up look at how organizations benefit from a diverse workforce. In my experience, when leadership creates a workplace environment where everyone feels welcome, valued, seen and respected, great things happen, including:

  • Happier, more productive employees
  • Improved morale
  • Greater collaboration, which boosts problem solving
  • Increased creativity, driving innovation
  • Diverse perspectives that generate new ideas
  • Higher job satisfaction and lower turnover
  • Better recruitment of top talent

I often come across clients who are all in on the concept of building a culture of inclusivity, but simply are stuck when it comes to devising a strategy. To help put this concept into perspective, I like to break down for them the characteristics of an inclusive workplace culture. Doing this takes the abstract concept of inclusivity and makes it more concrete and attainable. 

9 Components of an Inclusive Workplace Culture

To create an inclusive culture, you need to understand the characteristics that make up its foundation. Let’s break it down.

1. Belonging

Inclusive environments make employees feel like they are welcome and accepted for who they are. It’s important to build a culture where workers believe they are important parts of something bigger.

2. Having a Voice

One of the biggest benefits of an inclusive workplace is the free flow of ideas. That can only be achieved if employees are encouraged to share their thoughts and if their viewpoints are wanted.

3. Feeling Valued

No one is going to do their best work if they don’t believe they are appreciated. Leadership needs to ensure that every team member feels they are recognized and respected.

4. A Collaborative Environment

When you break down silos and bring together varied talents, different skill sets, and differing levels of knowledge, you create the opportunity for new ideas to flow, enhancing innovation and boosting problem solving. 

5. Career Development Opportunities

Companies that provide learning and development opportunities demonstrate to their workforce that they have a genuine concern for their growth and career aspirations, regardless of position level and background.

6. Inclusive Leadership

If you want to create an inclusive culture, all actions need to start from the top down. Leadership must set the tone and commit to diversity across the entire enterprise.

7. Authentic DEIB Initiatives

Organizations can’t just talk the talk, they also must walk the walk with authentic DEIB initiatives by demonstrating their commitment through actions, such as placing diverse employees in high-profile positions.

8. Recognition of Differences

A color blind approach does more harm than good. Diversity should be recognized and celebrated so that employees truly feel like they can be themselves. And this is particularly important in relation to neurodiversity.  Leadership needs to understand the differences so they can build a culture that addresses each worker’s specific needs.

9. Access to Resources

Today’s workforce wants to know that you genuinely care about them. So, it’s important to provide the resources they need. This can take various forms, from support from management to health and wellness programs.

What are you doing to improve inclusivity in your organization? 

 

neurodiversity shown through colored brain

Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace

By Kimberly Kafafian

 

Dear HR People: Let’s play out a real life scenario, hopefully one that’s happening in real time at your organization. Knowing that the benefits outweigh the challenges, you’ve finally convinced your leadership team to embrace neurodiversity. You’ve expanded your definition of DEIB to include the neurodivergent, and identified the best fitting roles for your neurodiverse candidates. Your marketing team has tweaked your brand story to let everyone know you welcome the neurodivergent. And your team has adapted your recruitment processes to attract neurodiverse talent and enable them to shine during your selection process. Congratulations, you’re halfway there! Yes, you read that right: I said halfway. If you want your neurodiversity initiatives to be successful, you need to also make changes that support neurodiversity in the workplace. Like what, you ask? Below are some tips we give our clients for creating a culture and environment where both neurodiverse and neurotypical talent can thrive.

Put Accommodations in Place that Respect Differences

Everyone works differently and that is especially true for the neurodivergent. Management needs to ascertain how each team member works best and then adjust the environment and established processes accordingly. Some examples of typical accommodations include:

  • Clear, multi-step instructions
  • Reiteration of instructions
  • Communication using action words
  • Follow up calls and emails to reinforce discussions or directions
  • Work hours that focus on output rather than time
  • Headphones for those who have issues with auditory stimulation
  • Desks that convert from sitting to standing
  • Offering sensory objects
  • Dedicated quiet spaces

Provide a Mentor and/or Work Buddy

All workers can benefit from mentors and close work colleagues, but they are perhaps even more important for your neurodivergent talent. They can help provide career direction, bolster skill development, and be a supportive sounding board, as well as help create opportunities down the road. And together, they can share their strengths.

Encourage Flexibility and Inflexibility

Flexibility has definitely been a buzzword over the last two years. Leadership has realized that people can work from home and be productive. This workplace flexibility is great for those who may have social anxiety or difficulty engaging well with others. On the other hand, some neurodivergent workers are more successful when there are routines – such as going to an office space every day. 

Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace requires effort, but the benefits – such as differing perspectives and skill sets – are worth it. It’s good for the company and its talent.

neurodiversity

Benefits of Neurodiversity in the Workplace

By Kimberly Kafafian

During the month of April, we’re going to focus on neurodiversity in the workplace. Oftentimes it’s an overlooked and marginalized aspect of our workplace. It’s a subject I am passionate about; I’m also a resident expert. I am neurodiverse. My sons are neurodiverse. Our employees and clients are neurodiverse. I spent a large portion of my life feeling like a square peg getting shoved into a round hole. Fortunately over the last few years, more and more companies have started to prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives. Business leaders have come to recognize that organizations greatly benefit from a workforce composed of people of varying backgrounds. Not only does DEIB enhance engagement and productivity, it also fosters creativity, driving innovation and growth.

When companies take steps to improve DEIB, however, they tend to focus on gender, race, ethnicity and social background, typically leaving one group of workers overlooked: the neurodiverse. Studies estimate a staggering 50-75% of the 5.6 million autistic adults in the U.S. are unemployed or underemployed. This is extremely unfortunate as members of this group can bring so much to the table. 

What Is Neurodiversity?

As Nicole Baumer, MD, MEd has succinctly states, “Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.”

The term is typically used in the context of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as other conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, social anxiety disorders, and learning disabilities. The stigma usually associated with ASD or neurodivergent thinking is that these groups do not communicate or function the same way as neurotypical people. But that’s exactly the beauty and benefit of neurodiversity!

What people don’t understand is that there is such a wide range of strengths and challenges among people with ASD. So many in this group have average to above average IQs, communicate effectively, bring unique ideas and perspectives to the projects they work on, and offer skills and talents that add value overall. 

Ever since I began my career in HR, I have been extremely passionate about diversity and how employers can achieve it. I’ve pushed back against stigmas to promote diverse teams whose members working together can achieve great things. And when it comes to the neurodivergent, I know that this is an untapped pool of talent definitely worth recruiting. I’ve seen first hand how neurodiversity has made organizations stronger.

How Employers Benefit from a Neurodiverse Workforce

Hiring neurodiverse workers is a great way to give organizations the competitive edge they need in today’s environment. Here are just a few benefits companies can reap from prioritizing diversity in cognition.

Bolstered strengths and skill sets.

The neurodiverse can bring a host of sought after skill sets to an organization, including:

  • High levels of concentration
  • Superior mathematical and technical skills
  • The ability to hold detailed factual knowledge
  • And perhaps the most in demand skills right now: leadership, creativity and initiative (displayed by people with dyslexia according to a report from EY)

Overcoming “groupthink”.

Contrary to the popular saying, great minds “don’t” think alike – at least that’s how I see it. Neurodivergent individuals process things differently, so they see things differently. And that’s important if you want teams to effectively problem solve and come up with new ideas.

Driving innovation.

If you want to boost creativity then you need team members that don’t think in a traditional way. Neurodiversity fosters unique ideas and perspectives that drive the innovation companies need to thrive and grow.

Tackling talent shortages.

Businesses of all sizes are struggling to fill job openings right now. With so many unemployed and underemployed neurodivergent workers, HR departments should be tapping into this talent pool. Plus, studies demonstrate high retention rates among neurodivergent workers – something that could help address the Great Resignation.

It’s time to stop the stigma and embrace neurodiversity – it’s good for society and good for a company’s bottom line.

 

gender pay equity

New Report Concerning Gender Pay Equity

By Kimberly Kafafian

3-15-22

Today is Equal Pay Day. For those who don’t know the significance of this day, in essence the date marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Why do we mark this measurement? It’s because for every $1.00 a white male earns:

  • White women make $.79
  • Black women make $.64
  • Hispanic women make $.57

With it being March 15th, that means that women on average had to work an additional 2.5 months to make up for the pay gap! The fact that in 2022 women still have to work so much more than a man to earn the same pay evokes a range of emotions: sadness, anger and shock. In 2021, the date was March 24th, so I guess we’ve made some sort of progress. But according to a new Pew Research Center report that advancement must be minimal. It found that the gender gap in pay has remained relatively stable in the U.S. over the past 15 years or so, with women earning only 84% of what men earned. 

Explanations for the Gap in Pay Equity

According to the Pew Research report, much of the pay gap is attributed to educational discrepancies, occupational segregation and work experience. Although the number of women in higher-paying professional and managerial positions that were traditionally dominated by men has increased, women are still overrepresented in lower-paying occupations which don’t require higher education. These education and segregation explanations are supported by other research. PayScale’s Gender Pay Gap Report for 2021 noted that without controlling for factors such as education and occupation, women make only $.82 for every dollar a man makes. When comparing job title, years of experience, education, industry, location and other compensable factors, women in the controlled group make $0.98 for every $1.00 a man makes. So these two factors have a huge impact on the pay gap.

The experience factor impacts all education and occupation levels. Let’s face it, most women are the default parent.  As such, many women leave the workforce to be the main family caregiver. This interruption in career path has a significant impact on long-term earning potential. And the pandemic has only compounded the problem. Shutdowns pushed women in front-line positions out of the workforce forcing an experience gap. Even professionals who could work remotely took a hit to their careers as they had to leave their jobs for childcare reasons when schools closed. Right now, women’s participation in the labor force is at a 33-year low as more women take on caretaker roles.  This staggering statistic is underscored by a MetLife poll which found that 48% of respondents believe the pandemic negatively impacted their careers, with one in five saying they were pushed out of the workforce altogether.

The Pay Gap’s Impact on Lifetime Income Puts it All Into Perspective

Just think about those extra 2.5 months women need each year to catch up to their male counterparts. Now, add that up into years over a lifetime. If men and women retired at the same age, after working the same number of years, consider how much more income a man would have earned. It can be hundreds of thousands of dollars! In fact, according to a study by Lean In, women lost an average of $406,280 over the lifetime because of the pay gap. 

How Can We Reach Gender Pay Equity?

Despite all the gains, there’s still so much that needs to be done to erase the gap. One initiative that’s making strides is pay transparency. More and more jurisdictions are requiring proactive pay scale disclosure, which will hopefully narrow the wage discrepancies. But women need to be proactive as well. They should become knowledgeable of average salaries and seek higher pay when negotiating salaries and pay raises. As an HR professional, I know employers need to take significant actions. They must eradicate gender discrimination in the workplace and do a better job with their DEIB initiatives. Companies should also proactively promote parental and family leave for all genders so that the impact on careers is more balanced. Leaders need to take the lead here, such as the case with Twitter’s CEO, who after only three months on the job is taking parental leave. Working together is what will make the difference.