Employee Experience Roundtable | March 2023 🌟

Employee Experience Roundtable | March 2023 🌟

Every month, Epoch is bringing together employee experience leaders to share learnings, compare notes, and lean on each other! Scroll down to see key takeaways from the conversation! This conversation was focused on Neurodiversity and was meant to be a knowledge share meeting. 

How can you create neurodiversity communities within your companies? Do you already have a group like this established or looking to establish one?

At all companies present at the roundtable, there is a lot of interest from employees to start a Neurodiversity community ERG. The group shares a common sentiment that it’s important to have a safe space for this group. It is difficult to plan the creation of these groups because neurodiversity is often seen as a sensitive topic in the workplace. One company, is trying to put a formal process in place to start ERGs. In terms of the ND ERG, leadership has sirens going off. The first thing they asked is if they were excluding anyone with physical disabilities. They want to make sure nobody will come back and ask why some people aren't included. Another company does not have an ND group yet but has an informal slack channel to share resources and support each other.

Neurodiversity from an HR perspective

  1. There will always be risk and liability exposure. ADA rules and compliance issues open up for a different set of frisks than other protected groups in that sense. 
  2. Neurodiversity is a new term that a lot of people don’t understand and it’s very broad so a lot of communities have a long history of who they are, and how they relate and unite. That doesn’t exist yet so it’s hard for people to understand that.
  3. Whether groups are created or not, the risks start before that. People could be treated differently or not be accommodated without proper support.

The idea is to support employees and mitigate risks long-term because it will require you to have conversations of what are reasonable accommodations and resources so you can get ahead of any issues before they arise.

How do you communicate ERG progress with a neurodivergent sponsor?

Someone shares that at their company, an autistic employee is wondering why it’s taking so long to get a neurodiversity group. Another person shares that people on the spectrum tend to be more straightforward and literal. A lot of the time things are more black and white. To them it’s easy. There are ERGs for other groups, so they should get one too. They may also have a fear of getting turned down and personal shame involved with their status. People pushing for these things feel it's more than doing something at work. There’s a personal stake at risk. There’s a shame about being judged. 

Educating around neurodiversity

The education piece on neurodiversity is important. It’s a superpower in some ways. It's a different way of thinking. It’s not so much like a disability or mental illness but a different way of thinking, learning, and seeing the world. There are challenges with that but there are ways to use neurodiverse talent in a special way. It’s such a personal topic. If you’re still trying to win over support in that sense there are a number of studies and reports that have autistic-specific hiring programs that show higher retention rates. There are business cases for hiring neurodiverse talent.

In these initial discussions with others to create ERGs, what has been the biggest pushback? 

The biggest pushback is if they’re being inclusive to those with physical disabilities. The issue is you won’t know who that is unless they tell you. If we create this erg will we be spotlighting people that never shared they have a disability? The goal should be to create a safe space for neurodiverse people and allies. You don’t need to disclose anything. You can just join and listen. Some discussions have gone towards a greater focus on accessibility instead. It comes down to being clear on what disclosure means. It doesn’t necessarily mean accommodations. You need to ask for them. This ties into how the educational aspect goes. If someone discloses, you don’t need to treat them differently. 

How do you refer to others that are neurodiverse?

They’re neurodivergent. Everyone has a different experience but generally, that’s a safe term for everybody.  At one company, someone who’s autistic doesn’t want it to be talked about as a disorder. On the other hand, someone with ADHD doesn’t mind because “disorder” is in the name. You can never make everyone happy because neurodiversity is much broader than other groups.

Diagnosis is a privilege

Diagnosis of neurodiversity is a privilege when it costs money to get a full diagnosis. Some countries don’t believe in mental health and you don’t get diagnosed. Self-diagnosis is considered a valid diagnosis from a DEI perspective but HR individuals don’t see it that way.

Every company has to go at its own pace. Even if you can’t get an ERG, prioritize the frameworks for support so that even if there isn’t a group the ND community still feels seen, valued, and supported. 

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