Day 1

Sessions cover workplace inclusion across all stages of an employee's journey. They also uncover the role of inclusive technology & Artificial Intelligence.

Have a look through all 5 sessions, or jump straight into the sessions that are relevant to you:

Welcome to Day 1

A opening session with, Martin McKay, Texthelp CEO

Session details & slides

  • During the Festival of Workplace Inclusion, we've brought together industry experts and people with lived experiences of neurodiversity. Our goal? To explore how to transform the working world for those of us who think, work and learn differently. Join our opening session and hear from Texthelp’s CEO, and Dyslexic thinker Martin McKay. Martin will share how to make the most of today’s event, so you leave with the resources and knowledge to make a lasting impact in your organization.

  • Welcome everyone to our second Festival of Workplace Inclusion. Last year's festival was such a success that we've decided to turn this into an annual event. It's great to have you all with us here today and hopefully you'll be able to join us tomorrow too. 

    So shortly I'll be sharing some tips to help you get the most out of the day, but first let me give you a bit of background into what this day is all about. Right now you're hearing from me, Martin McKay, the CEO and founder of Texthelp. 

    We're really passionate about doing our part to create a world where differences are valued and celebrated. We want to create a world where every person has the chance to feel seen and understood and where every piece of their, you know, personality and their potential in the workplace can really shine. 

    That's our core purpose. We create technology that helps people to understand and be understood in all stages of life, from education through to the workplace. And having spent my whole life advocating for disability and neurodiversity awareness and inclusion, it's pretty interesting that I've just recently had it confirmed that I'm actually dyslexic myself. And while I've suspected for a long time that I was dyslexic, I wasn't really you know, surprised by the diagnosis, but I was really surprised about how I felt disclosing this diagnosis to my colleagues. 

    I was actually worried that my colleagues and my investors would view me differently, have less confidence in my capabilities. And as the CEO of a company who makes software for people with dyslexia, and I'm surrounded by colleagues who advocate for people like me, it should have been easy. And, so if I felt that way, you know, a lack of confidence about disclosing my dyslexia, imagine how a young person starting, you know, the beginning of their work life feels. So that has really made me even more passionate about trying to create a working world that embraces inclusion, you know my passion for that has just grown so much in the last year and I was already pretty passionate. 

    So that's what today and tomorrow is all about, coming together to explore how we can create a workplace that is not only inclusive but it offers support for employees to, you know, be exactly who they are and allow their strengths to shine through, right from the moment they start work. 

    This year's theme is focused on transforming tomorrow. All of our sessions will explore the small steps we can make to hopefully together make big strides in building a more inclusive working world, and we'll be un uncovering new strategies that can help us revolutionize our workplaces for the better. So throughout this two-day event you'll be hearing from some amazing organizations who have each had great success and they've got some brilliant stories to share. 

    So our lineup includes the Valuable 500, IBM, CIPD,  EY, the Business Disability Forum, Disability:IN, Neurodiversity in Business, and Dell. And we've also got a bunch of other neurodiverse people who will be sharing their personal insights and what encourages them and what empowers them to really be their best. So I'd like to take a moment to thank our partners, thank you thank you for getting involved and helping us to make this happen. We really couldn't do this without you. And thanks to all of you who are online here now, 

    it's great to have you with us here today. We're really pleased to see so many people who are interested in improving workplace inclusion. 

    So what can you expect from today? Well we have a keynote with UK TV presenter Hamza Yassin who will be sharing why he believes his dyslexia is a gift. That's up next. And then across four more sessions we'll be covering everything from inclusive recruiting and onboarding to employee development and creating an inclusive culture, and lots more. 

    So you can attend these sessions by clicking on the schedule tab at the top of your screen, and that's where you'll get to hear from neuro inclusion experts as they present their insights or share their experiences. You can discover more about the speakers by clicking on the speakers tab at the top of the screen. 

    Also don't forget to explore our booths tab if you click the booth tab, you'll find lots of free resources to take away with you as well as top tips from professionals in the diversity and inclusion field. And also keep an eye on the chat room throughout the day to learn how you can be in with a chance to win our spot prizes and take part in our scavenger hunt. 

    So that's what to expect from today and not forgetting tomorrow where we'll be doing it all again with a brand new keynote and a new set of sessions and another excellent lineup of speakers, so be sure to come back tomorrow. And feel free to get involved with us on social media by tagging #TexthelpFest23, perhaps Donna can post that into the chat for people who, like me, aren't good at spelling.

    But it's #TexthelpFest23, that's our hashtag. We'd love to hear you and you know share your thoughts and your feedback and what you've enjoyed most. Thank you again for joining us today, we really hope you leave today feeling inspired and confident for the future. 

    So up next we have our keynote session so head over to the live tab and hear from Hamza Yassin, the winner of one of the most popular TV shows in the UK, Strictly Come Dancing. He's going to be talking about dyslexia with my colleague and our Chief People Officer here at Texhelp, Cathy Donnelly. So thank you very much and I look forward to sharing the day with you.

It’s time to power up inclusive recruitment: How to create a Neurodiversity Program

A session with Hiren Shukla, Neuro-Diverse CoE Leader, EY, Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director, UbiSoft & Danielle Biddick, Program Manager, Diversity Talent Acquisition, Dell.

Session details & slides

  • With inclusive recruitment comes accessible and flexible recruitment processes that are free from bias. But how can we customize our hiring and onboarding processes even further, and ensure that talent within the organization is also encouraged to progress?

    In this session, we explore how Neurodiversity Programs offer a holistic approach to inclusive recruitment. Gain insights from 3 leaders of such programs. Explore how to create a Neurodiversity Program that promotes success of prospective talent, and empowers thriving careers of existing employees. 

  • David Yozzi, Senior Vice President, Texthelp:

    Welcome to today's session on Powering Up Inclusive Recruitment. During this session, we'll be uncovering how neurodiversity programs help us to take a holistic approach to inclusive recruitment.

    Hi, my name is David Yozzi. I'm the Senior Vice President for our workplace division here at Texthelp and I'm a dyslexic. Joining me is here in Hiren Shukla, Neurodiverse Senator of Excellence Leader to EY, Pierre Escaich, Neurodiversity Talent Program Director of Ubisoft, and Danielle Biddick, Program manager for Diversity Talent Acquisition at Dell. All three are leading hugely successful neurodiversity programs at their organizations, and they're going to share all of their expert insights here with you today. So welcome Hiren, Danielle, and Pierre. It's great to have you here.

    Before we get started, I'd like to share some insights into why this topic of this session is so important. First of all, I want to give you a very quick introduction to Texthelp and why we are so invested in neurodiversity inclusion.

    Texthelp is a global software company whose mission is to help people understand and be understood. To date, our tools have supported over 200 million people worldwide, mostly people with neurodivergent conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia, but also those with low literacy in English as a second language. And there is no doubt that we all need to be better at supporting our neurodiverse colleagues.

    As most of us probably know, research suggests that at least one in five of us has a neurodivergent condition. However, according to research from the Westminster Achievability Commission, 88% of neurodivergent candidates have felt discouraged from applying for a job and 52% have felt discriminated against during the selection process. As a person who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, statistic really hits home for me.

    The problem is highlighted further with unemployment rates among the neurodivergent community. Inclusive recruitment is a way forward to breaking down these barriers, but we must also ensure we're welcoming talent into a workplace where they can succeed.

    At Texthelp, we surveyed 500 neurodivergent workers on their experiences at work, and we found out that 32% of them have experienced a lack of career progression and 61% of them have experienced stigma in the workplace. During this session, our speakers will share how neurodiversity programs offer a well-rounded solution that promotes the success of prospective talent and also empowers thriving careers. So to kick us off, I'd like to invite Hiren to say a few words.

    Hiren Shukla, Neuro-Diverse CoE Leader, EY:

    Wonderful. Hey, thank you so much, David, for having me today. As you said, my name is Hiren Shukla. I am EY's founder and global leader of our Neurodiverse Centers of Excellence.

    A quick visual description of myself. I am a Indian male, brown skin, black hair, wearing a brown shirt and glasses. And the description that you probably can't see is I'm extremely excited to be here today and to share with you not only EY's journey, but a much broader picture on how we see the inclusive economy creating value in the world.

    David, the points that you were making before on stigma and lack of disclosure, I'm going to actually flip the script on the opportunities that exist today. When we are deliberately more inclusive, we're actually creating value for everyone. And so as I have worked in the professional services space for 26 years or so, we always think about how are we creating value for our colleagues, our clients, and our entities?

    And I don't think that is a option anymore for any large organization where our brand, our reputational capital, and most importantly our authenticity of who we are, how we recognize differences, and then those organizations that not only want to survive in this extremely volatile environment but want to thrive will not only recognize differences but deliberately tap into the power of thinking differently. That's the perspective today that I'm hoping to leave you all with.

    And if I'm going to ask anything of all of you listening today is you're going to tell five people today who are not here, what you've learned, what you've heard, and then as you think about the actions that you're going to take after you've listened to this amazing lineup of speakers at the Festival of Inclusion, how we're going to work together to build a better working world, as we say at EY.

    So with that said, let me share a couple of slides with you all that give you some backdrop. What has been EY's journey and experience around this topic of neurodiversity and neuro inclusion? How have we created value and what does this model look like that we are replicating around the world? So if you give me a moment, I'm going to go and share my screen and let's see if this will cooperate. Okay, I'm going to go into presenter mode.

    Okay, so hopefully you all are seeing my slide that is titled on the left The EY Neurodiversity 8 Year Journey. We've been on this journey for eight years when we started to think about the intersection of three things. One, what does the future of work look like? This is the workforce and the workplace. And we realized eight years ago that the impact of data technology, the shifting generations, as well as geopolitical disruption and a number of other things would create tremendous transformation, challenges and opportunities in the world.

    So A, we were thinking about the future of work. Secondly, how do you increase innovation capacity and how do you accelerate transformations that many organizations unfortunately don't get right? And we realize the skills of the future require the adaptation of consistent application of data and technology.

    And today as we're speaking, the impact of artificial intelligence specifically generative AI is more important than ever, which means baseline creativity, baseline curiosity, doesn't cut it anymore. And the power of those that think differently, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism, the whole umbrella of neurodivergence is not just a nice to have anymore, but it is a critical component to new innovation capacity and how do you accelerate transformation efforts, new product, new process, challenge, status quo, all of this through the lens of individuals who think differently.

    The third item that really prompted EY on this journey is the broad topic of sustainable value creation. You heard me talk a little bit earlier that value is measured on three axis, our colleagues and our organization. So it's our company itself and our people. Two, it's our clients and our customers. And three, it's the communities that we live in. And with EYs presence in over 140 countries and 700 cities around the world, we have tremendous geographical depth and breadth. And the value that we're creating for those communities and with our clients, that opportunity is tremendous.

    And so eight years ago, as we're thinking about sustainable growth, meeting business needs, creating new product, accelerating emerging technology, and frankly tapping into the power of solving complex problems through the lens of inclusion, this is the why EY decided to really start investing and double down on how neurodiversity and these cognitive differences could really empower us to create tremendous value again through the platform of inclusive economy.

    And so to date, as we have continued to replicate and expand our center of excellence model to today in over 22 cities and 10 countries around the world, we've realized that the ability to tap in to new sources of talent, and this is going to touch on the recruitment process, the ability to start skilling and re-skilling individuals, not just neurodivergent individuals.

    The entire workforce is going to need to be much more adapted, constant re-skilling now, as well as the support needed for both neurodivergent individuals, neurotypical individuals, and cutting across every segment and dimension of diversity, race, age, gender, sexual orientation. Cognitive diversity is a massive entry point into the beautiful opportunity of universal design. Which means the changes you make, for example, in your recruitment process then become beneficial to all.

    And so we're really proud of two things that I'll point out on this slide. One, 93% retention, career mobility and career progression of individuals who would never have had that opportunity and were severely challenged from entering through the traditional front door of large organizations. But two, the massively growing neurodiversity employee community at EY today, which is one of the world's largest that has been deliberately activated through the power of belonging and psychological safety.

    We all know we bring our authentic selves to work when we feel safe and when we feel like we belong. In the neurodiversity community at EY that is massive in nature and getting ready to celebrate neurodiversity in November, which I hope you all are too. Combined with our business strategy, our center of excellence model has created, as you can see on this slide, tremendous value in the world, innovation, purpose, pride, and helping us to transform the way that we think leadership, management and teaming of the future looks like, which means the education for neurotypicals and that change management journey has been a very deliberate aspect of how we see cultural accelerated transformation.

    So with all of this said, let me go to something that happened earlier this year as EY was selected for our work in neurodiversity as one of eight global lighthouses by the World Economic Forum. And you can look this up online, and I encourage you to look at the white paper by our friends at McKinsey because through months and months of interview and submission of documentation, what we've been able to do is put together a bit of a robust, scalable, sustainable framework.

    I've given you a snapshot of this on this slide. But effectively the reason I'm showing this to you is not only to tell you how proud we are of EY to be recognized as a global lighthouse, specifically the only one in the neurodiversity space and the only lighthouse beyond gender, social, and racial equity that touches the abilities agenda, BEIA, which you'll see highlighted up there, the second bullet on the right hand side.

    But this is a blueprint, this is a framework that you could use and think about on how you begin to create sustainable, scalable models that drive the value of inclusion in a very tactical operational manner. This is what we find a lot of organizations struggling with. I think between all of us, we would very readily agree, we all are champions for inclusion. I think where we struggle is how to do this.

    Frankly, this is one of the reasons why I am such a big fan of our friends at Texthelp. It's because without the tools, without the processes, without the implementation framework, you don't know how to drive inclusion not just for one or two or a handful of individuals, but for the massive amount of individuals, not only 15% to 20% or one in five in the world, but as we know, most recent data is showing that 53% of the Gen Z population, these are individuals that are currently somewhere between the ages of 11 and 26 years old.

    So effectively the workforce that we will be hiring for the next 10 years and your leaders, your future managers, 53% of Gen Z identify as neurodivergent. We find this extremely fascinating that the terms that are currently used, the neuro majority as we know today, we would think about the majority of cognitive variation or cognitive style to be the neurotypical, those that converge in social thinking, communication, and learning style. And when we think about the neuro minority, this is the ADHD, dyslexic, dyspraxic, dyscalculate, autistic, and other population that we would today label the neuro minority.

    What you will see happening over the 10 years is going to be a switch, a literal flip of inherent cognitive difference becoming the neuro majority. Now, if that is not enough for large organizations to start thinking about talent strategy, workforce strategy, how do you support those in your organization? How do you create authentic spaces of belonging and psychological safety? This is a burning platform.

    So with all of this being said, I'm going to stop sharing and I'm going to double click for a moment onto... Once I get back to my slides. Here I go. All right, let me click double into not just the recruiting process, but let me very briefly touch what happens after recruiting.

    And so the big aha moment for us at EY as we began deconstructing the problem statement is why aren't neurodivergent individuals getting through the traditional front door? And the light bulb moment was most of the interview assessment candidate process is a behavioral based process. We are looking for ad hoc behaviors from individuals where we're expecting to create instant rapport and are they thinking on their feet? These are not necessarily attributes that are indicative of performance.

    And so the obvious answer for us is why wouldn't we move to a recruitment process that was more focused on performance and observation over a period of time? This takes us a week to do at EY. We call it super week. But all of this being said, one week upfront of assessment of an individual simulating the work environment, looking for three key items, aptitude, acumen, and interest.

    You're probably noticing I've not mentioned education, I've not mentioned previous experience. I've mentioned the three things, acumen, aptitude, and interest. When we know those three align for a candidate, they will be a good fit for a role, particularly successful if we simulate the work environment and provide them the tools like read, write by Texthelp, which we use extensively at EY.

    When we provide these levels of support, we are ensuring the highest degree of success. And so post the recruitment process that I've just given you a snapshot of, we then move into what does supportive onboarding, how do we set the environment, how are we creating what we call the highest belonging teams?

    I work with some of my amazing colleagues at EY that have developed this concept around high belonging teams. And as you could probably imagine, high belonging teams would infer and basically drive higher performing teams. And so everything that I'm talking to you about today is not necessarily just because it is the right thing to do. I'm really calling out the business value and why you want to drive inclusion.

    And this concept of high belonging teams, which really sets upon the managers, the leaders, and the team members in creating the psychological safety for all of us regardless of our differences such that we're bringing our authentic selves to work. This is where we see new product creation IE innovation, where we see process optimization, thereby driving tremendous efficiencies, increasing our bottom line margin, and lastly, creating much higher levels of pride and purpose that are driving employee engagement and frankly, customer and client service.

    And so I say all of these things to you, not because they are new concepts, but because there is really specific tactical ways that you drive a deliberate intentional process for your candidate pool and your employee base.

    And again, the alignment of purpose between EY and Texthelp on how we think about the world and deliberately unlocking the power of thinking differently, not only for new candidates coming through a recruitment process, but frankly for the thousands of existing employees that you already have in your workplace, this is a business imperative and an amazing opportunity for you to create value for your colleagues, your clients, and your communities.

    David, I couldn't be more proud to be here today and hopefully some of the information I shared is helpful to those that are listening. But without further ado, I will hand back to you.

    David Yozzi, Senior Vice President, Texthelp:

    I have one word. Wow. That was fantastic, Hiren. I'm like, I want to stand up on my chair and start cheering, particularly given the fact that I am dyslexic and hearing someone describe the opportunity, not just to sort of say it's something, a good thing to do, but it's an opportunity to move us all forward in a way that is significant to our businesses, our communities, and the people we're close to. There's so many great takeaways here. I wrote a lot of things down, but I love acumen, interest, and aptitudes specifically as it relates to recruitment. Incredibly insightful. And thank you. Those words were inspiring, to say the least.

    Hiren Shukla, Neuro-Diverse CoE Leader, EY:

    All right, thanks for having me, David.

    David Yozzi, Senior Vice President, Texthelp:

    Yeah. So now we're going to hear from Pierre about all the wonderful things that he's working on at Ubisoft. So Pierre, over to you.

    Pierre Escaich, Ubisoft:

    Thank you very much, David. Thanks for the invite. Thank you Hiren also for sharing EY who is clearly one of the pioneer of bringing no diversity at work.

    Very pleased to be with you today. My name is Pierre Escaich. I'm 51, a father of three children. And as you can here, I am also French. To describe myself quickly, I'm a white male with no air and today I'm wearing a purple shirt.

    I'm working as a neurodiversity talent program director for Ubisoft. So it's a pretty typical title, but in fact there is a strong link between neurodiversity and video game.

    Last year a survey has been done in UK by UK's trade body of the video game industry in UK and more than 18% of video game developer self-identify as neurodivergent. Among them two condition are especially overrepresented, ADHD with more than 10%, it's twice more than in the general population, and autism with 4%, which is not only twice more than in the general population, but in UK for example, it's at least six times more than in any other industry.

    So why this link? Well, if you know who did create the industry, geeks, nerds, techies, who are they? Well, most of them are neurodivergent. And when you look at our work, creating video games requires lots of talent and it appears that the talent we need fit extremely well with the strength of neurodivergent individuals.

    Myself, I'm an ADHDer I discovered through my children who've been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. And you'll find lots of people with ADHD in the industry. At Ubisoft for example, you might find a lot in project coordination role because they tend to be excellent in emergency mode for example, or with their hyper focus. Of course, we have a large pool of programmer to develop our game. Among our programmer you will often meet people on the spectrum.

    We have also people dyslexic, and as you might know, people with dyslexia might have a much stronger 3D visualization capacity and among our artists we'll find a lot of dyslexic.

    And what about Ubisoft today? So we indeed created a program more than two years ago, and it started with an employee resource group that I had the honor to create and which is no strong of 500 members across 20 countries. So Ubisoft is a 20,000 people company and now a dedicated neurodiversity talent program, which is part of our HR, but which is also supported by our diversity and inclusion department.

    So let me tell you a little bit more. According to us, what are the keys to set up and to create neurodiversity talent program? I would say that what is really important, and it's to realize that each of you, you probably have a lot of neurodivergent employees in your staff, but there is a chance and it was said in the introduction that majority of them are hiding or masking.

    So the very first thing I would say if you are interested to create a program on neurodiversity is that you need to take care of yourself first. And that's the road we wanted to follow at Ubisoft first by creating an employer resource group, providing raising awareness, but also providing community support internally. And then our program, we decided to focus first on training. So we recently completed the training of all our recruiters and we're going soon to start the training of all our HR followed by our managers.

    And we think that before trying to recruit more divergent profile, you need first to be sure that your organization is really neuro inclusive and ready to welcome those profile. And you need to take care of yourself first. You know that oxygen mask analogy, you need to take care of yourself first before taking care of the other. So that's the very first thing. I think one of our recommendation would be start internally, look after people would be keen to stand up and share their experience as neurodivergent. And from that point, you can start something.

    Then of course what is really important and Hiren mentioned it, is to create strong link with the business objective of your organization. And I think that there is a business case for neurodiversity at work that helps you to switch from, to travel from neurodiversity to neuro inclusion network. The business case is simple, adopt neuro inclusive practice means optimize the return on investment in your employee talent.

    Why am I saying this? Very often? I'm using the following analogy. Let's say that your organization need to recruit the best singer in the world.

    I'm living in Copenhagen, Denmark and in Copenhagen, Denmark, it's famous for the Little Mermaid. So you all know that the Little Mermaid is an excellent singer. So let's say that your recruiter interviews the Little Mermaid, job interview is happening fine, you have found the right candidate. And then you say to her, "You know what? I'm going to send you to our center where we develop our games." And this center is let's say in Austin, Texas, in the middle of the desert.

    If you go there six months after, you will notice that The Little Mermaid lost her voice, that she's not performing. What did happen? There is no seawater in Austin, Texas and The Little Mermaid to be able to sing needs seawater.

    So no inclusion means to realize first and foremost, the very same principle of neurodiversity, which is every human brain is as unique as your fingerprint and you as a company and especially modern companies, we're facing a very uncertain world, right? So it's key for us to develop the ability to gather around the table the maximum number of different ways of solving problem, different ways of thinking, different ways of communicating, because that will help us to solve unknown issues and to be successful.

    Being neuro inclusive at work means of course, as it was said before, to establish psychological safety. And beyond that it's to develop your capacity to understand, to welcome, manage, and leverage difference. And this is what a neuro inclusive approach can bring you.

    And as a benefit, as a business benefit being and deploying neuro inclusive good practice in terms of communication, performance, evaluation, or work organization, it'll allow you to boost your creativity and innovation. For us, that's something extremely important, but it'll also allow you to boost employee performance just like The Little Mermaid.

    If you don't provide her with seawater, she won't be able to perform. If you recruit a very talented programmer who is telling you they are on the spectrum and they are very sensitive to noise and you place them on a very noisy open space, well they won't perform at their full capacity.

    So our best interest as an employer is to focus not on fixing people, but on fixing the work environment. And that's the third principle, I would say. The third key to create a neuro diversity program in your company is let's grab the idea of fixing people. Let's focus really on what we are in charge, what we can control. It's a work environment and by work environment, it's not only the physical space, it's also the processes of where we communicate.

    And then in terms of program, as I was saying earlier, there is a good chance that you have a large number of neuro divergent people working in your company. Both they're hiding today. And David shared the statistic earlier about why, because people are afraid. People are afraid to be stigmatized because we've been stigmatized previously.

    So the ultimate elements I would share about potential keys for a neuro diversity program is to then as a company, focus on training. Training your recruiter of course, but not only, training your HR, training your manager, and help them to become neuro inclusive, then facilitate their work, providing them with tools, information, how they can be effectively neuro inclusive. And of course apply everything in recruitment, but also in the onboarding process and in the day-to-day work.

    If I had to give you a very practical example and a very practical tip that everyone could start applying from tomorrow, it'll be the following one. We are all organizing meeting in our respective organization, right? And here is neuro inclusive tips.

    You should organize your meeting like you organize your dinner party at home. If you organize a dinner party at home, I'm sure you're going to check the food preference of your guests because you certainly do not want to serve meat to a vegetarian friend or family member. And if you do so and they eat meat, well they turn sick the day after.

    So when we organize a meeting, we should ask at the beginning of every meeting if everyone is comfortable with public speaking. If some people are preferring to express their ID through text message, we should offer the possibility to use voice to use text. We should also offer the possibility to the participant to answer after the meeting because not everyone is able to process the information so quickly, many, many time.

    So this is something we can try to do and we're trying to do in our organization to be more inclusive. And by doing this, instead of having access to only maybe 50% of the opinion around the table, because you force the usage of voice, you'll get access to 100% of the option.

    Something we wanted to share also today that we have one specificity that should be serve. We started first with an employer resource group, and today we try to partner between the employee resource group and the neurodiversity talent program. And that dual approach and partnership is quite interesting because on the one hand, the ERG is focusing first and foremost on raising awareness.

    This week currently we're organizing our first neurodiversity internal awareness week with many conferences, speakers, putting the focus this year on the testimony of our neurodivergent colleague about what it's like to be our divergent network. So ENG is focusing on raising awareness, but also on providing community support.

    They did set up an amazing online private space, which is a secure space where people are supporting each other. It's a kind of peer support, so they exchange information, tips. It's a very benevolent space that contributes greatly to the establishment of psychological safety.

    That ERG is also a source of potential feedback, expertise about what it's like to be no divergent network like I was saying. And on the other hand, setting up an official program, an HR program means that you can do your job to provide training, to provide inclusive tools and practice and to adapt and perform excellent recruitment with no bias.

    And that dual approach is very interesting because it nurtures each other. It's not the responsibility of one individual, but it's a common responsibility where everyone is contributing and that gives many opportunity. Currently, we've been releasing some one pager for our HR and manager on a neurodivergent condition network, and those documents has been checked, reviewed, and enriched by the community member of the employee resource group.

    One question we had while we were preparing this panel was how an ERG can potentially support recruitment. Well, as I was saying, first and foremost, raising awareness, but also helping the organization to become really neuro inclusive because there is not only the recruitment, you need to be able to welcome and onboard properly the people you recruit.

    And for this, if you have the chance to have an existing community on board, you can potentially tap into it to provide mentors, buddies. And it's not enough to do a recruitment program. You need absolutely to be sure that the manager, the team who will welcome the neurodivergent candidates are ready to welcome them and to work with them. So that's something which is really essential.

    And if we're talking about recruitment, there is also a good chance that among your recruiter, you might have some neurodivergent folks, so those are your expert. You may call for their support.

    So that's the journey we're making at Ubisoft in terms of neurodiversity. And we try really to go from neurodiversity to neuro inclusion network. We do believe in the concept of neuro inclusion, which is trying to adapt the work environment so that every staff member can reach their full potential in terms of talent and skill while still respecting each and everyone's singularity. And this is what is at stake.

    An analogy to conclude we're using sometimes. We take reference to the Star Wars universe, which is well known, right? So you know that in Star Wars you have the clones and you have the robots. So in every organization, once you have success, you might be tempted to create an army of clones.

    An army of clones is people who are thinking the same way, working the same way, expressing the same idea. But if you know the movie, it's not ending very well for them. The people who are winning is the rebellion. And what is the strengths, the major characteristic of the rebellion? The ability of that group and their leader to be able to understand, welcome and manage difference, to get people together, neurotypical, as well as neurotypical for around the common goal and make them work and interact together and be extremely successful. And this is what we want to try to do. We still have some work to do. The journey is long, but we're happy to be on that road. Thank you.

    David Yozzi, Senior Vice President, Texthelp:

    Wow, that was fantastic, Pierre. There's again, so many pearls of wisdom. I love your comment about not focusing on fixing people versus serving them in creating inclusive environments that adapt to them versus forcing them to adapt to the work environment. What a powerful message and incredibly powerful in terms of what it must make your employees feel to be part of the Ubisoft community. Thank you for those words. Very inspiring.

    Pierre Escaich, Ubisoft:

    Thank you, David.

    David Yozzi, Senior Vice President, Texthelp:

    So now we're going to hear from Danielle about some of the initiatives she's been championing at Dell. Danielle couldn't make it today, but she's recorded her presentation for us. So I'll pass it over to Danielle for now.

    Danielle Biddick:

    Hello everyone. My name is Danielle Biddick. I'm with Dell Technologies and in my role at Dell, I lead our hiring strategy for individuals with disabilities. My pride and joy is that I have the privilege of also managing our neurodiversity at Dell hiring program. So that's what I'm here to talk with you a little bit about today, and I'll just provide a high-level overview of what the program looks like, some of those key factors and the bread and butter of how we hire and how we support individuals throughout their lifecycle at Dell. I welcome any questions or follow-up conversations, but just to kick things off, we launched the program in 2018 in partnership with a couple of local nonprofit organizations, and the program was created with the intent to provide career readiness training, an altered interview experience and a variety of on-the-job support resources for neurodivergent jobseekers.

    We currently offer the program in both the United States and Canada for internships and full-time career opportunities, and we place individuals into a variety of role types across the business. We're actually currently recruiting for summer internship opportunities in several different business functions, including finance, cybersecurity, supply chain management, business administration, software development, marketing, data analytics, and HR. I believe that's all of them. But as you can see from that long list, we definitely don't try to pigeonhole candidates into one specific role type. We understand that neurodivergent talent is out there and interested in so many different types of roles and really skilled at those different types of roles. So we try to offer opportunities across all different sides of our business. So if you're interested in an internship opportunity, please visit our career site at Just a quick plug for the program there. But there are a number of reasons why we launched the program, specifically centered around the prevalence of neurodivergent and the high unemployment rates associated.

    We have all heard the spiel of the business case, but at Dell we recognize that those were very troubling statistics, considering a lot of the time neurodivergent individuals possess the types of skills that we're looking for and that we need at Dell. I'm talking about traits like strong observational skills, attention to detail, out of the box thinking and problem-solving styles, and the ability to hyper-focus for a long period of time. So with that, we recognized that we were really missing out on this impactful talent pool, and we attributed it to the traditional interview process sometimes being very limiting for some individuals and not allowing them to fully showcase their skills or qualifications for the role. Because for many neurodivergent candidates, typical interviews rely too heavily on verbal communication skills or unwritten social cues, which can occasionally cause a disadvantage for candidates who process or communicate differently.

    So in order to solve for that, we partnered with Neurodiversity in the Workplace to offer an alternative interview experience by using a skill-based hiring model. And that skill-based hiring model is really designed to remove biases and barriers by focusing solely on the candidate's core competencies for the role. It's important for me to also call out that prior to conducting these interviews, we also provide neurodiversity awareness training to hiring managers who participate. That training really just breaks down different characteristics of neurodivergence, demystifies some stereotypes along the way, and ultimately offers a variety of practical tips for how to create a more inclusive environment for different ways of learning and thinking and socializing. And we also offer an online training for any Dell team member who is interested in learning more about some of those experiences or characteristics. And all of our training content is provided by the neurodivergent team members both in the community and that we've hired on at Dell.

    So, with that being said, back to the interview experience. We give candidates the opportunity to create professional portfolios, and those portfolios are used as a tool for candidates to talk about their skills and interests. It kind of solves for that question of tell me about yourself. And so, it gives candidates a tool that's much more structured and predictable. They can practice how they want to present it in advance, and we often hear from candidates that it's a much less anxiety-provoking experience if they know what to expect going into it. So we find that those portfolios are really great tools, not only for them to use in this interview process, but for them to take with them. And in addition to those portfolios, we also have candidates work on projects throughout the course of a week. These are low-volume projects. They're not Dell-related projects, but rather opportunities for candidates to showcase their skills.

    And so, if they're applying for a role where they're required to be proficient in a specific programming language, then we'll have them demonstrate that skill directly to hiring managers. So it gives managers a firsthand look at how they approach problems, ways that they troubleshoot along the way, and then ultimately what conclusions they come up with and potentially what they would even do next. And so, managers really get a firsthand look at how this person would work and show up on their team. And, in addition to that, we are meeting with the candidates on a regular basis, answering questions, getting to know them, and offering other sessions so that they can learn more about Dell and set expectations for what an internship or a full-time role at Dell may look like. Through that process, we bring in past program hires so that they can share more about their experience, and we often find that that's a really great way to educate the candidates that come through the program on what to expect.

    And then, once candidates are hired on, we offer a variety of support resources for them to take advantage of. I'll just review a couple of them, but first of all, all of our new hires are partnered with an external career coach. These career coaches work with a variety of different partner organizations. The Arc of the Capital Area and HMEA are two main career coaching partners, and their role is very dynamic in that they take a very person-centered approach in understanding what the candidate may need, what types of accommodations might be useful or would help them be more successful in their role. And then they also work with managers to ensure that the manager understands how to best support the individual. So again, their role looks different from person to person, and we don't require that candidates necessarily work with these coaches, but we find more often than not that they are a very valuable resource and candidates take advantage of it.

    Additionally, we align all of our new team members to a TrueAbility mentor. So TrueAbility is an employee resource group. At Dell, we have 12 different ERGs. We call them ERGs, and these team members that are mentors for our neurodivergent interns or new hires are really there to provide more of that cultural perspective for life at Dell. They can answer questions that the individual might not always want to go to their manager or team members about. They can also introduce them to other ERGs or their own personal network and essentially just help them get acclimated to life at Dell from that company culture perspective. I hear a lot of great stories about team members who have maintained those relationships with their ERG mentors and that they've been lasting friends or even gone to Thanksgiving dinner with them. So, in addition to those TrueAbility mentors, we also offer several professional development resources for team members to take advantage of.

    We identify those topics in partnership with our neurodiversity advisory committee. Our advisory committee is a group of, I would say anywhere from 15 to 20 team members who have been hired through the program. They all have raised their hands to stay in touch with us, offer feedback. They're always my go-to if I'm ever thinking about making changes to our approach. And we often work with them to identify what else they might need to continue to grow and develop in their roles. So these professional development sessions are actually chosen by our advisory committee and by the greater group of neurodivergent employees as a whole. We often just send out surveys to understand what they'd like to focus on. Some of the more recent topics that we've covered have been on things like time management, prioritization, networking and branding or presentation skills and self-advocacy or empowerment in your role. And we partner with our internal education services and learning development teams to deliver those sessions to our team members.

    Lastly, we provide several networking opportunities for new team members to meet other people within the organization. We've seen great connections or other small subgroups develop out of those. For example, I know of a couple of team members that do a regular gaming night as a result of those avenues for networking and some sessions that we've led so that folks can get to know each other as they come on board. So that should give you a high level understanding of the key components of the program, and you might be wondering what's next? Where else is Dell going to go from here? So we're in the process of building out our strategy to grow this program to other regions across the globe, and we've seen a really great appetite from team members in other regions.

    For example, we're looking at a team in Bangalore, India who's building out the framework for a program right now. We have a couple of team members in Taiwan who are looking at starting a program and in the UK, and we've really been focusing on building out internal resources that all Dell team members can access and use, whether they're looking to grow a program or if they're just a manager that wants to offer a skill-based interview experience. So, we actually recently created an internal centralized resource site that has those types of toolkits and information on different types of accommodations or strategies for neurodivergent team members. And we found that to be a really great way to not only evangelize the program, but also just to educate all team members on what is neurodiversity, how do I become a more supportive team member or an even more inclusive manager?

    And with that, I want to thank you all for the opportunity to speak with you today. I welcome any questions or follow-up conversations that you may be interested in having, so please don't hesitate to reach out. But once again, thank you. Happy endeem, and we'll be in touch soon, I'm sure. Thanks again.

    David Yozzi, Senior Vice President, Texthelp:

    Fantastic words of wisdom there from Danielle. Thanks for sharing some of your takeaways for creating a successful neurodivergent hiring program at Dell.

    That brings us to the end of the session already. Huge thank you to Danielle, Hiren, and Pierre for sharing all of your experiences and expertise. Truly inspiring. I hope that you've taken some valuable pearls of wisdom away and given you some insights into how to strengthen inclusion in your workplace.

    If you'd like to share your learnings from this session with your social followers, we'd love for you to include the festival hashtag TexthelpFest23. If you'd like to learn more about supporting your neurodiverse team, head over to our booths and check out all of the free resources. Or if you'd like to book a chat with one of our inclusive technology specialists, just pop the words let's chat into the chat box and we'll reach out to you.

    Next up we'll be hosting a neurodiversity hackathon where the panel will work together to hack common challenges to neuro inclusion in the workplace. So head there now by clicking the live tab at the top of your screen and hear from Dan Harris of neurodiversity in business, Joseph Riddle of neurodiversity in work.

    Enjoy the rest of your festival everyone. It's been a pleasure hosting this. And for now, it's goodbye from us. Thank you. 

Neuro-inclusion hackathon: Powering potential, creating brighter futures

A session with David Yozzi, Senior Vice President (Workplace, North America), Texthelp, Dan Harris, Founder and CEO, Neurodiversity in Business & Joseph Riddle, Director, Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Session details & slides

  • Transforming tomorrow for neurodivergent talent cannot be done without the insights of our neurodivergent friends. In this session, our panel of neurodivergent thinkers and industry experts work together to hack common challenges to neuro-inclusion.

  • David Yozzi (00:02):

    Welcome to today's Neuro-Inclusion Hackathon. Here, our panel will be working together to answer common challenges to neuro-inclusion, as asked by you. We've taken your most asked questions, and we're answering them today. As we do, please feel free to share your own insights using the chat function.


    So, before we get started, some introductions. My name is David Yozzi from Texthelp. I work with organizations to guide them on their journey to inclusion, with the help from our inclusive tools. Prior to joining Texthelp, I've spent many years in leadership roles at organizations including IBM, Pearson, Dell, HP, Twitter, and more. And today, I'm also bringing my expertise, as a dyslexic thinker. So, I'll be sharing my thoughts and hacks alongside our amazing panel, which includes Dan Harris, founder and CEO of Neurodiversity in Business, and Joseph Riddle, director, Neurodiversity in the Workplace.


    Each joins me in bringing their expert knowledge as professionals in diversity and inclusion roles, and also lived experience as neurodivergent thinkers. So, welcome everyone. It's great to be joined by such esteem leaders in the field of neuro-inclusion.


    Before we get started, I thought I'd take a few moments to provide some context for the discussion. At Texthelp, we believe everyone has the right to understand and be understood. And we know that everyone's brain works differently. For example, one in five of us are neurodivergent. Let that number sink in, one in five. There are more people in the world who are neurodivergent than have blue eyes. So, how do we know about it? Well, in my experience, I was actually diagnosed with dyslexia as a six-year-old. My teachers kindly told me that I would just have to focus harder and work harder. Well, that didn't exactly work for me, and I struggled throughout most of my life with the challenges that come along with struggling with reading and writing. Our goal in this session is to help you to think differently about neurodiversity, and we'd love for you to share your thoughts and experiences with us at the end of the session.


    Before we get started, though, in this hackathon, I'd like my panel to give you quick introductions about yourselves, and we will start with Joe.

    Joseph Riddle (02:29):

    Sure. Thanks, David. Hi, everyone. I'm Joe Riddle from Neurodiversity in the Workplace. And our organization is a nonprofit consultancy that helps a lot of different companies create their neuro-inclusion strategy, and that includes hiring and support practices. And I, myself, I consider myself neurodivergent with ADD as well. So, just really happy to be here, and looking forward to engaging in the conversation.

    David Yozzi (02:56):

    Thanks, Joe. Dan?

    Dan Harris (02:58):

    Thanks. So, it's always a pleasure to be on a panel with Joe, for sure. My name's Dan Harris, I'm the founder of a charity called Neurodiversity in Business. We've been set up to transform the life chances of neurodivergent individuals. I, myself, am autistic, and ADHD.

    David Yozzi (03:20):

    Awesome. Thank you very much, Dan. All right. So, we have a lot of questions around self-identification and how to create a culture of confidence where people are comfortable to open up and share their neurodiversity at work. So, before I ask the room, I'll just share an interesting statistic. Research from Accenture found that 76% of employees and 80% of leaders with a disability or neurodiverse condition, do not fully disclose this at work. From Texthelp's own research into the reasons why, we found the most common being, worry that it would negatively impact their career, and a concern over managers and colleagues viewing them differently. Others included an uncertainty over how to raise the topic.


    So, I think there are some things we can learn from that, that we need to tackle stigma, and also ensure that we have something in place that makes it easy for staff to open up if they want to.


    Dan, do you have any thoughts on this?

    Dan Harris (04:22):

    Yeah. Well, look, I think it's such a crucial topic for us in the ND community, because what we need to always be thinking about is, who is not in the room so we can talk for length about the assessment process and the interview process, et cetera? How do we make sure those are better, in order to get better quality candidates through, and to allow those neurodivergent folk to be more fairly assessed?


    But the most important thing, I think, is, who's not in the room? Who are those people who would never think of applying to big company X or blue chip company Y? Because it's deemed that there is no way in the world would they be neuro-inclusive or could they bring their authentic self to work. So, one of the big [inaudible 00:05:14] for neurodiversity in business has been, we need to be taking neurodiversity out of the too hard to deal with bucket. We need to be letting corporates know that it's okay to be humble, it's okay to tell the world, "We are not a neuro-inclusive workplace now, but we are pointed in the right direction. We want to do better." And we'll come onto this a bit later, and I know Joe's got some good thoughts on this, but we should also, David, talk about that intersectionality play, because I think neurodiversity is pretty unique on that topic.

    David Yozzi (05:50):

    That's fantastic. I can't wait to get onto that, Dan.


    Joe, what do you think? What are your thoughts on this topic?

    Joseph Riddle (05:57):

    Yeah. I think great points by Dan, and I totally agree in making sure we understand who's missing from the conversation and to create that culture of confidence. I think, David, you brought up a really good word that people should be aware of, which is stigma. And I think that, for so long, people have faced stigma in the workplace, surrounding really any difference, but especially surrounding neurodivergence. And I think that when we look at where that stigma comes from, it comes from past experiences that are poor, it comes from a whole variety of things. And employers need to realize that it's not just as simple as saying, "Hey, it's okay, we are a safe space", because you can't control everyone's actions. You have to put some parameters. You have to put some energy and effort into creating that culture and creating that safe space.


    And one of the first places that you start, as Dan was mentioning and building off of here, I think that is creating a sense of community and allowing some people who identify with neurodivergence to come together and say, "Here's the first steps that are needed in this specific place." Every workplace is going to be a little bit different. And then, that, coupled with the ability to provide support for people. And we don't need to know exactly how many people are in a self-disclosure campaign or a self-ID campaign, we need to just create some support to start and highlight those supports, so that people know that it's a whole encompassing culture. It's not just one area of saying, "Hey, we can talk about this", but there's also some stuff that they can do about it, to make people feel more comfortable.

    David Yozzi (07:38):

    Joe, you providing a great segue to our next question, because one of those is supporting employees, and what we can put in place to offer support.


    I'll just kick off things by saying that we know there's no one way to support employees, even if they're living with the same disability or neurodiversity, because everyone's experiences are so unique. How I experienced dyslexia can be completely different to how someone else does.


    At Texthelp, that's why we focus on the universal design when it comes to creating our technology, ensuring that our products are designed to serve the greatest number of people possible, with features that benefit everyone in some way. There's a session on universal design tomorrow, so be sure to come back to watch that session.


    But for now, Joe, just following up on that topic, what's your advice for supporting employees?

    Joseph Riddle (08:29):

    I think that the first starting point is to really look at the accommodations process and how that's set up. I think that we see often that there's a lot of barriers for people to get a specific accommodation, whether that's a tool or a strategy or a process change. And I really like to shift this mentality of the accommodation process to a more universal or inclusive design approach where we really are considering people and their access to that in advance. Because oftentimes, we place a lot of paperwork, a lot of conversations, a lot of unnecessary red tape between an employee and the tools that they need to do their job. And that's really unfortunate. I think that if we all use tools in our daily life, we're probably sitting on ergonomically designed chairs and using ergonomically designed keyboards, right?The extension of that are some simple ideas, like having written questions during an interview processes, as an example of an accommodation. Or in the workplace, having support processes.


    Our team at Neurodiversity in the Workplace offers, what we call, career consulting, which is helping someone manage executive functioning in the workplace, manage communication in the workplace, and just kind of serving as a liaison between manager and employee and the tasks that need to get done. And we found it really, really helpful for a lot of people, to be able to just have that extra layer of support.


    So, there's so many ways that we can do that, but it really starts with just those simple accommodations practices, and opening them up so that more people can access them, and more people know what they are.

    David Yozzi (10:13):

    I love that, Joe. It's really about expanding your mindset around what the possibilities are, and being a little bit more creative about how we approach it. I love that.


    Dan, would you add anything to that?

    Dan Harris (10:23):

    I think I'd kind of amplify what Joe said, and an additional point I'd raise is that, one of the most powerful things, I think, we could do as leaders in businesses is actually have that really strong cultural reference point. For example, post-COVID and lockdowns, it's perfectly acceptable for me to say to my boss on a Friday, at 4:30, "I need to leave because I'm picking my little girl up from karate class." Yeah, that's normal now. At least, in my world. What's not normal, and what's not accepted, and where there is still stigma is, for me to put my hand up in a meeting and say, "I'm really sorry, I'm not feeling this meeting. The way I'm processing information isn't conducive to the way you are giving it out. You haven't set out a clear agenda. You haven't set it in advance. We're not capturing key points as we go along. We're not meeting agreement before we move off points. We've not committed to sending out a summary of the points, and the actions, and what we've all agreed." That is still not acceptable in the corporate world.


    So, what I talk about earlier in terms of the culture point is that, it's really important that we start having senior leaders who are stating that they want to support people to feel empowered to raise these topics. Some of the big members of NIB, they have an active policy whereby they say, "Right, how can we design this meeting around it being neuro-inclusive?" But then, more importantly, let's stop using the N word. Let's just say, this is good practice because you get this right for your divergent employees and you get this right across your business. And that's where, I think, we, as a social movement, need to be moving.

    David Yozzi (12:19):

    I love that, Dan, because it takes the responsibility out of the individual's hands, and sort of moves it to a different level within the organization, makes it easier. Just listening to you, it's empowering to think that that might be a possibility.

    Dan Harris (12:39):

    David, if I may, can I just come in on that point again because I took a trick recently to Barclays who, as you know, a big global financial institution up to their Glasgow offices, and they had built their offices around... You talked about inclusion by design earlier. They had built their offices around the fact that, if neurodivergent staff want to have accommodations, which is a word I hate. I hate the word reasonable even more. Who are you to tell me what's reasonable?


    But they had built their office around the fact of removing neuro-inclusion entirely, and just getting this to an individualized control. Whereas, some organizations make you go through administrative hoops in order to actually request a quiet room or movement breaks, et cetera. What they've done is just turned this on its head and said, "We are designing this office in order. No one needs to disclose their neurodivergence. No one needs to have a medical diagnosis. It just needs to be the accepted norm." And the presence of swings in that office for people to get sensory breaks, the idea that there are individualized controls on noise and air conditioning, et cetera, that just removes the stigma, and that's where, I think, we should be moving towards.

    David Yozzi (14:06):

    I love that, Dan. And that's actually a good segue, because I think that one of the powerful reasons why you promote these ideas and believe that they're not only important to the individuals, but they're helpful for the organization, is the communication of strengths.


    So, I'll start this one, off. At Texthelp, we recently ran a campaign called Power My Potential. It was a social media campaign, which you can look up using #PowerMyPotential. Pretty simple. On social media. The goal was to raise awareness of the strengths of neurodiversity and how to unlock the potential of neurodivergent employees. But as part of this campaign, we also created a really handy resource for neurodivergent employees to self-advocate, because we should really be in the driver's seat in deciding what can support us best.


    So, this resource helps us to share our strengths and challenges, in a way, which tells our managers, "You can power my strengths by implementing or supporting me with these strategies." You can download the resource for free over at our booth on retaining talent. So, hopefully, some of that will help you.


    But on this issue of a strengths-based approach, Dan, could you say, just a few words, on what your perception or thinking on that topic is?

    Dan Harris (15:29):

    Yeah, happy to. Well, I sometimes like to be controversial, David, because it's quite good to get different viewpoints. But I rally against the whole superpowers' myth. I think it's quite damaging for our community. But let me give you a little bit of color and nuance to that.


    So, absolutely, we, as a society, are and should be moving away from that medical deficit model where we talk about diagnoses and challenges exclusively. Where we should be moving to is the social model whereby we talk about what is it in society, what is it within our workplaces that disable us or allow us or inhibit us from giving our best potential? Now, part of that narrative, which Neurodiversity in Businesses are trying to support is that, we actually, we have strengths. They may be unique strengths or they may be within that band of standardized behavior. However, what we also have is the ability to innovate creative thinking. We have an additional processing potential. We can spot patterns, et cetera.


    So, if we bring this up to the 40,000-foot view, these genes have gone through human evolution and society for tens and tens of thousands of years, right? There are reasons why neurodivergent folk are neurodivergent, and it's not because of vaccines or because of health or because of anything around that layer. What this is down to is that, this is a beautifully simple concept. This is cognitive diversity, has helped the human species evolve, and there is no reason that we shouldn't now be shouting about our strengths. We need to do it in a moderate way. We need to have a nuanced message which is, if we do talk about the fact that we will have superpowers, we disenfranchise a significant part of our community. Because the reality is that, whilst some of those people have above average skills in certain areas, we can't all be above average, by statistical reality. We have to accept that neurodivergent folk are who they are, rather than superheroes.

    David Yozzi (17:52):

    That's fascinating. That's a really compelling idea.


    Joe, what do you think about that? Or is there anything you would add to that?

    Joseph Riddle (18:00):

    Yeah, definitely. I think building off of what Dan said, and in full agreement, I think that what we're aiming for is, one, to understand the idea of just plain and simple of neurodiversity is that, we all have different ways of thinking, learning, socializing, experiencing the world, right? And I think that what we have been doing for so long, in the workplace, is trying to fit a mold that's kind of professionalism of the corporate world with one solid archetype of what everyone in that world should be and should point to. And I think that that can be really destructive because we're all so different. We all have different ways of thinking, learning, socializing, experiencing. And so, when we try to put everyone into that same bucket, we create this really, really strong othering effect that happens in the workplace.


    And I think we need to break that down by, one, really emphasizing the point that we're all different. And this comes in a lot of ways that we found by helping organizations explore their hidden curriculum, the things that are never explicitly communicated but are expected throughout the workplace. This could be simple things like how you log on in the morning, how you say hello, when you request time off. Or it could be really specific things like, "This is how we engage on a task. This is how we perform X, Y, Z operation."


    Helping managers and employees to really just have a straightforward conversation can dispel so many of these mixed expectations on both sides. And an extension of that is to really help people identify when they start in a role or if they're already in a role now, to say, "Here's how I work best. Here's how I communicate best. Here's how I read best. Here's how I understand best." All of these things sound really, really simple, but the basic building block of having a productive team environment. So, if I can say to my manager, "Look, I am best if you send me a short email with bullet points", and then follow it up with a very brief conversation. That's a really helpful tool for that manager to realize, "Okay, that makes sense." Whereas, their standard might be, "I'm just going to send one standard email of information dissemination out to my entire team." We need to look and realize that people think differently and react differently.


    So, I think that that's kind of the beginning of helping people communicate their strengths, is really just looking at differences in working style and recognizing that everyone has those differences. I often use the point that, maybe when you were in college or university, you were the type of person who studied in complete silence, and when you heard some sort of activity happening, it would totally distract you. Or maybe you're the opposite person, which I never understood. But maybe you're the person who listens to loud music with lots of lyrics, and has the TV going, and can still somehow get your assignments done. That's just a simple example of different ways of thinking and interacting in an environment. neurodivergence extends that example greatly, but we all have these different ways of processing that information.


    And what we found so much success in doing, it's helping on a written piece of paper or in an email, communicating from employee to manager and vice versa, "Here's how I do X best. Here's my working style." And that really simple exercise has caused so much less friction by employee and manager over time, because people just understand, "Okay, here's how I'm going to proceed on the topic. Here's how I'm going to work that."


    Anyway. I think that there's a lot we can do in communicating that strength, and that needs to be continually revisited. But very simple thing like, "Here's my working style", is a really good place to start.

    David Yozzi (22:00):

    I love that, Joe. It's a nice extension of what Dan was describing, in terms of how you create opportunity and opportunity to perform, regardless of whether you have a superpower or not. That's fantastic. Really nice compliment.


    Another common topic coming up was around recruitment and internal interviews. So, this question is really about, how can we ensure inclusive processes, which obviously is very critical? Sort of feeding the pipeline for the future, that offer equal opportunities for career progression.


    Joe, I suspect you have some thoughts on this since you specialize in neurodiversity hiring. Could you share some of your thoughts on that?

    Joseph Riddle (22:45):

    Yeah. Great question, David. I think that when we look at the hiring process, what so often people do is, again, try to fit this corporate or professionalism mold through that interview process. And what has come out of this is kind of unfortunate byproduct is that, oftentimes, a behavioral style interview will come where a manager asks questions on the fly and expect someone to respond immediately with very thoughtful and eloquent answer. And what ends up happening is that, we evaluate people based on their ability to answer this kind of top quiz style questions, versus what we're actually wanting to do, which is aim for how this person will perform in the job or in the role.


    And so, what we see so often, we see managers, they want to have this ability, and they rate themselves really highly of being able to identify really great talent. But almost universally, we, as humans, are not great in an interview setting through behavioral style and interview questions in rating that talent, because you're evaluating two different things. Now, if your job is somehow to respond to pop quiz style questions, then maybe it worked out really well.


    But what we intend and have been advocating for, is to use skill-based hiring. So, helping managers to look at, "Okay, what are the core skills in the role that I'm hiring for?" And helping employees to highlight those core skills. And so, easy examples of this are to have a portfolio, to have candidates demonstrate their work, or to highlight past projects in more detail, and ask specific questions surrounding what activities they engage on, in those projects. This gives us a much better idea of what that person has done, what they can do, and what skills they're actually going to bring to the teams.


    What we find so often is, and everyone's guilty of this. I, myself, am guilty of this as a hiring manager. We look to build rapport in an interview, and that rapport is often irrelevant to, again, how that person's going to perform in the job. So, if we focus instead on looking at skills, on looking at how people can perform, and really asking questions only surrounding those skills, we get much better matching for the teams that we're trying to hire them, too.

    David Yozzi (25:17):

    Interesting. Love that. Dan, would you add anything to that?

    Dan Harris (25:19):

    I think that's a really good summary. I do want to come back to this career progression point, because if you look at the end-to-end life cycle of an employee, we often focus on the recruitment phase, which is important. But the disproportionate disadvantage that happens to neurodivergent folk, happens through performance management. That's the reality. The majority of people who self-disclose at work, pretty late in their kind of life cycle at that employer, they disclose that performance management when they are being performance management out of the business. So, that's our critical failure, isn't it? Is that, why are we finding out about people being neurodivergent when we're talking about challenges they've had or performance issues? Why aren't we finding out when they come into the business or prior to coming into the business, and allow them to answer that question?


    I'm an employer, how do I get the best out of you as an employee? You don't need to tell me about your diagnosis. Tell me about the way you work. Tell me about your preferences. Tell me about the way you process information. Tell me about the things we can do to allow you to excel. Because gosh, we've invested a lot of money and effort in bringing you in. We've done all of the recruitment, we are doing training. We tend to then jump off a bit of a cliff, right? We tend to think, "Oh, everything's fine. We've done that little piece. Everything will be okay." What we're not doing is, we are not then making sure that there is the psychological safety within the workplace to say, like I said earlier, raising your hand in a meeting and saying, "Look, this is how you're going to get the best out of me, so I do want to particularly pay attention to performance management."


    And then, lastly is that... And I think this was alluded to David, in your question, is the piece around career progression through internal assessments, right? When you go through promotion panels, is fitting someone across the table from three very senior people in an adversarial, confrontational type situation, the best way to measure someone's value? I would say not. I would say that, that's a very kind of 1980s type of mentality. I think that, if you are going into this and actually showing like, "These are the skills we need you to demonstrate. Let's work collaboratively over the next year, rather than on a one-off assessment, to say, how can we demonstrate you are doing this?" And when you're not demonstrating it, let's just be honest, because not everyone demonstrates the skills all the time. What support do you need?


    So, I'm seeing that progression move away from being an assessment center into a development journey.

    David Yozzi (28:18):

    Love that. Go ahead, Joe.

    Joseph Riddle (28:20):

    I wanted to add something really quickly. Sorry. I think that when we look at... Building off of Dan's point here, so often, we see employers will measure people's performance based on metrics that we're standardized, based on a neurotypical example. And so, they will say, "Okay, you have met X accuracy with X timing over X time." And this is really unfortunate because it doesn't allow people to highlight those strengths, like Dan is saying. And I think that we need to do a better job of recognizing that people have different ways of performing, different styles of doing their work. And I think if we continue to have those metrics and career progression in an advancement way, that are based off of just a neurotypical standard, then our advancement is going to be kind of excluding neurodivergent people who are being measured against the standard, when there could be a lot of other metrics that this person is overperforming in, but it won't come through in the standard way if you're going to measure that against neurotypical standard way of here's how we want everyone to do this one job. It doesn't make sense. Yeah.

    David Yozzi (29:31):

    Right. That's fantastic. I'm no expert in performance management systems, but I do know that there's been this pendulum going from very strict, rigid performance management criteria and evaluation to none, which I know some companies have experimented with.


    But I think what you're both arguing for is sort of a broadening of the criteria and skills that someone evaluates, as opposed to sticking with this sort of rigid model and making everyone fit into that. That's fantastic.


    I have one final question, and it's around the misconceptions around neurodiversity. We used the word stigma earlier in the conversation and the barriers that exist from recruitment to talent management and beyond. Let's start with Dan. How would you address this issue of misconceptions around neurodiversity?

    Dan Harris (30:31):

    Well, I answered a big part of this earlier around that super strengths myth. And I particularly drew attention to it because it's quite the media narrative at the moment, right? You hire an autistic person because they're going to be great at doing software testing. So, that's dangerous, I think, because as I said earlier, it disenfranchises a part of our community. But also, possibly more insidiously, we then need to think about, if that is the narrative, then are we not further marginalizing other groups? For example, if people are going out to hire autistic talent on that basis, they're disproportionately getting white male, middle class, well-educated folk, right? That is then disenfranchising all of those other groups who are further marginalized by their neurodiversity and other aspects of their being.


    So, I think it's important to always be aware, like I said earlier, who's not in the room, and then not buying into that media narrative around superpowers.


    And then, the last thing, and I know Joe will have some views on this, is that, I still, unfortunately, HR functions have neurodiversity in the too hard to deal with bucket. So, that's why I set up NIB is, I want them to know, actually, great organizations are doing great things on this.


    Joe, I'd love to hear your views on that as well.

    Joseph Riddle (32:09):

    Yeah. I think that we see, Dan, as you're mentioning the too hard to deal with bucket. I like that framing, because I think, so often, people are afraid to just talk about the topic for fear of saying something wrong. And I think that this is one of the first steps that we want to combat when we want to create a more neuro-inclusive environment, is to talk about it. We want people to share their experiences, and the first step, A1, that we want to target is to talk to neurodivergent people in the workplace, to understand what is happening in your current workplace. They're very much likely are people who are stakeholders, who can inform so much change that needs to happen, because they have direct lived experiences. And so, that will directly combat a lot of misconceptions.


    But just having the fear unraveled, that it's okay to talk about this, it's okay to learn about this, and admit that you don't know everything, is a good first step for a lot of HR professionals, a lot of talent acquisition, a lot of management professionals. And I think that when we look at the general misconceptions, what we find is that, so many people identify one person in their lives who they know is autistic or ADD or ADHD, or some sort of intersecting identity in this space, and they generalize that for the entire population.


    The idea of neurodiversity is so wide, it's such a large term, and it includes so many different kinds of thinking, learning, socializing, experiencing, that we need more conversation on the topic. So, I appreciate forums like this where we can highlight it, where we can showcase that it's such a wide representation.


    But at the end of the day, we all operate a little bit differently, and helping those HR professionals realize, you, yourself, operate a little bit differently. neurodivergence is an obvious extension of that, but we want to accommodate people how they work. I think post-COVID world have seen a little bit more of that, but one of the big challenges now is to resist this slide back into the norm of how people work, the norm of how people need to behave in a professional corporate environment. And I think that neurodiversity wants people to bring their whole selves to work, but in order to do that, we need a safe place to do it. We need people to say, "We are willing to learn and talk about this issue." And that's the only way that we can make some real change.


    So, those misconceptions start by, as a high level summary, they start by just talking about it.

    David Yozzi (34:52):

    That's fantastic. As someone who is dyslexic and someone who has been in the workforce longer than I'd like to admit, listening to your perspectives is liberating to say the least. This notion of inclusivity just really feels resonant in this conversation, and it gives me a lot of hope and excitement for what the future may hold.


    Unfortunately, that's all the time we have. I want to thank you both very, very much. And those of you listening, we hope this session helped you answer some of your burning questions. Please share your feedback with us on social media using our #TexthelpFest23, and head over to the next session now by clicking the live tab at the top of your screen. They will be uncovering the key to high performance inclusive cultures. You'll hear from Melissa Bosch from EY, Miranda McCarthy from MassMutual, and my colleague Cathy Donnelly at Texthelp.


    Again, thank you very much, gentlemen. I really enjoyed and appreciated our conversation today. And from all of us, it's bye for now.

    Joseph Riddle (36:08):

    Thank you.

    David Yozzi (36:08):

    Thank you, guys.

Inclusive Leadership: Strategies for HR & DEI Success

A session with Miranda McCarthy, DEI Lead, MassMutual, Cathy Donnelly, Chief People Officer, Texthelp & Melissa Bosch, DEI Country Lead, EY Ireland.

Session details & slides

  • With an elevated talent and culture agenda in the boardroom, today's people and DEI leaders are being looked to now more than ever. In this session we explore how neurodiversity and disability inclusion can help address talent shortages and strengthen company culture.

    Join us and gain practical tips and advice on successfully leading an inclusive HR and DEI agenda, while meeting the demands of a more strategic and influential role.

  • Lisa Smyth (00:00):

    Hi everybody. Welcome to today's session where we're going to be exploring the topic of inclusive leadership, the strategies for HR and DEI success.


    So I'm Lisa Smyth, I'm head of marketing here at Workplace and Texthelp, and with me today are my colleague Cathy Donnelly, Chief People Officer for Texthelp, Miranda McCarthy, who's the DEI lead at MassMutual and Melissa Bosch, the DEI Country Lead at EY Ireland.


    So over the next hour, our presenters are going to showcase how disability and neurodiversity inclusion can help us address some really critical business objectives. They'll share advice on how to successfully lead an inclusive agenda at a company, as well as presenting some examples from their own organization. So it's going to be super interesting and hopefully super inspirational for everybody that's attending today.


    So Cathy is going to kick us off today with a bit of theme setting around the changing landscape for DEI and HR leaders and to talk a wee bit about the impact and the results that can be achieved when we get inclusion really right. So over to you Cathy, if you want to kick things off.

    Cathy Donnelly (01:04):

    Thank you, Lisa. So hello everyone. I'm going to start just by introducing myself. So as Lisa said, my name is Cathy Donnelly. I'm the Chief People Officer here at Texthelp, and I'm based in Northern Ireland where Texthelp began 27 years ago.


    So my role as chief people officer involves crafting and leading the Texthelp people agenda and ensuring that our workplace is inclusive for our 370 plus people who are working in 11 offices in seven countries today.


    Diversity, equity and inclusion is a big focus within our people strategy. We have established a DEI leadership council and employee resource groups, and they're all in place with the goal of creating a sense of belonging amongst employees and making it possible for people to be their authentic selves at work.


    We want our workplace to be places where employees feel psychologically safe and they feel comfortable and confident that they're valued and accepted for who they are; a community, which is one of our Texthelp values where Difference is celebrated.


    When it comes to Texthelp, inclusion is at the heart of everything that we do. We are an inclusive technology company providing tools that help people to understand and be understood. Our tools are beneficial for those with neurodiverse conditions, whether that's dyslexia, ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, and we also help those with low levels of literacy or those for whom English is not their first language. Our read and write tool has helped 50 million people, but we want to do more and we have this ambitious goal of advancing the literacy and understanding of one billion people by 2030.


    I think the expectations of us as senior HR leaders has changed significantly over the last few years. Deloitte conducted some research recently into the elevated talent and culture agenda in the boardroom. What they found was that COVID-19 amplified workforce issues at the board level and businesses are now re-imagining how they operate in the face of economic shifts, geopolitical and social justice issues, climate impacts, societal expectations, and a changing talent landscape.


    They find that chief people officers are being called on by the board more frequently and more directly for their input and guidance. They also found that leadership capability models are being infused with more human behaviors, which I think is really positive. We've got to treat our employees with dignity and respect and build that trust through our everyday interactions.


    So just reflecting for a few seconds, in the last few years, we have seen the pandemic, the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, the cost of living crisis, and more recently we're hearing about loud layoffs, career cushioning and grumpy staying. All of these situations have shed a light on the need for businesses to review the employee experience.


    We are in a war for talent and probably the most competitive that I have seen in my 25 plus years in human resources. So we need to build strategies that allow us to access the full employment market, ensuring we provide an environment that supports everyone to thrive.


    As a chief people officer, we need to focus on the business case for neuro-inclusion with our peers. We need to talk about the value neurodiverse people bring to the business. For example, research shows that companies with neurodiverse teams benefit from 28% increased revenue, 30% better profit, decision-making is 87% better in neurodiverse teams. 81% of employees who believe their company culture is inclusive are happy in their job. And we all know the high levels of employee engagement in turn improves business results and performance.


    We also have to debunk the myth that neurodiverse employees can't deal with change. I don't think any of us really likes change, and in reality, the only constant has been changed in the last few years. Our role as leaders in the talent space is to ensure that all of our leaders and all of our employees have the tools in the toolbox to help them navigate change, creating certainty where we can, which again, in turn builds trust.


    And finally, as businesses, we need to be human and we need to do the right thing, offering opportunities to diverse applicants. My experience has been that this elevated talent and culture agenda in the boardroom today has resulted in us as people leaders being looked to now more than ever to provide that human side of leadership, while also addressing talent shortages, strengthening our company cultures, and meeting the demands of a more strategic and influential role.


    So looking at neuro-inclusion, it's really great that HR professionals recognize that disability and neuro-inclusion are key elements of their people strategies. In fact, we did some research back in 2022 and we find that 94% of HR professionals have established best practices to support neurodiversity and disability inclusion in their workplaces.


    And why is that? Because they know that disability and neuro-inclusion practices help us to tap into an untapped talent base, improve our brand reputations, create a culture where people feel accepted and valued for who they are, to list just a few reasons. And when you consider this with the backdrop of one in four people being disabled and one in five of us being neurodivergent, it becomes even more significant.


    That said, I would encourage all of us to check in with our employees and make sure that what we're doing to support them is actually making a difference. In our recent research, we heard that while 75% of organizations thought they were offering support to their neurodivergent employees, 64% of neurodivergent employees thought their organizations could be doing more.


    So what I'll do now is just share some examples of what we've done at Texthelp to be more inclusive. I would say we don't always get it right, we don't have all the answers, but I'm keen to share some of what we have done that has worked. So we've been addressing talent shortages through inclusive hiring. So we advertise our read and write for work software on our careers page, making it available to anyone who needs it before they apply, and therefore making that application process that much easier.


    We also encourage people at the outset to ask for support at interview if needed. We've had people ask for the interview questions in advance as they have autism and they find it difficult to respond to interview questions in the moment. Offering read and write at this stage, it's beneficial for everyone, but particularly helpful for neurodivergent people or those with English as a second language or those with a condition that affects their reading and writing.


    We also ensure our job advertisements are inclusive and don't contain any language that may be off-putting. So we're currently reviewing all of our job descriptions to make sure they are inclusive. So for example, do we really need a first class honors degree for that role? Must you really have excellent communication skills? Or what does it mean to be a guru or a superstar? These types of statements put people off applying the first instance, so important that we remove them.


    We're also reviewing inclusive job boards to see which might support our diverse hiring efforts. And we've worked with Specialisterne and they're a specialist organization that recruits and supports neurodivergent people.


    When it comes to your employer brand, I would encourage you to take time to talk openly about inclusion, be transparent about your initiatives and activities, share how far you've come, but also be comfortable to share how far you still have to go. And if you're in doubt about sharing externally, I'm going to share a few more statistics. 93% of neurodivergent employees and 63% of neurotypical said they would be more likely to apply or continue to work for a company that was supporting neurodivergent employees well.


    We've also focused on retaining our employees by recognizing and valuing them. What's interesting here is that 76% of people with a disability or a neurodiverse condition don't fully disclose this at work. So I think it's safe for us to assume that we aren't getting the best from all of our employees at work as they are not getting the support that they need to perform at their best.


    I mentioned our research earlier. We also conducted some research with disability, starting with Disability:IN, and we asked 500 neurodivergent people about their experiences at work. 61% have experienced stigma in the workplace, 56% have experienced communication barriers at work, and 32% have experienced a lack of career progression. And for those that didn't disclose their condition at work, why not? Well, 44% felt it would negatively impact their career, 42% were concerned that their managers and/or colleagues would view them differently, 19% aren't sure how to raise it with their manager, and 19% had a previous negative experience when they did disclose it.


    So again, going back to the previous statistic, one in five of us is neurodivergent. When we consider this, this is an issue that we as HR leaders need to use our power to change, creating environments where people feel comfortable and confident to be themselves.


    We need to be flexible. We need to meet people where they are. Employees should be allowed to thrive in their own way. At Texthelp, we provide our inclusive technology as standard. There's no need to self-identify. There's no need to raise a hand. You're given instructions from day one on how do you install the software, and we encourage all of our employees to use our software, particularly in this current time of information overload.


    We survey our employees regularly and we act on what they tell us to improve the working environment. So we ensure that they know how they've influenced our actions by publishing a, you said, we did after every survey. We're currently refurbishing one of our offices and we're thinking about how we make it neuro-inclusive. We have enlisted the help of our enable employee resource group, which focuses on disability to really think about accessibility. So for example, the introduction of quiet spaces throughout the office.


    And we work with our employees to help them develop their resilience, helping them to transition through change. We've developed a professional skills' curriculum to ensure everyone has the skills needed to navigate the very complex world that businesses are now operating in, helping everyone to grow professionally, while also looking after their mental health with the addition of sleep clinics, mindfulness sessions and the like. And our leadership development programs have modules on developing resilience and being the thriving leader. And we also create awareness of disability and neurodiversity through sessions with external providers such as Don't Disable Me, and really building that empathy for others and normalizing and de-stigmatizing disability conversations.


    We also then have focused on strengthening our company culture through displaying a human side to your leadership. So being human, being authentic, sharing our own vulnerabilities as a senior leadership team. And what we find is it's the raw storytelling that gives employees the permission to tell their own stories. We're building trust, we're demonstrating empathy, which is super important.


    So we did a town hall takeover on mental health on World Mental Health Day, where we had employees and senior leaders talking about their own personal and family experiences with mental health. And these conversations opened doors for others to share their own lived experience, normalizing what has been taboo for way too long. So no longer is there a home me and a work me, it's just me. So it's time to ensure we can bring our full selves to work and be accepted.


    We're also getting back to basics and talking about our company values and how we want to live them every day. So last year we revisited our Texthelp values following a number of acquisitions, and I led a global working group to create our Refresh Values. And these were created for employees by employees. Then, in addition to the values, to really bring them to life, we introduced what we call our 31 practices. And it's a set of practices, one for every day of the month that describe the behaviors that bring Texthelp values to life.


    Our values are creative, courageous, community, and impactful. And again, our 31 practices were designed by our employees across a set of co-creation workshops. Created by our employees, for our employees, the values and practices motivate our workforce to keep them making Texthelp and our tools the best they can be. And several of our practices focus on inclusion. So we have be inclusive and welcome everyone regardless of their background, celebrate differences and learn from each other or bring your whole self to work by sharing who you are. This impacts our culture as well as also empowering our employees to uphold our company's mission and vision and drive the success of our business.


    And finally, we have created our global Texthelp community through our DEI Leadership Council who are responsible for overseeing Texthelp's DEI plans and ensuring employees are heard and represented. Their mission is to build connections and networks that strengthen our global Texthelp community, educating and creating awareness of each other's experiences and perspectives in order to promote that culture of belonging.


    We have our six employee resource groups.


    With that culture of belonging. We have our six employee resource groups, which are run by Texthelp employees and sponsored by our senior leadership team. We have Thrive, who focus on our mental, physical, and financial wellbeing. Alphabet Allies, who represent our LGBTQ+ community, Alter Eco, who focus on the environment, Empowered, focusing on gender, Enable, who are taking care of disability and neurodiversity, and Represent who focus on race and ethnicity. Then we have a DEI training plan, which consists of a set of workshops which are being delivered to senior leadership managers and employees. We also have a culture club, sharing experiences and stories from different cultures around the world, having fun through storytelling, recipe sharing, for example. Everything we've talked about today has enabled us to truly unleash the potential of our employees. Our engagement is high, our attrition is low. Our brand is attracting top talent in the market, and our business is benefiting from our world-class people, and this is showing up in our overall business results. What we have learned is that disabled and neurodivergent talent bring diversity of thought, and with that comes creativity and innovation. Neurodivergent talent is such an untapped talent pool, but neurodivergent people have so much to offer. They often aren't the best at identifying their skills and talents, and they can find it difficult to communicate and sell these skills and talents. It's on us as senior leaders in the talent space to ensure neurodiversity and neuroinclusion are on our agendas, because ultimately we will drive business performance as a result of the skills a diverse workforce brings. That's it from me. Lisa, back over to you. Thank you.

    Lisa Smyth (15:51):

    Thank you so much, Cathy. It was really great to hear you talking so enthusiastically. Just about a few of the things and the few initiatives we've gone on here at Texthelp to improve inclusion. I know it's a subject you're really, really passionate about and I'm glad that came across so well for everybody and came across so clearly. If anybody has any questions for Cathy, just pop them into the chat now while you're watching. But up next is Miranda. I'd like to pass over to Miranda who's going to be exploring MassMutual's changing approach to disability inclusion over the past few years. Over to you, Miranda. Take it away.

    Miranda McCarthy (16:25):

    Great. Thank you so much for having me and for having MassMutual on this esteemed panel. My name is Miranda McCarthy. I am a DEI consultant at MassMutual. I oversee our eight different business resource groups and I also am responsible for our individuals with disabilities strategy. I'm just so incredibly thrilled to be included on this panel. A little bit about MassMutual, for those of you who might not be aware. MassMutual is a financial services company. We're here to help you secure your future and protect the ones that you love. You might have seen us on various NHL commercials or Red Sox commercials, whether it's life insurance, disability insurance, wealth management products, et cetera. That's who MassMutual is. When it comes to DEI and diversity, equity and inclusion, MassMutual is extremely committed to our DEI values, including disability inclusion and neuro inclusion.


    We have been on quite the journey over the last few years to really recognize the contributions of our neurodivergent talent in the workforce and to create a better space for them. We're just so thankful for Texthelp and Disability:In and some of the other thought leaders in the industry. I'll be giving you a little bit of an overview about MassMutual, some of the changes that we've made over the past few years, and some of the things that we have in the works, and some of the plans that we have to help foster disability inclusion. From a MassMutual perspective, our DEI strategy is really around seeking and valuing those diverse perspectives. We know that these diverse perspectives reflect the markets that we serve, so we really remain committed to advocating for that fairness, whether it's in the marketplace, whether it's in our workplace, or whether it's in the community.


    We really value people being able to show up as their whole selves and bring their whole thoughts to our community and to our culture. We're just really thrilled about that. Over the past 15 years, this commitment has really been making us stronger. It's really been creating a workforce where everyone feels like they belong, they're respected, they're valued, and that they can make a meaningful contribution. That's really where the equity comes into. Since 2017, actually, MassMutual has done something pretty radical. We've actually built our DEI measures into our annual incentive program. We set annual goals to diversify our workforce, and we share that progress. We provide a level of transparency that is actually considered to be a best practice among inclusive companies. Every year we re-examine that workforce demographic. Something that I've noticed over the past few years as I've self disclosed and self IDed myself, is our self ID rate has actually increased since we have added these metrics into our annual incentive goals.


    Since we have fostered a deeper commitment, and I think a more tangible commitment from our senior leadership team, the conversations that they're having in these town halls, and in these panel discussions, and in these boardrooms really has completely changed because what you measure is what you care about, right? Ever since we started measuring that, we've seen some pretty impactful changes. For example, we've seen a 50% increase in our individual with disability self ID rates since 2019. We've started a neurodiversity and allies Slack channel where we can share resources, where we can discuss things like burnout and imposter syndrome. Over the past 10 years, we've transitioned from an ERG model, an employee resource group model, to a business resource group model. When we choose and appoint the chairs and the vice chairs of our various eight BRGs, that really helps us fulfill the company's DEI strategy in a multi-pronged way. First, we have the top talent in these communities helping to influence the company's decisions, so those decisions that we make in the community, in the workforce, and in the marketplace. We have these incredible chairs and vice chairs who help us influence that company and that DEI strategy. Then we also use these chairs and vice chairs' chair positions as incredible talent development. When we look at our demographics and when we look at the underrepresented talent or the marginalized talent that we seek to develop, we are hand in hand between our talent development organization and our DEI organization, and we actively use our BRGs to not only create that business impact on MassMutual, but to create that human impact on those individuals. I'm someone who has directly benefited from that here at MassMutual, and that has just been an incredible story for myself to experience.


    Something else that we do with these BRG leaders is we really focus on intersectionality. Believe it or not, we have members of our pride BRG that are super passionate about neurodivergence. We have members of our Latino and Asian BRGs that are having their own inclusion sessions, or they're having their own mental health sessions because so many of our communities realize that if 20% of us are neurodivergent, then that really means 20 plus percent in any other BRG at the company as well. We've really focused on the intersectional experience of neuro inclusion and what it's like to come out as neurodivergent in different cultures and what it's like to get a diagnosis if you're a woman, or if you are Asian, or if you're African-American. It can be very different. It can be very difficult to seek those diagnoses.


    That's why I really loved the Deloitte research and the Texthelp research where whether you are diagnosed or not or whether you're disclosed or not, neuroinclusion is really about all of us showing up and just getting what we need. I just think that that's so powerful and that is really our focus here at MassMutual, is being humanistic people leaders. We have campuses in Boston and Springfield. We have a pretty robust remote workforce as well. Our entire strategy, I think just like everyone else, was upended during the Covid-19 pandemic. We had to once again look at inclusion and look at the workforce very differently. We actually took that couple of years as a unique opportunity for ourselves.


    We really focused on employee development and mental health during those years when we felt, "Okay, could we take our foot off the pedal? Could we focus on only the basics?" We actually doubled down. We decided to do even more. We curated some digital pathways. We had more virtual events than we've ever had before, and we actually did a lot of collaborative events. These were not just specifically disability inclusion events, but these were intersectional events with our other BRG meters. That, plus the additional learning platforms, just this has really encouraged several different types of learning, and I think has really weaved a lot of the conversations together. Then that transitioned really well into this flexible workplace approach as we figure out how do we all work together post Covid pandemic.


    I think that it's really important when you think about change management. I think I heard us talk about change management earlier for neurodivergent colleagues. Our BRGs were able to actually work with our talent and HR organization on their communication and their deployment approach for some of these flexible workplace policies and changes. I think when you really lean on your BRG leaders when it comes to communication and deployment and that readiness support, you're just so much more effective. Your BRG leaders, whether they're paid positions or volunteered positions at your company, those are your stakeholders. Those are your thought leaders. Those are really the champions in those communities. Whether it's a virtual event, whether it's something fun that you're just trying to get everybody to attend, or whether it's this business outcome that you're really trying to drive, like neuroinclusion, if you are leaning on your BRG leaders as your ambassadors, your readiness strategy is really going to be just that much more effective.


    That's really what we've found at MassMutual, is using your BRG leaders to really be those people leaders and to really be ambassadors in their community. I think I heard earlier, listening to them, implementing some of their ideas and then communicating that back out. We use our BRG leaders to help us communicate that out. To say, "Hey, look." For example, the adapt BRG did a focus group to say, "What is it like for employees with disabilities or employees who are neurodivergent who currently work here, whether you are out or not, whether you're disclosing or not, can you tell us good, bad, and ugly? What are your experiences in getting hired, and getting onboarded, and getting trained, and in being retained at our company?"


    We actually had Deb Dagit from Disability:In come in and facilitate these closed door focus group sessions with our disabled employees. We were able to get the quantitative and the qualitative data from that. Now the BRG and Deb Dagit are consulting with our entire HR and DEI team to say, "Okay, what's the low hanging fruit? What are the top priorities here, because as we seek to bring in more neurodivergent talent, we need to make sure that we have a great supportive culture for the talent that is already here." That's really the MassMutual multi-pronged approach. Step one was really getting our BRG up and running and into a more strategic place. Step two was focus groups and surveys of the talent...


    ... was focus groups and surveys of the talent that is already here. One in three college educated, working age adults consider themselves disabled, whether they're neurodivergent or not. So we really wanted to understand who's already here crushing our company goals and how could we support them better? So over the next year, we hope that just by implementing some of those changes and suggestions from the focus groups, we might naturally increase our self ID rate, we might naturally recruit more people just by word of mouth.


    And then once we're able to really prove that we feel like we know what we're doing, we feel like we can point to a robust supportive culture for our current neurodivergent employees, that's when we'll feel more confident to really open up some sort of cohort or some sort of specific hiring program like we've seen some of the other companies do. So that's really the vision, is nothing is perfect, but how do we make it safe for everyone to be their whole selves at work? And it starts with all of us who are already here being our whole selves at work. So open to questions and feedback, but that's just in a nutshell what MassMutual has been working on over the past few years.

    Lisa Smyth (29:29):

    Thank you so much, Miranda. That was absolutely wonderful. I know having met some of you guys and MassMutual team and even some of your BRG members over the last few months, you guys are so enthusiastic about this. This is a journey you're embracing and it's just wonderful to watch and wonderful to get time to talk to you. So thank you so much for sharing that today. Again, anybody has any questions from Miranda, pop them into the chat and we will definitely get back to you. So last but not least, of course not least, I want to bring Melissa into the conversation. Melinda is going to... Melissa, not Melinda. Melissa is going to talk to you about some of the wonderful work that is going on inside EY Ireland. So I'm super excited to pass over to you, Melissa.

    Melissa Bosch (30:11):

    Thank you so much for having me. It was so wonderful listening to Miranda and Cathy speak about the work being done. This is the joy of working in this area. So my name is Melissa Bosch. I'm head of DE&I for EY Ireland. I'm absolutely passionate about what I do, passionate about equity, inclusion, and belonging, and it really stems from my ethos, which is seated in the African philosophy of Ubuntu. So Ubuntu talks about the universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity, I am because you are.


    And that's my purpose. Social inclusion, social justice is my why. So absolutely thrilled to be here today. Thrilled to be able to share a little bit about what we are doing in EY for equity, inclusion and belonging. So I'm going to share a few little slides just to give you a sense of what we're talking about. But EY is one of the largest professional services firms in the world, and the business works across various industries. Audit, transactions, tax, et cetera, et cetera. I'm just going to get these slides up really quickly. Okay. Great. So EY is one of the world's largest professional services firms. EY provides a range of services across various industries services that include audits, assurance, tax, consulting, strategy and transaction. We have a 300,000 strong global network of professionals that work with a diverse range of clients, including multinationals, corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and small to medium-sized enterprises. In our day-to-day work, what we do is we want to create a culture where people feel that they belong, feel that they can bring their true selves to work like was mentioned earlier. We want people to be able to do that. We want to be able to leverage different perspectives, fuel innovation, foster collaboration, and strengthen our relationships.


    So our vision is to create that inclusive culture. A culture where people leverage those unique perspectives and they bring innovation into the workplace to help us build a better working world. Our focus is on diversity and inclusion and equity, and it's integral into how we develop our people, how we serve our clients, how we disrupt thinking, and how we play leadership roles in our communities. I mean, it was mentioned over the last while it's been really challenging with all the change. The pandemic, it has really brought a range of challenges to our people. And so we really want to help them through our strategy, through what we do and how we influence within our organization.


    The pandemic had forced a rapid shift into remote working for organizations and we've had to adapt and address the unique challenges that it's thrown up and the opportunities that it's also brought. So we've taken those lessons and we've brought it with us into this new normal, and we are constantly shaping and reshaping our hybrid ways of working, constantly learning to adapt, work and not to exacerbate the existing inequalities. That was really important for us. Looking at how these changes affect different demographics within our organization the pandemic brought those societal issues to the fore.


    It brought societal issues including race, social disparities to the forefront, and it can amplify that urgency of embedding the practice of equity and inclusion within our new hybrid organization. We've been more proactive, engaging with employees and the broader community to ensure our initiatives are aligned to societal expectations and they really reflect the values that we have as an organization. We work really closely with our ERGs, with our networks. We call them networks within EY, and they've really become the voice of the business. So from a strong strategy that really centers around three pillars belonging, representation, and disruptive voice, we've underpinned that with our networks who bring that strategy to life.


    I often say that strategies is a piece of paper until people take action and bring it to life within the organization. And that's really important, to take that concept of what you want to do and what you want to achieve and infuse that into individuals within the organization that have the passion, tenacity and drive to make things happen. And listening, listening came through strongly. We need to be able to listen to our people because they know what they need. And it's really important that we as talent leaders listen and understand and put in interventions that are going to help them fulfill their potential. Pandemic also underscored the need for collaboration between HR and talent.


    It was so important for us to ensure that the way we implement policies and practices, that it's supportive of the DE&I strategy. Regularly sharing communication, sharing data, being really data driven and data led to have those rich conversations and ensuring that their initiatives are not siloed, that this is a DE&I thing that's happening, but it's integrated into the lived experience of people across the firm and into the HR business as usual practices. And that's become really critical in us achieving our goals. The pandemic and all the changes as a result and all the changes in our world, it's really highlighted the vulnerability of specific communities.


    Specific communities that are disproportionately affected, affected by the impact of, and the aftermath of the virus as well. So our DE&I initiatives have expanded to provide supports and resources to these communities throughout our networks. And that's really addressing those unique needs, those unique challenges. Some of those activities that we brought to life over the pandemic and before and over the pandemic was sensory maps of the building. So each floor has a sensory map for our neurodivergent colleagues so they know where they can go if they needed a space where the lighting is better or where there's less odor from the canteen. So they're aware of that and having it up on each floor, it's just helped other colleagues understand that they are these differences and that we have to be open and flexible to those differences to ensure that people can be at their best in the workplace. So these are small things that have a big impact for individuals. Things like assistive technologies guides, they help people in a way and having them accessible, a where you don't need to ask for them becomes a point of dignity that it's there and if you need it you can go and get it. And that's really important. That dignity piece is really important.


    Looking at what we're doing and there's so many things that we do across the globe around neurodiversity, but within EY and there's something that I really want to share with you around what we're doing for our individuals with intellectual disabilities. So in Ireland, there's a number of individuals with intellectual disabilities, and that number has grown significantly. It's surpassed 66,000 in recent times across the island of Ireland. And there's been considerable gaps in their participation in the workforce. Only 14.7% of individuals with intellectual disabilities are currently employed in contrast to 26.2 of those with other disabilities and 62.1% of people without any disabilities.


    So there's a stark difference there. And this gap represents a missed opportunity. We've heard about it. We've heard that diverse teams they outperform homogenous ones. Greater diversity not only enhances creativity, but there's better decision making and improve financial and employee experience outcomes. Moreover, it just brings about better societal advantages, promoting social mobility, aligning with broader initiatives like the UN SDGs and the convention on the rights of Persons with disabilities. It's a win-win scenario for individuals, businesses, and society as a whole. Over the past five years, EY and the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities have collaborated to create pathways for young individuals with intellectual disabilities to really flourish and embark on meaningful career journeys.


    Look, in an era that's marked by ongoing progress in diversity and inclusivity activities, I'm particularly proud to witness and to contribute to a program that really extends from higher education to create meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The profound impact of these efforts, it extends beyond the graduates themselves. It ripples through their families, colleagues, society as a whole, leaving an indelible mark that can't be overstated. You just have to read Margaret's quote there. So in 2017, partnering with Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities, we trialed an internship program for people with ID with intellectual disabilities. Our motivation was a deep commitment to really understand and address an often overlooked area. And that came with a strong belief that everyone should have the opportunity to work and make a positive contribution in society. Our experience in working with Trinity to create these opportunities-


    ... with Trinity to create these opportunities. It really affirmed that belief. These opportunities have directly contributed to our success as a professional services firm. If we look at our Pulse survey, which is in our employee survey, we can see the difference in teams that have colleagues with intellectual disabilities in them. We can see the difference in that employee experience. Adapting to accommodate our candidates, it's really driven us to reassess all our processes and enhance the way we've engaged with everyone regardless of whether they have a disability or not.


    The transformative and overwhelmingly positive impact on our colleagues, it's absolutely evident. And the benefits, it really extends across all aspects of our business. Look, it was a leap into uncharted territory. It came with numerous challenges and more than a few mistakes, but nonetheless, it marked the inception of a long-term transformational endeavor that aligns with our purpose of creating a better working world.


    Over the years, the initiative has grown in strengths evolving beyond the initial pilot and moved into our BAU operational approach. Margaret Turley, she's on screen there, she was our first Trinity grad and since then we've had five more grads join and we continue to grow that population and they contribute to various aspects of our organization. The benefits have been far-reaching and the graduates have found a profound sense of purpose and self-belief through meaningful work, but also their families, friends and colleagues across EY Ireland and the business as a whole. You don't need to listen to me. I'd love for you to hear from Stephen Ryan.

    Stephen's Mother (44:18):

    Well, Stephen as a child was a bit of a nightmare, but one of a kind. He had barely any language at six years of age. I mean, he talked a lot, but nobody understood what he was saying. It was very hard sending him into school. Nobody could see his achievements. He was six, but he acted more like a four-year-old. When he was eight then he acted like six-year-old. He was always improving, but nobody ever saw it.

    Stephen Ryan (44:42):

    I have dyspraxia coordination disability. When I was in school, they had no support for that. But now in school, they have special chairs for people with this, so they can't fall over or anything. But back when I was in school, nobody knew what there was. Nobody heard of it before. There's so much more supports there for people with disabilities now than there were ever.

    Stephen's Mother (45:04):

    He was taken out of mainstream schooling. Then he went on to the NLN.

    Stephen Ryan (45:09):

    At the end of that course, you have to go in the work placement and at the end of the year you would get a job out of it. The work I was in, the job shut down after 11 months of my 12-month contract, and they didn't do anything to replicate it. They just left me without any educational job for two years after.

    Stephen's Mother (45:27):

    Yeah. And the two years here, that was the hardest part. And then he got very depressed and had to give up work, didn't you? And then we found Trinity College.

    Stephen Ryan (45:37):

    I had the interview. The interview couldn't have gone better. But it was the next day, actually, I got word I got accepted to Trinity College.

    Stephen's Mother (45:46):

    The confidence just shot through the roof. You stood up straight. Everything about you changed those two years. Growing up, sorry Steve, you're great, but I never thought you'd make Trinity.

    Stephen Ryan (46:01):

    That makes two of us. I couldn't have loved Trinity more. It was the first place I actually felt like I belonged.

    Stephen's Mother (46:09):


    Stephen Ryan (46:09):

    It also gave me a route into work. At the end of the two years, I did a work placement in EY. I got accepted after two months for a permanent role in EY. I'm also the fastest person to be employed to work from the Trinity Center for Intellect Disabilities. I rang up Marie, who's the course coordinator when I got the role and she was like, "Are you sure? Are you sure it's not an extension?" "No, no, no. It's permanent. I'm sure." Where I work in EY, I work in the tax department of EY.

    Stephen's Mother (46:46):

    Well, he tells me he's an accountant, but I mean I don't think he is because I was a bookkeeper. I was never an accountant. He pulls databases and spreadsheets and works like that. He keeps diaries for people and contacts.

    Stephen Ryan (47:09):

    I've been there for two years now, so I love it. People have come in and gone in that time, but new people have come in and everyone who's come in has been very supportive too.

    Stephen's Mother (47:12):

    Stephen's never had any friends and these people were genuinely friends. Achieving the school is one thing, but being a part of a community is really special. Now, special Olympics was good for us, but then when he went to EY and the confidence grew, he was just the best.

    Stephen Ryan (47:30):

    Mom's been immense to me. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have been in Trinity to begin with. Them two years on my own were a very low point in my life and very hard for me. Mom's kept on searching for something for me just to do. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am today. And my achievement is her achievement in the way.

    Stephen's Mother (47:56):

    I'm extremely proud of where Steve has got to. I never thought you would get that far. I really didn't. I'm sorry, but really, I mean, you had so many problems. Your body's not automatic. You have to think about what you're doing. I think the best thing, the Special Olympics, you coach them on a Wednesday night, don't you? The young ones? And the parents look at you and they see hope for their kids. That's so important. I saw no hope for Stephen when he was ... I didn't know where he was going to end up. Where he is now and the man he is now, it's beyond my wildest expectations. So proud.

    Melissa Bosch (48:54):

    So that was Stephen Ryan, an incredible story, and his mom's reflections as well. Creating meaningful employment for people with intellectual disabilities and people on the neuro-divergent spectrum, it's not only a moral imperative, it's also a strategic advantage. Engaging, enabling, and empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities, with disabilities in general, benefits organizations. It enriches workplaces and fosters a more inclusive society. The first step in this journey and what we've learned, is really to engage the support of the C-suite of leadership. Having a high level sponsor not only boosts visibility, but also holds us accountable for the commitment to inclusion. It sets the tone within the organization. It shows the dedication to a diverse workforce. To ensure that sustainability of our program, we allocated the necessary resources, we ensured that the candidate had a circle of support around them. Sustainability is vital to the development of programs like this.


    Remember that internal partners within our organization can be a valuable resource. Collaboration with different line managers and different departments can help us tap into internal expertise, resources, and making a program much more robust and resilient. Sustainable partnerships are absolutely key as well. They allow us to really leverage knowledge and experience outside our organization, so people like the Trinity Center for Intellectual Disabilities, As I am, Specialisterne, Texthelp. It's so important to develop those relationships so you can leverage those capabilities when developing job specifications. Not only looking at the skills and capabilities that are essential for the role, but actually being open to considering alternatives and looking beyond the candidate's CV to get that full picture of what they can bring to the business.


    The pandemic, look, it's accelerated DE&I efforts. It's making us more responsive to societal expectations and it's really changed the talent landscape. It's reinforced the importance of collaboration between DE&I and HR, and it's prompted us to really address the challenges of remote working, well-being, and then that intersectional diversity. Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has grown stronger as a result here at EY Ireland.


    In the spirit, what we've done is we've designed a guide and we'll soon be launching it. A guide based on the lived experience of our colleagues with intellectual disabilities in the firm. This guide is a product of collective insights from Trinity grads, from Trinity colleagues, family members, EY managers, mentors and more, and it aims to provide an understanding of the lessons that we've acquired and demonstrates the immense value that people on the neuro-divergent spectrum can bring to organizations. We want organizations looking to welcome employees with intellectual disabilities to find this guide not only informative, but inspiring.


    If we collectively commit to the principles of equity, inclusion, and belonging and take meaningful action, we will create a more inclusive world for all. I'll leave you with this final question. How will you unlock the transformative power of belonging today? Thank you so much for your time. I'll be delighted to take any questions.

    Lisa Smyth (53:08):

    Thank you so much, Melissa. That was wonderful. I'm always so inspired to hear what's going on within EY and EY Ireland, particularly. We had Frank O'Keefe on a session earlier in the year, and it's just amazing to hear all this other stuff that we didn't know was going on. I would say to everybody, Melissa's final question, pop your answers into the chat. We want to hear from you guys as well. And the same, if you have any other questions for Melissa or any of the panelists here today, put them into the chat and we will come back to you as soon as possible.


    That brings us to the end of this session. Huge thank you to Cathy, Miranda, and Melissa for sharing all your experiences and your expertise. And you know what, I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg. I wish we could all just sit in one room and talk for a whole night. I'm sure we would get all sorts of amazing places. But for everyone watching, if you'd like to learn more about workplace inclusion, creating inclusive culture, all of those great things, head over to our virtual booths. We have so many resources and guides and all sorts of really interesting materials there that will really help you on your way.


    If you'd like to book a chat with one of our inclusive workplace specialists, just pop the words, let's chat, into the chat box and we'll reach out to you as soon as the festival is over. So up next, we have one more session today. The next panel is going to explore how inclusive technology offers a small change that can drive huge results company-wide. So you want to join the next session, just click the live tab at the top of your screen and go to hear from other great thinkers and leaders fromCIPD, Deloitte and other organizations.


    But from the four of us today, just want to say goodbye. Thank you so much for attending today, and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of the festival. Bye guys. Thank you.

    Melissa Bosch (54:56):

    Thank you.

    Cathy Donnelly (54:57):


    Miranda McCarthy (54:59):

    Take care. Thanks.

Inclusive tech: Your next step in driving impactful change organization-wide

A session with Kim Whippy, Enablement Manager at a multinational professional services brand, Rita Isaac, Disability and Neurodiversity co-lead, CIPD, Carole Mendonca, National Leader of Accessibility, Deloitte Canada

Session details and slides

  • Big strides lead to big impact - but so can small steps!

    In this session, we look at how inclusive technology offers a small change that can lead to great results for disability and neuro-inclusion, company-wide. Gain insights from global brands and end users as they share why providing inclusive technology should be your next step. Discover their learnings and explore how they've driven impactful change for their entire workforce.

  • Paul Fox:

    Hello and welcome along to what is the last session of the day here at our Festival of Workplace Inclusion 2023. Many thanks for joining us and here in this session our panel will be exploring how inclusive technology can drive impactful change. And in particular, how inclusive technology offers a small change that can lead to great results for disability and neuro inclusion company-wide.

    My name's Paul Fox from Texthelp. I'm a white male in my 50s with what I'd like to still think of as dark brown hair. I have a beard which has far too many gray hairs in it and blue eyes, and I'm speaking to you today from my home study in Belfast, Northern Ireland. As vice president of customer acquisitions in Texthelp, I have the privilege of working and partnering with many, many employers and organizations who are keen to adopt inclusive technology and helping them on their journey to become truly inclusive workplaces. Today I'll be sharing my thoughts alongside our amazing panel, which includes Kim Whippy, enablement manager at a multinational professional services brand, Carole Mendonca, national leader of accessibility for Deloitte Canada, and Rita Isaac, disability and neurodiversity co-lead at the CIPD and a data user herself of inclusive technology.

    So welcome everyone. Thanks very much for joining us. It's great to have you here today. Just to set the scene quickly, were you aware that 90% of business leaders believe that using technology to improve work outcomes is very important to their organization's success? Yet only 23% believe that their organizations are truly ready to use technology to improve work outcomes and team performance. At Texthelp we believe that the potential of all employees, but especially those with neurodiverse conditions and hidden disabilities, can be fully achieved when we offer the right software, the right support, and the right tools to help them fully succeed.

    We currently support around 200 million people worldwide with our tools and by 2030 it's our ambition and our goal to be supporting 1 billion people. We're determined to reach that goal, but we know we can't reach it on our own. So if you're interested in working with us to provide support and tools for your employees and to hear about the support we can also offer to their family members, then we'd love to hear from you. The easiest way to do that is just drop the words "let's chat" in the questions window and we'd reach out to you after today's session. Please also check out our virtual booths and the many resources that are on offer there, and in doing so, you might even win a spot prize. So before we get started, I think a round of introductions would be useful. So guys on the panel, could I ask each of you please to give us a quick introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourselves. Kim, if we could kick off with you.

    Kim Whippy:

    Thanks very much, Paul. And I'm delighted to be here today. So my name is Kim. I'm a white woman with long, dark, curly hair, wearing a green shirt, set in a very plain office room in London in the UK. As you mentioned, Paul, my role is Enablement manager for a multinational professional services brand. Very briefly what that means is, I support the implementation of our inclusion and diversity strategy in the UK with a particular focus on disability inclusion and neuro inclusion.

    Paul Fox:

    Brilliant, thank you so much. And Carole?

    Carole Mendonca:

    Great. Thank you, Paul. Hi everyone. Thank you for having me here today. My name is Carole Mendonca, as Paul mentioned. I lead accessibility for Deloitte Canada, based in Toronto. I have long black hair, black eyes, and tan skin, and I'm also wearing a beige blazer. For those of you who may not know, Deloitte is a professional services firm providing support in a number of areas such as consulting, risk advisory, audit, and tax. And within my role at Deloitte Canada, I oversee Deloitte's accessibility strategy, action plan, and the team who support the execution of our accessibility action plan as well.

    On the other side of my role, I also support Deloitte's clients with their accessibility goals focused on strategy, action plans, governance and change management. Within our accessibility action plan, we have a pillar of inclusive environment, which has a focus on digital accessibility and IT accommodations. So I work very closely with our digital accessibility team, James Dalli and Shiri Ohayon, to strategize and collaborate on new ways that we can support our people and empower them to work in their own way. So looking forward to the discussion.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic, thanks a lot and not enough hours in your day by the sound of it, Carole. Thanks so much. And Rita, I think I come to yourself.

    Rita Isaac:

    Hi. Welcome. Sorry, not welcome. Thank you for having me here. I'm dyslexic, so this is a good start. I'm Rita Isaac. I'm the learning and development coordinator here at CIPD, the Charter Institute for Personnel Development. I'm also the co-chair for our disability neurodiversity employer resources group.

    I'm a white female, I have long-ish bright pink hair and I'm wearing glasses and I am in an office, in our CIPD office here in UK as well, based in Wimbledon. I'm joining this conversation, because besides being the co-chair for disability and neurodiversity ERG, I'm also dyslexic and neurodivergent and I've started using assistive tools in the last couple of years. And this year I was very excited to work with our head of EDI and with ERGs to implement Read&Write org-wide. I'm joining to share a little bit of our experience pulling that out to our organization.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic. I'm going to look forward to hearing much more about that as we go through our chat here. I'm thinking just by way of kickoff, should we try to define what exactly is inclusive technology and maybe some examples of it. Rita, I know you mentioned Read&Write supplied by ourselves, we come onto that. But Kim, I'm thinking of coming to yourself initially. In your view, what would you consider and what do you define as inclusive technology solutions?

    Kim Whippy:

    Sure. So in my role, I work very closely with our digital accessibility team and I also am myself a user of what I would consider to be inclusive HEC. And if I could propose a bit of a definition just to kick us off, I'd probably say it would be technology that anybody can pick up and use how they want to, that adapts to their needs and preferences. That's how I use it myself when I think of things like, for example, our collaboration platforms like Google Meet that we're using today, that if I need to, I can switch on the captions to help with auditory processing.

    Or it might be more specifically creative tech like assistive technology that's been developed to suit a particular range of needs, but that I might also find beneficial. So I'd probably put it into those two buckets, really. Tech that can be adapted to meet needs or tech that has been designed to meet specific needs.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic. It's interesting you use the word adapt. I think that's one of the things too, in trying to define the technology we might sell ourselves short. It's whether it's inclusive, assistive or adaptive or it's all three.

    I think just brings to mind, I quote I know I often use, I think it was Dana Morrow who said that accessibility is a nexus of where people with disabilities interact with technology. And again, that word adapt comes up. Kim, I'm thinking of coming to yourself as somebody who proactively or an organization who proactively offer inclusive tech solutions to their employees. How best do you see it being used within organizations?

    Kim Whippy:

    I think there are a couple of ways, and those can be at an organization wide level and at the individual level. And how we see it being used is both to support those individual needs, almost one-to-one, giving that ability to someone to not worry about the barriers, but just to focus on getting on with their job and have the tools that they need to adapt to that situation.

    But increasingly, we are starting to think beyond a lot of individual barriers and thinking about our employee experience. And one way that we are using tech, just to give an example, is to look at how we're making things like learning and development opportunities or events more inclusive and trying different ways of using existing tech. For example, automated captioning, which I know traditionally has not been terribly good but has come a long way, to use that in a way that enables inclusion but provides people also running events with a bit of a self-serve option to increase participation.

    So we're thinking beyond what we might sometimes come across, the more traditional accessibility barriers that people have a level of understanding around what those are. But actually thinking about it's not just turning up and working on your laptop, how are you participating in the whole of the work experience?

    Paul Fox:

    No, 100%. I think you've touched on something crucial there. I think when we talk about inclusive technology, it's not a finite science, it is something that's evolving and the automated captions is a great example. When we look at the solutions nowadays and even the advent of artificial intelligence, these things are coming on leaps and bounds and as you said, it's a case of looking at what we already have and how best to adopt and implement and use it. In terms of how it helps create a more inclusive working environment, and you're right, it's not just the technology, it's how we interact. I think it was BBC Wales, their new headquarters building, they designed it with neurodiversity in mind from the outset. So a lot of the traditional modern office style practices of open spaces and bright lights, they've gone the other way and created quiet spaces and been very mindful of lighting.

    So you're right, there's more than just the technology that allows people to bring their whole selves to work and creates that safe space to get on and be better at their job and make the job better for them. But coming back to the technology bit and how that creates a more inclusive working environment for employees and the impact that can have. Rita, I'm looking at you here and thinking as an end user and you mentioned Read&Write in particular at the start of this, could you maybe share your experience of how you feel that has, indeed if it has, created a more inclusive working environment for yourself and the impact that has had?

    Rita Isaac:

    So for me, being neurodivergent and being dyslexic and having a desk-based job means that sometimes I do struggle with attention, I struggle with focus. If I struggle to pay attention and to process information during long periods of time and sometimes even simple things as writing. And I wasn't diagnosed until very recently, which is not uncommon at all. And I started hearing more about tools like reading aloud and screen readers and trying different things that were readily available, some of them available through browsers and automatic steps. When I came across Read&Write, I realized that using the screenwriter, the speech to text tool, the screen masking, all of that together was allowing me to circumvent those difficulties that I was having on a daily basis. But also, I realized that this is something that I was already tiptoeing and trying some bits and bobs even without having a diagnosis. So you don't have to have a diagnosis to know that you can gain from these technologies.

    Then we started thinking that well yes, I am neurodivergent, yes I have dyslexia, but this is more than that. This is something that can be applied by anyone that is neurotypical, that has no source of disabilities or impairments as a massive productivity hack. If you can highlight something, dictate handovers, all of those menial tasks that take so much time and just do it by saving time, do it more effectively and then save your head space and your time for other tasks and projects and creative tasks, why wouldn't you do that? I think that Kim and Carole made a really good point about how the technology removes the barriers and being assistive or adaptive. It makes sure that there's a playing field for everyone to have equity besides organizations having diversity.

    But one thing that I think it's also important is for us to remove the barriers through the assistive technology. And that's what we did at CIPD when we rolled it out this year. So the way that it contributed massively to our inclusion strategy and to making our work culture more inclusive was by rolling it out with an opt-out, instead of opt-in option. So basically what we do is everyone has access to it from day one. It's on their laptop, they just have to activate the license and we explain how to do it on the first day. And in that way, people that don't know if they need it or not, they don't have to find out, they don't have to have a diagnosis. You don't have to disclose anything that you don't want. You don't have to know exactly what you need, just you trial and you experiment and you work with it and it's just there for everyone. I think that it does make a big difference in making your organization more inclusive by removing barriers that might exist, but also by removing barrier to access the technology itself.

    Paul Fox:

    Yeah, I can't agree more. There's a few things jumping at me, you're right, I think that make it available to everyone. Remove that barrier and it should be an opt-out if you so choose rather than having to opt in. I think the level playing field you referred to is crucial as well. I think that idea that these maybe provide support specific to some with certainly benefits that should be available to all. And if we look at that, it brings me on the next bit where we look at how accessible solutions over the years have helped everybody become the norm.

    And I always refer to an access ramp. If I've got a suitcase in ways, I'm not going to avoid it, I'll use the ramp, but it makes life much easier for me and indeed everybody else. So there's an awful lot of what you said there in terms of how it helps, the impact it can have, I think is a huge bit. But in terms of becoming a truly inclusive employer, I think you're right, the proactivity available is a great step, but that's the impact on the inclusive environment, the individual, the employee, but then looking at the employer. Carole, if you have any thoughts on what benefits or beneficial impacts adoption and proactive deployment of inclusive tech could then have in terms of maybe the employer brand reputation?

    Carole Mendonca:

    Yes. When you create an inclusive environment, everyone has an equal opportunity to participate and influence every part of a workplace or experience. And it's clearly the theme of this panel when I mention this, it's important to celebrate differences as strengths and really to provide inclusive safe spaces as we've been talking about, for people to connect around the world. And this really helps employees feel valued and heard and it's a strong focus. [inaudible 00:17:45] captioning and just these examples, thinking about them, they help reduce a collaborative environment and what we've seen is it puts employees in the driver's seat.

    So it leads to an increase in employee engagement and just helps build trust with the companies as well because they can work independently. At Deloitte, we are committed, as some of you have highlighted here, we're committed to being more proactive as opposed to reactive, especially when it comes to the needs of our people and learning more about people's different lived experiences because every person will have different needs based on their experience. So it takes time and it's definitely a journey, but employees want to work for companies that foster inclusive and innovative practices where they can pivot, adapt, and change knowing that it will benefit all people.

    Paul Fox:

    No, absolutely, totally agree. And Kim, I think Rita's touched on this, but I think it's fair to say we can't assume one size to fit all, especially when it comes to adaptive and inclusive technology. In terms of the tools that offer choice and how we work, is there any examples? We've mentioned Read&Write, which does provide a whole host of tools within one package to people, but are there any other things you can think of that are easily readily available and easy to implement that people can provide by way of inclusive solutions?

    Kim Whippy:

    Yeah, for sure. In terms of specific examples, I think for me it comes back to the wider context of how we try to raise awareness around what's available to people and really normalize this and make it very every day because if you get a bunch of features and you bucket it up and say these are adjustments or accommodations, then that's brilliant for the people that are looking for that and know that they need that. But you are also potentially missing on a whole wider group of people who could benefit from that same support but might almost opt themselves out because they think, "Oh, I don't need that enough." or "That's not for me. I don't want to take it away from someone else." So what I'm trying to do, part of my role around enablement is really this removing barriers and you sort of referenced the curb-cut effect earlier, which we love and we are really trying to bring into what we do.

    So something that our digital accessibility team does is actually say, "Take your work phone out, take your laptop out, go into the settings and have a look at everything that is already built in that you can tailor to your needs." And that hasn't been a specific add-on that's been available for people to download or it's not a separate piece of software, but it's there for everybody and it really does help.

    To give you an example, I have everything on my laptop set up in dark mode. I just find that so much easier to read. I have increased the font size. Again, just things that you can do for yourself, you don't need to ask permission, tell anybody. But I guess a quick tip is make sure that you've not switched anything off system-wide. There's new features rolling out, check what's available, make it available to people. It's quite exciting, especially with things like the live captions coming through and transcripts and it's definitely so much that can be done just to tailor that to your own needs and to raise awareness that it exists and it's for everybody.

    Paul Fox:

    Yeah, fantastic. Totally agree. And a few more statistics from my side here. 76% of people with a disability or neurodiverse condition do not fully disclose this at work. And 43% of employees with disabilities do not feel comfortable to approach their employer to ask for change. So it's something that come back to what Rita touched on as well. People who may not be aware they have a specific neurodivergent condition is one of the things springs to mind when I ask this next question. Is these solutions as technologies often provided to a select few within a company after those people having to go through maybe a fairly arduous and lengthy process of sharing, disclosing assessments, et cetera, the fors and againsts of why these tools shouldn't be provided to all employees instead.

    And as I say, that bit that reader spoke about, I'm thinking even people within their own company, including their own CEO, who either get a late diagnosis in life of a condition such as dyslexia or go through their working life without ever getting a formal diagnosis, but just knowing that there are some things make life easier for them. I'd be keen to hear your views. Is there a right way or wrong way? And some of the arguments we hear as to why not to deploy this proactively to all employees would be, if I give one thing to one person, everybody's going to want it. The argument I always give against that is if somebody needs glasses, we're not going to get glasses to everybody in the company, but what's your view on it? Maybe Carole, we'll come back to yourself in this, please.

    Carole Mendonca:

    Sure, yeah, I think we've referenced the curb-cut effect quite a bit and it definitely applies here thinking about an accessible process, space or feature, how it benefits the broader wellbeing of everyone, not just people with disabilities or neurodivergent people. If I think about inclusive technology, it makes good business sense for a few reasons, thinking about attracting new diverse talent, the retention of employees by creating that inclusive working environment and also just more employee engagement overall.

    So when you provide choice, flexibility for all your employees, it does create that positive working environment and as I mentioned a couple times, it improves collaboration within teams in a hybrid environment now that we're working remotely or working in the office as well. And for companies also thinking about the brand recognition because you're seen as a desirable place to work now that you've incorporated these things into your company.

    Within our organization, our digital accessibility team created an inclusive technology catalog, which includes a list of vetted and approved technology that's offered to all employees on our internal hub. And the intention of this was to really provide our people with the opportunity and choice to be empowered and select what they need to in order to do their day-to-day work. And this also eliminates the need to disclose to multiple channels or at all if they don't want to. So something we definitely keep in mind and an example of our organization.

    One more thing just to highlight is something I hear quite often from companies is the cost of inclusive technology. And while it varies, depending on the technology, by investing in technology with accessibility features, you're actually promoting inclusivity as an organization that as I mentioned, attracts and helps you retain employees from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and that's what most companies are looking for, diverse talent.

    Paul Fox:

    Absolutely. Great that you mentioned that it is something I think companies tend to overlook, that the attraction and retention of talent, that's a retention, but as you say, when they talk about the cost of adopting technology and solutions, I think they often overlook the cost of staff churn and that can be a huge cost for companies. I think it was one of the partners we were working with said in their experience that neurodiverse and neurodivergent employees on average took three years to disclose their condition or seek help.

    The point we make is if you haven't offered help within those three years, those people are likely going to leave and go somewhere else. You'll have the cost of replacing those. And I think you're right; to attract the right talent, you need to be inclusive. And a great quote I heard during inclusion making an event was that diversity is the dividend of inclusion and if you're being inclusive, you will end up with a truly diverse workforce on top of everything else, which I think is great. And this is a no-brainer now and it's non-negotiable for most young job seekers now coming to the place of work, they want to be part of a truly inclusive and diverse workforce and that will be one of the key factors they use to assess where they wish to work.

    I think a recent figure that came out from the US Census Bureau was that globally 52% of the global population now under 30, they come with an innate digital fluency. So I think it's getting to the stage where these things will be expected rather than requested. So we need to take steps. Kim, as I said, with an organization like yourselves who does proactively offer an inclusive tech solutions such as Read&Write to the all employees, I'm guessing you have answer to this argument, you feel the right way to go is to do that. What were the main drivers in arriving at that decision for you guys?

    Kim Whippy:

    I think it's really knowing our tools and knowing our employees. So to give the example of the literacy support software, we noticed our digital accessibility team, I should say noticed, that back in 2022, I think it was, the usage or requests for that software which used to be on an individual license basis actually increased twofold. So decision was made to roll that out to everybody and we actually saw a 600% increase in usage of that tech, which shows us that we think that's the right thing to do for that because just the range of features offered suit a variety of needs.

    But in terms of knowing our tools and knowing our needs, it was really key for us to talk to our employees. And when we look at what else is on the market and what else might be helpful, our team have done things like hold small focus groups, do demos, talk about what are the barriers you face and would this help remove some of those barriers. Because there will be tools that will be made for a very specific set of needs and won't necessarily benefit everybody.

    So for us it has been really important to retain that really careful balance around if there is a need for something more bespoke and we do have that process where people can, should they find it helpful, get that workstation assessment to make sure that anything that they're provided with is absolutely the right thing for them, whilst removing that barrier around the tools that meet a variety of needs. You don't need to go and get approval for that, you can just download that and see if that's going to work for you.

    But really knowing what our employees find helpful has really helped us explore what's out there, what would be beneficial. And it's really helped us be very transparent as well because then if there is something that we maybe can't bring in as a large professional services firm, we do have particular policies that we need to balance against. Sure it's familiar to others on the panel, but we can be really transparent about, well we do have this instead. These are the features and this is the process that we've gone through to bring that in collaboration with you.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic. And Rita, again, you guys have successfully made the argument that tools like this should be provided to everybody or indeed as many people as possible for an organization. How did that go in your experience? Was it an easy argument to have or to form? Would you consider it's been a success and have you seen anything of note in terms of either success or impact across the organization since adopting, for instance, Read&Write that you spoke about?

    Rita Isaac:

    So for us was, well the argument was easy from a perspective of we are the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. We champion better work and working lives, so we do value and we champion diversity and equality and inclusion. And we do understand that even if you attract a diverse pool of candidates and workforce, if you don't then make them feel like they belong, if you don't work on the inclusion piece, then as you said, the turnover will just be huge. One thing doesn't work without the other.

    So from that perspective, the case was made for us. But also, when you mentioned earlier the cost being an issue, for example, arguably organizations by being proactive and going out to tender and to procure suppliers that have similar ethos, that they now exercise their corporate responsibility, that they can negotiate the products that they're getting for the licenses, arguably the organizations can actually get a better value in terms of cost as well. And they can work out within their budgets more so than if you do have, even if it's a limited number of people requesting different assistive technologies and different products.

    So even from that perspective, that adding to the fact that you do notice an inclusive productivity when it is used by neurotypical people or people that don't have impairments or disabilities from a time saving perspective. That combined makes the case for a return on investment. This said, we rolled that out earlier this year, so I don't have tangible figures to give you. We are conducting a case study at the moment. We do hope to have results very soon. And we have noticed through anecdotal feedback and a couple of interviews, also staff surveys, that the impact has been very positive. We do see people engaging with the tool. We also, and if I may add this, I think that one of the other things, because Carole mentioned the engagement piece, it is important to have buy-in from stakeholders, but you can count on your know-how, your in-house know-how.

    So you can go to your internal comms team or your managers and have an engagement plan in place. You can through very simple internal comms emails, posts on your Slacks or intranets, whatever systems you use, you can share small wins and lived experiences and oh, I use this tool and I have this or I don't have anything, but actually my time saving went ... I noticed this because just by using the speech to text or the highlight function or whatever it is. By sharing those small wins, by showing the results for some, you start getting the buy-in of more people and very quickly the technology makes the case for itself. So for us it was a very easy win from the perspective, but I do hope to have tangible figures to share.

    Paul Fox:

    I think that is one of the challenges. It's getting those quantitative metrics that show what you're saying is true. We hear it anecdotally and we hear it through lived experience. We did get some useful statistics shared from a partner of ours recently who did make the point that purchasing these solutions on an individual basis just wasn't cost-effective. And when they looked at an individual license price that was being granted in response to a request or an assessment and then factored in the time to take grade three assessment, procurement, dianode implementation of software, et cetera, and then having to update a device and reinstall the software, say the initial license was 350 pounds, the total cost for one individual soon got 1,350 pounds. And I think any sort of finance division within a large organization would appreciate that usually purchasing something scale is going to be much more cost-effective than purchasing it individually.

    And that's even before we get to the productivity boosts, the staff retention, the avoidance of churn costs, et cetera. So there's an awful lot in that. And I love what you said, just the CIPD, they're going to better work practices and better work situations. I think that this is what a lot of this is all about and somebody coined the phrase, it's about making work better for people and making people better at their work. And if we get that right, we're really on to something. We talk about inclusive tech being a small change with a big impact. That's what we are talking about here today.

    I think you've touched on it really well in terms of advice that would help other people. The solution argues for itself almost, I think you said, and you have some great tips there about how to share awareness, raise awareness, get buy-in from the organization and users. I suppose I want to ask something I feel and we've seen time and time again is that I think some organizations just find a lot of this frightening. They're too scared to embark on this journey, it's the fear of the unknown. They're not sure what they're getting into both in terms of knowledge, time, money, all those things.

    Is it a small change really, or is it a big change with a small impact? I think we'd argue in favor of small change, big impact. You've said everybody, I think, signs from your perspective, these sort of things are something that's fairly easy to implement and use. I guess I'd like to sort up yourself, Carole or indeed Kim, in your experience or other examples, has it been a small change, is it easy to implement these things? Where is the win in doing it? So if you've any tips you could share with our audience today around adoption, implementation, buy-in, I'd love to hear them.

    Kim Whippy:

    Absolutely. Shall I go for it? I think having been through this recently and sort of supported our digital accessibility team on the journey, I'd say speaking from the perspective of a fairly large organization with 20,000 plus people in the UK, in the grand scheme of things, yeah, it is. And you look in the context of our strategy, definitely a quick win, but it's been absolutely key for us to find the right internal stakeholders and teams to collaborate with. So if you're a large-ish, medium-sized dish org, I would say that's going to be probably SMEs in your tech teams, in your data teams, get to know people, share the benefit, and then what the journey is around this and why it matters so much. But really get to understand things like what are your security policies, what are your data protection policies? And that leads to really informed conversations then with the vendor that you might be working with.

    And it means that you're getting that buy-in internally as well. There might be a bit of a system to go through, but you're doing it right and that will really ensure that it's got the longevity and the internal buy-in around it. And then I think just one more thing I've mentioned aside from the internal collaboration is absolutely, and I think Rita alluded to this, is thinking about the awareness around it and the learning around it. Once you've got the tool in how are you going to support people to use it?

    That might be things like we've built out a knowledge library and offered tech support sessions so that people can come and access group training on using the tool, but we've also collaborated with our comms teams to highlight those user stories. Like Rita said, people who maybe have or identify with having a specific form of neurodivergence talking about how it helps them, but equally people who don't, like people in our comms team who just said, "Hey, I found this really cool for proofreading at pace." So actually getting that awareness out there more broadly around the positive impact.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic. And Carole, yourself?

    Carole Mendonca:

    Yeah, just to reiterate some of what Kim has mentioned, ownership on the implementation plan of this technology is very important, especially within larger organizations and recognizing that inclusive technology really encompasses different tools, devices, different types of software. You have to continuously explore emerging inclusive technologies locally and globally to really stay up to date on the latest advancements in the field.

    This is especially important when we think about accessibility and how it's evolving day-to-day. It's also important to consult with existing employees with lived experience as well to get their feedback on existing accessibility barriers, ensure you're testing the technology so you have enough data to really make informed company-wide decisions that support all of your people.

    And then I think Rita and Kim have highlighted this already, but professional development and training programs should be offered to your employees to help enhance their knowledge and skillsets in using the technology more effectively in the workplace. And again, promoting awareness about the benefits of inclusive technology is very important because it advocates really the efforts to create an environment where the technology is embraced, it reduces the stigma and then it creates and encourages the adoption of the technology across your entire company. So those are just some examples.

    Paul Fox:

    Yeah, no, totally fantastic. And I think it's getting back to the idea that it's everyone's responsibility. I think from what you both said about internal engagement, the right stakeholders and getting the right argument together, it is everybody and it's everybody's responsibility. So I think there's a strong message in that that needs to carry on. And I think also just those light bulb moments, I think it was really said, celebrate the small wins. It's when somebody in the comms department says, actually, I found this really useful for proofreading. Yeah, let's get that out there and shout about it. It helps that awareness piece and keeps momentum. So that's really good. I appreciate that, guys.

    I suppose we may be getting towards the end of the session here and I just sort of think I'll maybe go right and ask for a couple of final thoughts. I suppose in terms of what you could give us as key takeaways for our audience, I'm thinking here probably maybe two things each of you could give me if possible. What do you think companies should look for when they're looking for an inclusive tech provider through partner, and what would you suggest should be their first step? Those people who are feeling a little scared about embarking on this journey, your tips for their first step on how they get started. Carole, I'll come back to yourself please.

    Carole Mendonca:

    Sure. So accessible technology providers usually offer various services and supports. I think finding a combination of technology tools, training and consultation, combining automation and manual testing that includes people with different lived experience. I think this can definitely help an organization achieve success, depending on what they're looking for. In terms of where to start, I think it's truly meeting as many organizations as possible and seeing what they offer and seeing what suits your business the most because it truly depends on what your business is looking for, the maturity of the organization, the size and level of the organization as well.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic. Rita, yourself, any thoughts?

    Rita Isaac:

    I think that obviously we gave here the why you should do it or why organizations should do it. I think that if the organizations are afraid of implementing it, then maybe look at the why not and try to listen to the people, understand why do they think that they don't need it, it's not worth it, it's the cost. What is it that is the issue? And then as Carole said, try and by understanding that we're not then going out and looking at what the suppliers offer. What is the need that you need to fulfill or how can you leverage this to really nurture inclusive inclusion at work? Yeah, I think that those are really simple things. Listen to your people and just give all the reasons to why. So why not?

    Paul Fox:

    Yeah, I love the why not. What's the worst that can happen? And Kim, yourself.

    Kim Whippy:

    I think I would say if you're really starting out, look at asking yourself, do we need this? And by that I mean understand your organization and the needs of your people and talk to your employees. And that might be you have a disability and neurodiversity network like we do, so it was really brilliant to be able to talk to them. But it might be just talking with your IT teams and saying, what are people asking for? Just understanding what the need and the existing barriers that you can't currently solve are.

    Then the second thing I would say is that relationship with the vendor. I think it's been so useful to have really collaborative, transparent relationships. Make sure that you are able to ask those questions based on that bit of work you've done in talking to your employees about how what they're proposing addresses those barriers and that you're really able to get the details that you need to reassure you that this is the right step.

    Paul Fox:

    Fantastic, I think, yeah. And I get another common thing coming out is just listen to your people, and I think that's key. Guys, believe it or not, we're just coming up to that point where we're almost out of time and it brings us to the end of today's session and indeed the end of day one here at our Festival of Workplace Inclusion 2023. A massive thank you to my panelists, Kim, Carole, Rita, thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. Invaluable, and I trust you will have inspired people in the audience, I hope indeed we have, and I hope we've given some insights into how to drive change within your own companies.

    If you'd like to chat with us, any of our team about how we might partner together to provide inclusive tech to your employees, drop the words, let's chat into the chat box and we get back to you just as soon as we can. If you've enjoyed the festival so far, please do share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #texthelpfest23. Make sure to come back tomorrow for day two, where you'll hear from even more experts in the field. Listen, enjoy the rest of the fest of everyone and for now it's thank you and goodbye from us.

Inclusive technology to unlock potential

At Texthelp, we create technology to help people at work to achieve more by empowering them to succeed in their own way. Our inclusion tool, Read&Write for Work, helps companies to create an inclusive working environment that embraces and celebrates diversity.  Its inclusive features are beneficial to everyone, but are particularly helpful for those of us who think, work, and communicate differently. From neurodivergent employees and disabled talent, to multilingual individuals, and beyond.

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