Is Awareness really the key to unlocking diversity within workforces?

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At Aspiedent we strongly believe diversity can pay off. However, it requires an alternative approach to what we are generally seeing applied, especially in larger corporations.

Are we going to see efforts in the business world to drive diversity pay off?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s some landmark discrimination cases led to major businesses having to pay out millions of dollars for a range of racial discrimination cases. This lead to strict protocols in the recruitment process to avoid such law suits. But has this really helped improve diversity?

The answer is that we see at best a very gradual improvement in diversity within businesses and the purpose of such initiatives has been designed more to protect the business from legal challenges than the aim of improving the diversity of the workforce. This has increased bias and employee fatigue in relation to diversity initiatives.

So why are we not seeing the gains we might have hoped for?

When you put a group of people together who think differently, process information differently, experience the world differently and come from different backgrounds you will inevitably get a breakdown in communication. Often this will lead businesses to assume that the theory behind a diverse workforce is wrong and they will then revert to their previous approach within the legal limitations.

The fact of the matter is that without the necessary competencies behind managing differences in communication and the cognitive variables behind these differences, managing a diverse team will always be extremely challenging. In addition, it is important that team members know how to adapt their communication styles to each other.

Awareness is not enough. If this is at the forefront of our approach to DEI, any progress will stagnate and there will be frustration on all sides as staff will feel unable to get their point across.

Can an understanding of extremes of cognitive diversity help us?

Aspiedent has studied the cognitive diversity and built a framework to describe this diversity and the particular autism of an individual. It turns out that there is nothing in autism that is not also found in the general population - although this does not mean that everyone is a little autistic. It just means that those with autism have more extreme cognitive traits or a number of traits that combine to cause difficulties. This framework can therefore provide a profound insights into the subtle cognitive variances between people that often go unnoticed but which are causing significant impact across society. A nice side effect of becoming competent at handling the cognitive diversity of the general population and developing the habit of accommodating people and treating them as individuals, is that you also become more equipped to handle conditions like autism and ADHD. Autism exists beneath the surface and requires us to really see a person as an individual, it requires us to accommodate and engage in a person-centred way.

Here are Aspiedent’s 4 key principles in creating an adjustable work environment (AWEsome) that accommodates everyone as much as possible:

  1. Become - Competent at reasonable adjustments.
  2. Improve - Listening and Communication skills.
  3. Remove - Assumptions
  4. Question - Before you react.

Equip managers with the competency to execute the 4 principles above and you will see the following happen:

  • Managers will begin to identify and harness the subtle diverse differences within their existing team equipping them to solve problems and improve team morale and wellbeing.
  • Managers will build the confidence to accommodate and attract greater ranges of cognitive diversity as they begin to see the payoff of.
  • Diversity then is not just a tick box exercise designed to avoid litigation, it is a key part of the culture and success.
  • Employees start to work with colleagues they previously struggled to communicate with because they see the value they can bring to the task at hand.
  • Employees become seen as individuals rather than labels.
  • Employees become less frustrated and less stressed with each other.