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Black lives matter: the workplace

Black lives matter: the workplace


The Black Lives Matter movement has brought ingrained racism to the foreground. In this episode, Rachel Rockson, Chair of the Acas Race Equality Network, and Julie Dennis, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Acas, share their insights into what organisations and individuals can do to make our workplaces truly more equal, including what intersectionality is and why it matters. We look at how racism and inequality are experienced and persist, what white people need to do to be part of change, and what organisations and leaders need to do to be responsible for change. Plus: how investing and committing to equality benefits everyone.


Acas advice


Improving equality, diversity and inclusion in workplaces: www.acas.org.uk/improving-equality-diversity-and-inclusion


Discrimination, bullying and harassment: www.acas.org.uk/discrimination-bullying-and-harassment


Webinar - what to do if you think you are being discriminate against: www.gotostage.com/channel/7f6b8485dc154e0c959e32e845163caa/recording/1405751bc4684196b3fe9e08c0ad9642/watch?source=CHANNEL


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy template: www.acas.org.uk/equality-policy-template


Acas helpline: 0300 123 1100


Key UK organisations


The Equality, Advisory and Support Service offers advice for people facing discrimination: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com


Government Equalities Office: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/government-equalities-office


Equality and Human Rights Commission: www.equalityhumanrights.com


External resources


This is not an exhaustive list and we highly recommend carrying out your own research too, but we hope you find these links useful:


McKinsey evidence for the positive impact of diversity and barriers to inclusion: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/understanding-organizational-barriers-to-a-more-inclusive-workplace


Everyday racism: what should we do? Akala (3m): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZUvjAJGFkM


3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace | Melinda Epler (9m): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k12j-E1LsUU


Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo (20m): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwIx3KQer54&fbclid=IwAR3NG6kOtWHfbxz21LeMYvY9wyGmWKP4c5AGQnsaMZhmlVIe2ycr-4Gyyu8


An anti-racist reading list: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/jun/03/do-the-work-an-anti-racist-reading-list-layla-f-saad


Transcript

Sarah Guthrie 0:00  

Welcome to the Acast Podcast. I'm Sarah Guthrie, part of the communications team here at Acas, and today I'm here with Rachel Rockson, Chair of our Race Equality Network, and she also works on our helpline, and Julie Dennis, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Acas. Thanks for joining me today.


Rachel Rockson 0:16  

Thank you for having us.


Sarah Guthrie 0:18  

Today, we're talking about racism, particularly in the light of the tragic death of George Floyd in the US and the way that that has highlighted, through Black Lives Matter, racism in our own country. I'm really aware that we're only scratching the surface in the short podcast, but I've been really looking forward to talking to you both Rachel and Julie, about what organisations and individuals can do to make our workplaces truly more equal. But let's start off first with exploring the problem. So from your roles in Acas, how do you see racism showing up? Rachel, do you want to kick us off? 


Rachel Rockson 0:54  

As an Acas helpline advisor, we are on the front line and we are usually the first port of call for people who feel that they're having difficulties to do with racial issues in their workplace. When it comes to the systematic mindset, the issue is, what we find is, well what I find in my experience as a helpline advisor is, those that are being discriminated against, until recently, found it a little bit difficult to come forward to ask for help, because there was this stigma against playing the race card if there's something going on in the workplace that they feel has got an underlying race element. From a personal perspective, what I find is, sometimes an individual may take action from a well meaning place. A typical experience for me, I am a black woman and I have a bit of an accent. So sometimes in a social gathering, when I start talking to people who don't know me, the reaction I usually get is, "Oh my gosh, you speak very good English." Now, that person may not mean any negativity by that comment, when you analyse the comment, really, it could have come from a good place, it could have been meant as a compliment. But when you drill right down into it, you find that maybe there is that that underlying unconscious bias that may have led to them making such a comment and that I usually use that as an opportunity to start a conversation, to make the individual aware what may have triggered the comment in the first place and to give them the opportunity to bring the potential unconscious bias into the consciousness. So my response usually to that is, thank you, so do you. And then we start a conversation from that.


Sarah Guthrie 3:08  

Mmm. So people don't come forward because of the fear of playing the race card, as you put it. And in your own life, you've experienced what might seem as good intentions to mask a bias, and actually, you personally take that as an opportunity to open a conversation about that, which is pretty incredible. Julie, what have you seen as Head of Diversity and Inclusion? I know you're often out and about talking to companies about this.


Julie Dennis 3:33  

For me, I think the whole issue of institutional racism is still not really understood by a lot of individuals and a lot of organisations. You know, I've been working in this field for over 20 years and I've been championing race equality within organisations. And I've seen that a lot of organisations have this perception that there is no longer an issue around race because we're seeing people from minority ethnic backgrounds in senior roles in organisations. And I think there's been this perception that everything's okay in the world. And I think for me, we were already seeing how unequal the world was, and COVID-19, I think has really highlighted that. I've not been surprised to see how this pandemic has a disproportionate impact on individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK. It's just reinforced that we have a long, a long, long way to go.


Sarah Guthrie 4:36  

So on that, what can we as individuals do to make progress to make our workplaces and our society more equal and inclusive? And how can we do that well?


Rachel Rockson 4:46  

This may sound like a bit of a cliche, but talking helps. One of my best friends - well, she's now one of my best friends - we had hit things off when we started working together, but somewhere down the line there seemed to have been a bit of friction. And it turned out that there were certain barriers that she had. She thought it might be offensive if she referred to me as black. So she didn't know whether to refer to me as coloured, etc. when she had to use some sort of description for me. I didn't know there were barriers for her. So it wasn't until she came out and told me that I just, we had a very frank conversation, and it was just a matter of talking for two minutes. And our relationship got back on track. And we are now best friends. So sometimes talking and trying to address any concerns that somebody has about potential barriers might actually break down that barrier. So it could turn out that those may not be buried at all. So yes, please, let's talk.


Julie Dennis 5:59  

I'd completely agree with that, Rachel, I think also as a white woman, I think it's a time for us to listen, to actually sit back and listen and have that conversation with our colleagues, and hear what they have been saying, for a long, long time. We need to really understand now what this concept is all about. And for some of us, that's going to be really difficult. And what I found interesting over the last couple of weeks, is the amount of people that really have an issue when we start having that conversation around white privilege because the natural reaction for people when they heard that is for them to say, "Well, I've not had privilege. You know, I've had to work hard where I've got to." And when we talk about white privilege, we're not talking about that, you know, it's about recognising that, again, as a society, everything is geared towards individuals who are white and it comes down to recognising that our friends and our colleagues that are from minority ethnic backgrounds have a completely different experience in the UK. And that can be down to something really simple. As you know, me and Rachel actually was talking about this the other day, weren't we Rachel, when we talked about when we get clothing and someone says let's have flesh coloured clothing well, flesh for me is completely different to Rachel and, and I shared an example with Rachel the other day that you know, next month it's my beautiful daughter's birthday. She's getting older, makes me feel older, but I will not be able to get a birthday card that has a proper photo or image of a mother and daughter because you go into any high street Especially where I live in the north of England. All of those images are the white woman and a white child holding hands. And I would love to be able to buy a picture that actually, is of a white woman with a mixed race child holding that because that is my reality. One of my heroes actually in the diversity world, Jane Elliott, who's an American diversity specialist always says, you can never understand someone reality until you walk in their shoes. So listening to the experience of your black, Asian and another ethnic minority colleagues will give you a greater insight into what the world is like. And then it is our role to step up and make that change happen. Because, you know, we need to step up to the plate now and make this change happen. And we need to do that in the right way, in a constructive way. And education. listening and talking is a great way to do that.


Sarah Guthrie 9:03  

So speaking of action, there's a danger that white people, white leaders don't take responsibility, perhaps a temptation for the work to fall on black people or Asian people or the people who do not hold the privilege that can make it easier to act. So how can organisations do this well?


Julie Dennis 9:22  

What I see and I've seen over the years when we go into companies, is the first thing that a company will say is what what "Well, we've, we've, we've got X amount of people who are from this background working for our organisation," just like they'll tell you how many people with disabilities they've gotten, how many women they've got in senior roles and like, it's like, job done we've, we've, we've done it and I think the issue that a lot of employers do, they they just see their.. equality is about how many people you have not about what are the systematic structures within your organisation that are preventing you progressing in your diversity and inclusion journey? And I think one big tip I'd give a lot of employers, take a step back. This is not just about how many people but also, what is the culture? What is it really like working here? Are we actually seeing in some pockets of our business that actually when someone from a minority ethnic background goes and works in that department, they only stay there for six to 12 months and then all of a sudden they move, or are we actually seeing that more minority ethnic individuals are leaving the business full stop, in comparison to their their white counterparts. They're all trends that tell you there may be a problem here and there may be a cultural issue.


Rachel Rockson 10:45  

Just to build on that, I find that in my experience anyway, having consistent education in place helps because like Julie had said before, when you have got a culture that has been consistently ingrained over centuries, it doesn't take just a days or maybe Black History Month event to change that mindset. So the any educational tools that the employer puts in place have to be continuous and consistent across the board to ensure that the managers of these people are aware what their duties are, and that the fact that they, they could maybe do a little bit more when this talent to try and encourage the staff to really step out of their comfort zone and potentially, maybe do something more to try to address some of the issues to do with under representation, and hopefully to get on to a more equal playing field for everybody. There is also an additional resource that employers could utilise effectively and having been a lead of that resource - and that is the only word that I can use for it, it's a very powerful resource - of staff networks. Now, these are made up of staff, they know the experience they have in the workplace, they experience the culture on a daily basis. They may have some really good ideas, good and simple ideas on how to address racism in the workplace, or maybe try to change the culture. So start networks are a really good source of information and resources that could be utilised to drive positive change, it could be a safe platform that individuals could access to voice any concerns that they may have that which they probably, if they are not able to discuss it with their manager or with colleagues, they could also suggest ways in which this issue could be addressed. There may be others who may not be in a position to speak up who might benefit. And it could also go some way towards enhancing the employers image and potentially the output of the employees would be increased as a result of becoming a more engaged workforce.


Sarah Guthrie 13:26  

Mmm, Rachel, from your experience of running the network at Acas, what advice would you give to someone looking to set up or reinvigorate a network?


Rachel Rockson 13:37  

It just takes one person with a passion for equality, to get it going. And my experience from chairing of previous networks is when...it is hard work if you have a culture in a workplace where that there isn't that...openness almost? That if an individual recognises, that is the first step - if they recognise that this is a resource that we can utilise, and we can all work towards achieving that the equalities is each individual person's responsibility to do their bit, then any individual no matter your grade, etc, I mean, I am leading the Acas Race Equality Network, and I'm not a senior member of staff, but I'm having to liaise with senior members of staff to try and get as much input into policy etc. And this is all based on input from the network. So it's, it's helpful if a senior member of staff could be identified, who might be maybe a champion or you know, somebody to coach and mentor this individual and try and connect them expand their network. By expand their network, I mean, maybe put them in touch with other people. When I first started on my first race equality network chair role, that was the first big break that I had: having someone who was passionate, a senior leader who was passionate about race equality. And all she did was put me in touch with others when I needed to get maybe some issues raised or some policy loopholes, addressed, etc. She would go to then she would say, "This person can help you and that person can't," and all she did was send an email to various individuals introducing that introducing me and telling them what it was that I needed, and the individuals that got back in touch with me straight away. Now, because she was senior, there was that authority that she was lending to the voice that I had, it had an impact - it had a huge big impact. And we were able to achieve a lot as a result of her input. What then happened was, we, that was the first step to setting up a network, we set up the network, senior leaders became more engaged, they were able to release staff to participate and become more engaged and, and that led to, when it came to staff survey time, it led to a big jump in the survey results. People were also becoming a lot more enthusiastic in the workplace. So you could see the whole culture of the place had changed somewhat, because people now felt free to speak with - within reason! And know that whatever they had to contribute would be treated as valuable contribution.


Sarah Guthrie 16:53  

That's great. So only takes one person with passion, and a senior sponsor really helps. What about from your experience in HR, Julie? 


Julie Dennis 17:02  

Where I see some organisations get it wrong is they will set up a network. But then they don't think about, first of all, giving that network time and space to be able to do that job, they give it part of a person who's got 99 other things to do. It is not as simple as "Right, we'll have a, we'll set up a race network, we've got a Chair, we've got a Vice Chair, right, crack on, get on with it and leave them." You've got to...just like a plant, you have to make sure it's watered and it's nourished and it's cared for. And if you do all those three simple things, you will have a fantastic network and you will reap the benefits of that hard work that you've had to put in at the beginning.


Sarah Guthrie 17:48  

That's great. What about employers who might be reluctant to do anything because they're perhaps embarrassed about where they are? They don't have a great record. What would you say to them?


Rachel Rockson 17:59  

Well... no one's perfect. And so from my perspective, we can't change the past. So if we haven't been doing this in the past, then we could learn from, you know, what detriment that may have caused or indeed from other organisations who may have done it successfully. You can't obviously go back in time and change what had happened in the past, but we can start from now and make a brand new ending. So taking action now is going to affect what happens in future, so now's the time that this opportunity has become available. So you could consider utilising it and taking action to ensure that equality elements of your organisation are addressed and your staff get all the benefits as well as your business actually get all the benefits from having an engaged and diverse workforce.


Julie Dennis 19:03  

I'd also like to just add to that what we're doing in Acas is we're actually using what's happened as a way for us to just step back for a little bit and to reflect on, "What have we done so far? What's worked well, what's not worked? So, well, why hasn't that worked?" So, well, and, and learn from some of those mistakes, too, then, like Rachel said, to move forward and actually do things and maybe accelerate some of that, that work. So I think, you know, for companies out there, you know, don't beat yourself up too much. There are, I know, there's some great practice out there that that companies are doing. But don't just sit there on your laurels and go, this isn't we don't need to focus on it either. It's about time for reflection. Time for us to see what's worked well, what hasn't worked well. And let's have a refocus.


Sarah Guthrie 19:53  

Thank you both. That's great. So now is the time to create a new ending. And even for those with strategies already in place, it's a really good time to step back, reflect on what's working and what's not to accelerate change. I wondered if we could touch briefly on intersectionality, which is a word I'd heard of before I joined Acas, I didn't really understand what it meant. Julie, what is it and why does it matter?


Julie Dennis 20:22  

So for me, it's, it's common sense. Let's take race for example, people from different ethnic minority backgrounds will be men and women. Some of them will have disabilities, some of them will not. Some of them will be heterosexual, or gay or lesbian or bisexual. Some of them will be trans, some of them will be intersex. Some of them will have different religions. And to me, that is what the human race is all about. And that is what this subject is all about. So I think again, for those organisations that are on this journey and looking at race equality, think about the different layers of that. An experience of an individual from a minority ethnic background who is male will be different from someone who is female, will be different for someone who has a disability, because the inequality that comes along with those different protected characteristics, as we call them, are the ones that layer on and, you know, I remember having a conversation with my sister in law once and she said to me, she doesn't know whether the inequality she faces is because she's a woman, or if it's because she's a black woman, she does not know. And actually, to her, it does not matter. The fact is, she wants the inequality to stop and she wants to be able to seen as an individual and be able to grow and flourish. So I think it's very dangerous for organisations to just look through that lens. So again, as part of what we're doing in the race equality space at the minute, we've also been having those conversations with our LGBT plus network about "So, what does that mean in the context of sexual orientation? And with our Disability and You network, " So, what does that mean in the context of disability?"


Rachel Rockson 22:22  

The points that she raised are very relevant, because when you're talking about overlapping protected characteristics, obviously culture has an impact and if there is a workforce who come from a specific culture and sort of fall into more than one of those protected characteristics, then having the cultural knowledge as an employer to be able to address any issues that may arise and have the intelligence to be able to recognise signs when they start developing might go some way towards addressing any inequalities in the workplace. 


When it comes to leaders, like Julie said, it's not good enough, I feel for leaders to say "Right! We have got a network and there you go, go and do whatever you have to do." That commitment is required for the network to become an engaged network. And it's only when the network becomes an engaged network that you start reaping the rewards, as Julie said, so if an employer is wanting to take action in the workplace to address any inequalities, then from my perspective, it is beneficial if there is a clear cut strategy in place and commitment and, rather importantly, budget. There is a specific budget allocated to it. That would help make whatever is going on - the education, the coaching, etc. - it would help make it consistent and potentially embed it in the existing culture. And that would go to us changing the culture for the better.


Sarah Guthrie 24:17  

Thank you, Rachel. It's interesting you say budget there, because I have to ask a question I don't really want to ask at this point. But in the current context of Coronavirus, and lots of organisations feeling very financially strapped, what would you say to employers who are listening to this and saying, "You know what, this all sounds great, but there is no way that I can devote time and attention to that when my business is about to fail." What would you say to that?


Rachel Rockson 24:45  

Where you have an engaged, diverse team, the productivity, the profitability of your business, it's been proven to be enhanced. So investing in equality and diversity and committing to it, even during difficult times, I don't think it will detract from the long term prospects of the business. I think it would enhance it, if anything.


Sarah Guthrie 25:26  

Thank you, Rachel. And on that really positive note about how good diversity is for organisations and how we can measure that, let's sum up. We've talked about talking and how important that is listening, particularly for white colleagues, and taking action. And for organisations, that means looking deeply at your culture and what it really feels like and resourcing your staff networks with budget. And we also touched very briefly on the idea of intersectionality, the different layers that privilege and discrimination can have. We'll put some links to further resources in the Session Notes for this episode. All that remains is to say thank you so much, Rachel and Julie, for sharing your expertise and insight today. Thank you. 


This has been the Acas podcast. If you'd like to give us any feedback, we'd love to hear from you. You can email us at Acas matters@org.uk. Thanks for listening. 

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Thinking differently about neurodiversity

Whether or not you’re up to date with the language aroundneurodiversity, ADHD, autism, dyslexia and other terminology, most workplaces include people who think differently, and who might be part of a neurominority. To help us demystify neurodiversity and get proactive, we’re joined by Dr Nancy Doyle, CEO and founder of Genius Within, Adrian Ward, Head of Disability Partnerships at the Business Disability Forum and Erin Fulton-McAlister, Acas workplace adviser. We look at:What neurodiversity isWhy we need to pay attention to itCreating a workplace that celebrates and capitalises on neurodiversityEpisode resourcesAcas neurodiversity guidanceBDF & Genius Within Commissioning framework and how to commission guideContact an Acas adviserfor a free advisory conversation Related Acas podcast - disabilityOrganisations:AcasBusiness Disability ForumGenius WithinTranscript SarahGuthrieWelcome to the Acas Podcast. I'm Sarah Guthrie and today we're focusing on neurodiversity. What is it, why it matters in the workplace, and how workplaces can support neurodiversity in meaningful and practical ways. I'm joined by Dr. Nancy Doyle, Chief Exec and founder of Genius Within, which provides evidence-based neurodiversity inclusion, Adrian Ward, head of disability partnerships at the Business Disability Forum, which brings together business government and disabled people to create a disability smart world and Erin Fulton-McAlister, workplace advisor at Acas. Thanks for joining me today.Adrian Ward, Erin Fulton-McAlister and Dr NancyDoyleNo problem.SarahSo there's lots of different language around neurodiversity and the language shifts a lot, which we've all discussed actually in the past. And I, I wondered if we could start with that in mind. Very simply, what is it that we're talking about when we use words like neurodiversity? Nancy, do you want to kick us off?NancyI do. Yeah. Thank you. So I think, broadly speaking, the word neurodiversity relates to the idea that we are all diverse, that there is cognitive diversity in the strengths and weaknesses of the human species. Some of us are good at most things. Some of us are good at specialist things to the exclusion of other things. And we have this kind of range of what's possible in our human thinking and skill and ability profile. And sometimes the word neurodiversity gets used as a proxy for a handful of conditions that are often known by other titles as well, such as neurodevelopmental disorders, hidden disabilities, specific learning disabilities. My working title for those at the moment is neurominorities, because they are less likely than being a neurotypical. So if you are a neurotypical, it means that broadly speaking, you're competent in all areas of thinking, you know, you're kind of average in all areas of thinking, or maybe you're above average. If you are in a neurominority, it means you have some specialist thinking skills and some specific difficulties. And that includes ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia. And those are the main inclusions. We sometimes also include tic disorders such as Tourette's, we sometimes also include mental health and chronic neurological conditions. Because like the others, what happens when you have those conditions, is you end up with a big difference between your skills and your weaknesses. So because of the weaknesses, neurominorities are typically covered by Equality Act protection and disability legislation worldwide. But it's important to remember that those conditions come with strengths as well.SarahThanks, Nancy. That's a really kind of holistic introduction. What struck me when you were talking is that this is an umbrella term, it is in itself diverse. And I wondered, how does that diversity of the difference between ADHD and dyslexia affect how people identify with and see this as something that they need to think about?NancySo concepts like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are very much diagnoses of exclusion. They're things that we decide people have when we've exhausted all possible other explanations for difficulties in scale or behavior. And actually, the science of those categories is moving on incredibly quickly at the moment. And there are some evidence from neuroimaging studies, that actually that the kind of brain differences are not that great, and that those conditions have more in common than they do have separate and actually what we currently call a diagnosis of dyspraxia or dyslexia might really be a symptom cluster. And, and from my own professional practice working with thousands of neurominorities over the last few decades, I would say that people come to the workplace with very similar problems. So 92% of my clients, no matter which label or brand they are associated with, 92% of them struggle with memory and concentration. 82% struggle with organisation, 78% with time and 67% with communication skills, and I've run this study over thousands of thousands of participants, and it's always about those numbers. So I think from a business perspective, what's more useful, rather than trying to think, "Autistic people will need this" or "Dyslexic people will need that" or, you know, or even to think that an autistic person doesn't have dyslexic symptoms or that an ADHD person isn't also slightly dyspraxic. So instead of getting hung up over labels, what's more important is just to say, "How can I support you to work at your best? What are the things that you're doing really well? What are the things that you're struggling with? What kind of reasonable adjustments what we might be put in, to scaffold you and augment you and to enable you to really thrive in the workplace?" And we can ask that question without detailed descriptions of conditions, and what may or may not be happening in the brain.AdrianYeah, I mean, just to jump on the back of what Nancy said there in complete agreement. And it's a lot of the work we do, with the organisations that we work with, is actually trying to change that culture of either trying to get a diagnosis or trying to pigeonhole or label people into either particular roles or particular solutions for those individuals. And, and actually encouraging them to think more about barriers that they might be encountering, how to remove those barriers, the support that an individual might require, etc etc. So really flipping the thought process from not trying to label and pigeonhole to actually just ask what does an individual need to be able to flourish in the role that they're in?ErinYeah, I completely agree. And I think that, from an Acas point of view, a lot of what we're going to be talking about is really just good management. And it's about supporting people as individuals, rather than because they have a label.NancyAnd there is a tricky balance in this because, you know, when we go a little bit wide of "This affects everybody, everybody is neuro diverse neuro diversity of everybody. It's about asking all individuals and good management," which I 100% endorse. And I think people could get very tied up worrying about whether they're doing the right thing or not. And actually, if they were just doing good management, it would probably be okay. But what we do have to remember with neurodiversity and neurominorities, is that a lot of the time, these are disabling conditions. And somebody said to me, once, "Well, we all have difficulty concentrating sometimes." And I said, "What you've just said, to me, as a woman with ADHD, is the equivalent of me saying to you, as a woman using a wheelchair, we all have trouble walking sometimes." There are statistically significant differences in people's skill levels. That means the things that we do as managers - our legal obligations - they're not nice to have, they are good management, but they are also legal obligations. And when we don't do them, we are not creating the level playing field that we want to create for all our employees. So they're not preferences, their requirements. And the kind of things that I would draw attention to are things like, you know, allowing people to not abide by a hot desking policy, if you are very easily distracted, or you know, have that kind of high sensory awareness that comes with autism, you might find there's a certain point in the office where it's quiet enough for you to focus and concentrate. And you might simply be unable to do that, unless you're at that point in the office. So an organization might allow you to choose your desks, they might allow you to work from home more frequently, they might allow you to book out a meeting room, if you had to do a report that you were really concentrating on or wear earphones to cut out background noise. So there's, there's lots of things people can do. And they might look like preferences. But it's the difference between functioning and not functioning, as opposed to being a little bit annoyed and being a little bit, you know, okay.SarahSo there's a very clear difference in severity, almost?NancyYeah, yeah. Yeah, people aren't choosing to stop concentrating, people aren't choosingto take longer over typo checking and writing and reading through edits, they're not doing that deliberately. It's not because they're...they haven't got a moral character deficit, it's not that they need to try harder or shape up or put a bit more effort in, it's that the parts of the brain do those particular functions aren't as well connected or don't work as well, or are too busy processing a whole load of other information that's coming in from the rest of the environment. So it's really important that people know that there are observable, measurable, definite brain differences. That means certain jobs are easy, and certain jobs are hard. And when we assign words like "prefer" or "try" or you know, "work a bit harder" around the things that people are deficient in, you know, it's like telling somebody who's deaf to listen harder.SarahAnd this might be quite an obvious question, because I feel like you're all bringing up elements of it anyway. But I wondered, Adrian, when you're talking to businesses about this topic, what do you say when they ask you, "Well, why do we need to focus on this?"AdrianYeah, and it does definitely come up as a as a question. It's difficult. In this world, when you work in this world, it becomes very glib just to come back with a, "Well, why wouldn't you?" kind of respond to that. I know that's not necessarily always helpful to get the right engagement. But one of the things I always say to an organization, you know, if you're truly committed to inclusion, you should be looking at how you attract, recruit, retain, and develop neurodiverse talent within your organization. So my biggest sort of push back and biggest sort of line I'll take with an organization is about tapping into the widest pool of talent you possibly can do. And if people need more information around that, and you know, I talk to people about actually, how health it is for an organization to have a workforce that has a real diverse range of thinking. So where people do think differently to others within the organization, where creative thinking is really encouraged and fostered and allowed to flourish within an organization, how some people are very solution focused and great problem solvers. Again, why wouldn't you want people with those sorts of skills within your organization, people that can massively grasp complex concepts very quickly? Again, why would you not want people with those sorts of skills within your organization. So it's trying to help organizations just think, wider than perhaps some of the stereotypes, some of the myths, some of those sort of .pigeon holed views.ErinThe other thing to bear in mind here is that the law says you have to. Being neurodivergent will usually amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. And this means that organizations have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace, and to the individual's role that will remove or minimize any disadvantage to that individual. So, yes, it is important from a legal point of view. And there are really potentially huge consequences if you ignore that point of view. But it's not only as Adrian's already said that there's a threat if you don't do it. There are huge advantages to your organization's if you do do it.SarahSo it's good for your business for your organization, and there's a legal obligation. How do you do that, then? What do you think are the main barriers for organizations? And how can we overcome them to create a workplace, which does help people thrive to their fullest potential?NancyI think that the majority of workplaces are reluctant to be flexible and change. And we've got to get a bit more creative about how we organize work. So you know, most office spaces, for example, are organized around the idea that clocks needed to be adjacent to paper ledgers. Because that's when they were invented in the sort of 1800s. And, actually, that's not really true in a remote working world. And we all know that now, because we've all just lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, or are still living through should I say., So there's a whole bunch of norms that we have assumed are reasonable. And so because we've designed our workplaces around those norms, that's where we're creating disability. We've assumed that all humans, in order to have value, must be able to spell and read efficiently, must be able to operate fine motor control devices, must be able to sit still and concentrate for hours at a time, and must be able to think well in busy, loud environments. And when you think about human evolution, and those particular characteristics of human behavior, they're actually not very typical at all. It's a bit weird! And as our workplaces continue to evolve and progress into the future of work, what we need to do is start designing work around the skills that we need, rather than the things that we're used to because we've always done them that way. So we can start with this idea of changing our systems and being systemically inclusive, and then personalized to what an individual needs. But whereas at the moment, what's happening is we don't think that we have to change our environments at all. And we're putting a lot of energy and effort into making an individual able to cope with it, but actually the environment might not be suitable for the workplace at all. I'd like to see in 20 years time whether we still need to sit still to concentrate at all. You know, will people that need to sit still have sedentary dependent concentration disorder instead of people that like to move having ADHD? You know, we could flip all of this on its head. Will people that only like to communicate using literacy rather than video communication be called hyperlexic dependent syndromes, you know? [Laughs] There's lots of ways we could flip this, but it's about I think, just really thinking about the work that you want and the performance that you need, and designing your jobs and environment around the output rather than the inputAdrianFor us and how we work organizations, we look across that kind of complete employee journey or life cycle and talk with organizations about whole range of things,but things like from the attraction candidates, making sure that recruitment processes are barrier free and as inclusive as possible. And then we will work with organizations around what are they doing that actually retains that talent once you've recruited them? So have you got that onboarding process right? Is it easy to get adjustments, and Nancy touched on the built environment. And one of my sort of big bugbears is around progression and development. I've certainly seen a tendency of actually the focus being on attracting candidates, getting candidates into roles, but then not necessarily really thinking about actually how they are developed and progress within that organization. So there's a whole range of areas that an organization should be thinking. But if they think about that employee lifecycle, from the point that they're attracted to make an application all the way through to how they can then flourish and progress within that organization, they're areas that we'd really encourage organizations to focus on.ErinAn example that I've come across is an organization who had an applicant who declared that they were autistic and requested that the panel avoid hypothetical questions. Now, I know that's one of the very common ones. But this organization decided that they would not do it for just that individual, they would do it for everybody in that recruitment round. And they, they did things like give all of the candidates the questions that they were going to ask 20 minutes before the interview itself, to give them an opportunity to think about their best examples, not just the first thing that comes to their head. They did an exercise in which they gave somebody a scenario that related to the job that they would be doing and asked them about that situation, and whether it was something that experienced before - which I realise sounds hypothetical, but in the situation wasn't. And what they found was that that recruitment process worked significantly better at getting good people in than their previous one had done. And actually, they've adopted that for all recruitment going forward across the entire organization.NancyJust wanted to come in on the point of kind of how do you know what you should be doing and trying this and asking people what they need, and having lists of things that you can try. And, and I see, you know, this is a big ongoing learning, and the big grey area in this is what is a reasonable adjustment? So we know that there are lots of things that you can do as adjustments, and not all of them will be reasonable for your organization to put in and where is that boundary of reasonable? And one of the things that I'm seeing a lot of at the moment, which I find really concerning, is where people are going for that advice. I worked with an assistive technology expert Neil Milliken and the Business Disability Forum to write a commissioning framework for commissioning neuro diversity inclusion services. Because it's a bit of a minefield! Do you need a psychologist, a mental health nurse, a professional coach, a teacher and educator, you know who's got the professional expertise in this field? It's really difficult. So we put together a commissioning framework, which kind of enables you to go through the main issues of risk, safeguarding, insurance, training, credibility, and work out whether - for the size of the project you've got or the you know, the need that you have in your organization - whether you're commissioning the right people. It's a really helpful resource. The BDF and Acas both provide excellent resources in this respect. It's about going for advice to people that can give you credible advice based on a wide range of experience and professional training, as opposed to their own anecdotal case study of one.SarahThank you, Nancy. And we will put a link to that in the episode notes for this episode. I think it's available for free for two weeks. So if you're listening to this, grab it while it's available. We've been talking a lot about what we can do now. But I'm very curious to know what you think we should be doing in the future. Where would you love to see us, the workplace, the future of the workplace move on this topic?NancySo I think where we're headed is universal design, systemic inclusion, I think we're still stuck in compliance based inclusion. So we're waiting for people to fail and then we're buffering around them. We've got quite a lot of token inclusion where we're bringing in groups of people that have specific conditions for specific skills, like autistic coders, which is sadly lacking ntersectional wisdom and tends to kind of repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat the same type of person. It's not really where we should be headed. The idea of systemic inclusion, where it's just the way things are done around here. So all of the things that my two colleagues on this call have said about kind of reviewing your policies, reviewing your structures, you know, really thinking about the the eventual eventual design, where we need to be headed is where this isn't a thing anymore. Where we don't have a diversity and inclusion team where, where disability support is part of the typical HR functionality. The kind of things you need, you can order from a stationary order, or are built into the training development program. And if you think about the prevalence, one of the things we've done looking at our cohorts over the last decade is notice that a sizeable proportion of our clients come to us for help when they're promoted. So it's on promotion, when all of a sudden their job role changes a little bit, or they have to do slightly different things, that's when they need adjustments and support. So rather than wait for people to fail, why don't we just say, "Okay, so as part of our new manager onboarding, we know that for about 15 to 20% of people, they're going to need extra support in these areas. So we built this into our manager onboarding, so on as our manager onboarding courses start, here's the specific ones around managing concentration time, here's your additional literacy resources from the assistive technology suite. Off you go."SarahThank you. Adrian.AdrianSo I think there's a, I'm sensing, I think there is a real opportunity to build on some of the momentum that appears to be there at the moment. It's about actually, how do we harness this real thirst for knowledge and information that's there at the moment, and keep that conversation going and evolving as much as we possibly can? And then my final sort of comment is that - perhaps it's more of a question than a comment. But I just wonder whether COVID and the pandemic and how that's changed how we work, whether that could or should create new and better opportunities moving forward.ErinSo I think what I would like to see would be, organizations get to a point where individuals feel confident in asking for support because of what they are seeing, because they believe that the organization really will be flexible and provide the adjustments that they need, without any kind of disadvantage to those individuals. I'd like to see line managers feel confident in providing that support and in having those conversations with members of their team. And not as a one off, but as an ongoing conversation and ongoing support. I would like to see colleagues within those teams get to a point where they feel that seeing their colleagues doing things differently, or perhaps being managed differently, is a sign of good management and a sign that they can ask for support if they need it as well, rather than unfair treatment. And ultimately, I'd like to see that organizations and individuals together will, through doing these sorts of things, reap the benefits of diversity.SarahThank you. That is a brilliant note to end on, which I am reluctant to do, as there's clearly more to discuss here. We've touched on some really big questions about the whole nature of work and how we design it. And that as well as we've been going big, we've also had some really good principles and insights like not getting hung up on labels, rethinking your systems and your policies, redesigning them, getting expert advice, and not relying on stereotypes or lived experience inappropriately. It's been a fascinating podcast. So Adrian, Nancy and Erin, thank you. This has been the Acas Podcast, I've put links to helpful resources on neurodiversity, including the neurodiversity commissioning framework that Nancy mentioned, which is available for free for two weeks. And we've also put some links to advice. If you're looking for bespoke support to help you increase your diversity and inclusion than Acas also offers free chats with advisors. If that's of interest to you, then I've put a link to the number and the contact form in the notes as well. Thanks for listening.