The Acas Podcast


Redundancy: what to remember and what to avoid

Acas advisers Maggie Steven and Faye Law talk through the key things to keep in mind when managing redundancies. We look at communicating well and why it matters, maintaining trust, how to support the wellbeing of all involved and ensuring it’s a fair process.

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The Acas Helpline: 0300 123 1100 


Sarah Guthrie 0:00  

Welcome to The Acas Podcast. My name is Sarah Guthrie. I'm part of the communications team here at Acas and today I'm joined by Faye law and Maggie Steven, who are workplace advisors with Acas. We're focusing on redundancy today, which is a huge topic at the moment. And I wondered, Maggie, if you could kick us off with giving us a bit of context: what are the main challenges that employers and staff are finding at the moment around redundancies?

Maggie Steven 0:27  

I think the one of the biggest challenges - and this is whether it's a large organisation or small organisation - is the fact that could happen very quickly. And so for many very viable businesses with healthy cash flows very quickly, very suddenly, their business model changed. But because of that, it meant for a lot of organisations they weren't able to plan as you would normally do, and therefore we're now kind of almost five, six months down the line and organisations still don't really know where we're going in terms of the economy. They're starting to open up, there's some really good green shoots. But for many, it's still unsure. And therefore when we could talk about redundancies, you know, what is the right way to go? Often organisations are hoping they're going to build their business. But in the short term, they may have some cashflow implications. So they want to retain skills rather than redundancies, but they may find that they're in a position that they may have to make some in the short term for the long term. So there's some real kind of many variants that are feeding in and it's still quite a lot of unsurity about what's what's right for them at the moment, very difficult decisions.

Sarah 1:37  

What do you think the alternatives to redundancy are? You mentioned that organisations need to retain skills, how can they do that? 

Faye Law 1:45  

The first thing you can do is ask your staff.You're in a really difficult position and it's so...the most important thing to do is to communicate clearly and openly and be as honest with your staff as you can. You've got to consult them. And the obvious benefit of that is that often those who are doing the jobs are the ones who best know where improvements are. But if you engage with your staff and you work collaboratively with them, that's better for morale, you, they might come up with great ideas to help reduce redundancies. You're going through a difficult exercise and the aim of that is to preserve a viable organisation at the end of it. So I like to think as you're going through this, you should be planning for the organisation after the end of the exercise and keep a focus on that. And you want the people that you keep, as well as the people that you have, sadly, have to lose, to not be scarred by the process. You want them to be engaged employees who still trust you. And the only way you can achieve that is by having them understand the position you're in and hearing their concerns and responding to their concerns and using that to make better informed decisions that they can buy into.

Sarah 3:03  

That sounds like quite a challenge at the moment. Could you give us an example, perhaps of where you've seen it done well?

Faye 3:10  

Yes, I worked with an organisation recently that was unfortunately facing the loss of quita a proportion of its workforce. And they did the exercise well in that they jointly trained staff representatives and the management representatives, both around the law on redundancy in consultation, but also on how to work together and communicate collaboratively. And as the process has gone on, we can see that management was sharing information, gaining the trust and the joint working then of the staff who were at risk and the staff, although in that awful position themselves of fearing loss of their own jobs and their colleagues jobs, could genuinely see and believe that management were having to make difficult decisions and they could understand the reasons why. And there was one particular group of staff that were looking at losing half of their team. Clearly that was a very difficult situation for them. But they understood management's proposals, they, they'd seen the financial information, they'd seen the projections on football in the business. And they really understood that there was a need to make those cuts. And then they also looked at work in their sector and realised that in their particular job line, there wasn't a lot of local employment for them. So collectively, that group of staff got together and agreed to vary their contracts and cut their hours by 50%. And that's a decision that had a huge impact for each of them personally, but they decided to stay together as a group and take that impact, rather than become unemployed. And the employer had gained the trust in that and reinforced that trust by negotiating that as a temporary reduction in hours - I think it was for six months period - and that way they could, the staff could retain some employment, albeit at a huge cost, and the employer then retained the flexibility in the workforce so that in six months time, things do begin to pick up because it's also hard to predict right now, they wouldn't have to go through future costs of recruitment. It was a huge decision for those staff involved and a dramatic one. And it's worked out well, for that particular organisation. It's not going to be suitable for everybody, not all members of staff could could could possibly even contemplate that. And I know the unions have cautioned very strongly against current financial circumstances driving down people's terms and conditions. It was just that in this particular institution, there was a high degree of trust, and people wanted to remain there.

Sarah 5:43  

And that sounds like quite an unusual example. What was it do you think that made that outcome possible?

Faye 5:49  

It was the openness. It was that management and the decision makers were able to sit in virtual meetings with people and be transparent and honest and the emploees had felt that it was a genuine process because they felt fully informed, they felt invested in and they'd been trained, so that they could participate to their best in the process. And it was that degree of trust between the two, and the fact that management were happy to make it a temporary contract variation enabled that to happen.

Maggie 6:19  

I would certainly agree with Faye, you know, throughout the workplaces, everyone knows how significant this has been to, you know, the economy. So, this, this is the opportunity to be working collaboratively about how do you maintain and really look to the future to secure employment, but it is going to be difficult times so to totally agree - where I've seen that work well, it's where that transparency and trust is built.

Sarah 6:50  

So it's, it's about communicating openly, keeping your employees fully informed, investing in them through training in this example and being transparent, collaborating with them and all of that builds trust. One of the very practical questions someone might have listening to this podcast is how do you build that trust and do that consultation remotely?

Faye 7:12  

The more information you can share about the prospects of the company, your plans, your reasons for your proposals, and importantly, how you propose to maintain a viable structure, the better but also, you've got to be open to staffs' questions, concerns, suggestions. If you're not responding to staff on what they're saying and what they're feeling, they're not going to take in what it is that that you want them to understand, no matter how valid or necessary you feel your proposals are, it has to be a two way street.

Maggie 7:44  

And that comes back to the early planning. The people that may be being made redundant today may well be the people you want back in three, four months that have the skill has a knowledge of your business, you're in a position to take them back on. So really, you know, working with people and really giving the respect and the communication tools helps kind of maintain that relationship, not just now, but actually if they do leave you, you continue to have that good relationship that they'll want to come back and work with you. But coming back to the planning stage, and building on what Faye is saying, it's looking at those communication tools and how you're going to communicate. So, working remotely brings additional challenges. And there's certainly something to say that people are finding working using the different methods of working remotely, camera screen can be quite tiring, actually. And this is a very, can be a very intense process as well. So allow more time for that. But also look at the different forms of collaborative sharing of information spreadsheets, looking at Question and Answers, how people are accessing thing that and, if people are working remotely, what's their bandwidth? So really have those early stage conversations with anyone that's impacted, to understand what might create any barriers for them to be able to be involved with the consultation process well, and then look at how you can overcome those barriers.

Sarah 9:22  

So it's a two way street and it works best when employers listen and show that they've listened. And as Maggie you were saying, planning is so important in this. So you've given us a good idea about what good looks like could you maybe share some of the perhaps the mistakes that employers have been making?

Maggie 9:41  

I'll give a couple of examples not necessarily from this period, but certainly over my number of years I've been, you know, observed working with organisations and a couple of them one would be not having that visible presence as Faye was saying there as well. When people want questions answered, actually there hasn't been anyone they can turn to. And therefore often what happens is the wrong information may well get out there you the two things, one, you've got wellbeing, so people are already potentially in a very distressed state, they're wanting to understand, what, where, maybe the timeline or just needing little bit of information on how it's going to impact them. And not being able to find anyone or any method or having their their questions answered, really starts to fuel incorrect information within the organisation, and also kind of bad feeling as well. And it starts to kind of that process of " isn't fair. It's not transparent and no one cares as well." So there's a real, real risk of not having the availability of people. And the other one I would give an example of is a large organisation who are making redundancies or starting to go down the route of consultation for potential redundancies. And when the team went in on a Monday morning, they went down to their positions and there were benches where they were sitting. And across every single one of them was a leaflet that said, if you're stressed by today's announcements, then ring employment assist programme. Now, they didn't know there was going to be a process. And that was meant from the employer side, they thought that was a helpful gesture, but actually, it wasn't at that time. In fact, it fuelled real stress within that organisation at very early stage.

Faye 11:40  

Yes, I absolutely agree. Where I've seen most ongoing harm done is where communications haven't been planned and clear. Perhaps they've not been coordinated at senior management level and bits of information have started to leak and cause suspicion, rumours, uncertainty, bad feeling, the and probably the incorrect perception that decisions have already been made and it's not fair. And then you have a resentful and suspicious workforce before you even start. So as Maggie says, it all goes back to the planning, and making sure that you've got everything you need in place before you start the process.

Sarah 12:18  

And kind of expanding on that cards on the desk example, there are three groups of people in a redundancy process, the tellers, the people who are being made redundant, and then those that stay in the workforce. What advice would you have for each of those groups on how they can look after themselves in this process and each other from a wellbeing perspective?

Faye 12:40  

So the tellers have obviously got a particularly difficult role because they might even be at risk themselves. And they may have to be delivering some very difficult news to people just they've worked with for a long time, people who've even become their friends and in the moment of having those conversations, they, they have to take their own feelings out of it to give a fair process and a fair compensation to the person who's receiving the news. But they absolutely should then take some time to acknowledge on what what they're going through. And hopefully the company or the employer is making available to them sources of support, and has another member of staff checking in on their well being as well. And I think it's even more significant at this time, because we're not just in our workplaces, consulting and having these conversations as we normally would, we might have a workforce that's partly based back in the workplace socially distanced, partly working from home and partly furloughed. So we're looking communicating with people in all kinds of different ways, but probably predominantly online without the usual sources of support around us. We can't just say to our colleagues, "Let me get you a cup of tea." So we've really got to acknowledge that we're in an even more taxing situation than redundancy. would normally be, and make allowances for ourselves in that. 

Maggie 14:03  

As part of that planning process, looking at the potential flashpoints, right right through the stages. And I think it has helped when we talked about the teller and all the people that might be involved in it, is to make sure they understand the statutory requirements as well as what the organisation is doing, because for the teller, this may well be and very often is the first time they've ever undertaken this process. So at every stage, it's new, and we certainly find that they're going to meet a range of emotions, as people go on that journey, and often are quite taken back of that range of emotions and quite often, they're, the, although they are the teller, they're, they are challenged quite significantly on the decisions in quite an emotive way, because it is a very emotive time. So it can be very challenging. So part of the prep would also be having some work with them how to deal with those difficult conversations, how to deliver, how to defuse, when to know to step back, allow a little bit of time and then come back and support people because actually just putting those pauses in, can make a significant difference to whether the rela-, you know, that relationship can continue in in a constructive way, or whether it becomes almost a broken relationship and then very challenging at any step of the way going forward.

Faye 15:42  

Employers also need to bear in mind that once they've given notice of dismissal on the grounds of redundancy to an employee, that's still not the end of the employment for that that person: they have a notice period. And it's really important that the employer does what they can to support the employee during their notice period. And there are things that they can do to help mitigate the effects of the redundancy for those individuals who are having to go through it. So things I've seen organisations do is try to upskill those colleagues before they have to leave and that might be with help around CV writing, but things that they can offer that are of little cost to them: job shadowing, coaching, mentoring, and encouraging colleagues to support each other so that they can get the most on their CVS as they can before they leave the organisation. It might also be a staged retention of benefits, continuing subscriptions of professional memberships or health insurance or anything that they can offer. Because as well as supporting the individuals that they're sadly losing, it helps show the remaining workforce that the organisation still cares about its people and still invests in its people and that will help with the survivors of the exercise to continue to have trust in the organisation.

Maggie 17:00  

And just a note there too, if staff, you know, those impacted and have had that notice, if they've got two years or more service, including notice period, then actually there is an obligation for the employee to allow staff a reasonable amount of paid time off or to look for another job or do some training.

Sarah 17:20  

So when we're thinking about wellbeing, there's something for each of us individually just to recognise that this is a new process for a lot of people and it's stressful, and there are lots of emotions and to give ourselves time for that. And then for employers for each of those three groups, it's about supporting your tellers, giving them training in difficult conversations is one way to really help them navigate those emotions. And then supporting the people who have been made redundant through upskilling, coaching, mentoring, paid time off, which will not only help them but will also reassure your remaining employees that you care, and that again, builds trust. And with all of that making sure that you've planned ways in advance of making yourselves available and visible to all of these groups involved. And it's obviously a huge topic, so we'll have to move on now. But I wonder if we can now focus on another big topic? How do you make this a fair process? We've heard a lot in the news recently about discrimination around race and there are lots of forms of discrimination. But what does that look like at the moment? And how can we avoid discrimination in this process?

Faye 18:30  

So once you've consulted with the staff and looked at all the ways you can to avoid or reduce redundancies and it's still looking inevitable, you'll get to a point where you're having to select between colleagues and that should be done on an on a transparent and objective basis that is consistently applied. So everybody who's in the same selection pool is goes through the same process of assessment or selection and it should be on objective criteria, relevant and appropriate to the job and clearly defined and you must, it's also really important to be sure that they don't disadvantage any particular groups. And so be aware that there is no indirect discrimination. For example, if you look at your criteria, you have a sense check that they don't disproportionately affect anybody because of their race or their sex, for example, but it's also really important that your managers who are going through this process are trained on equality legislation, but also have an awareness of their unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is the automatic decisions that our brains make, particularly when we're making decisions at speed or under stress and making these difficult decisions around redundancy is exactly the time when any person is vulnerable to making decisions based on feeling or instinct. So you've got to have an absolute focus on keeping the selection criteria objective, and something that you can explain and account for.

Sarah 20:07  

And if you are an employee who is being made redundant, and you have concerned about how that process has been handled, what can you do about that?

Maggie 20:17  

Well, the first thing I would say is if you've got an employer representative, talk to your employer representative talk to your trade union. Again, if there's a recognised trade union, within the organisation, they'll be involved in that process. So they can call our helpline and they will be able to kind of guide them through what they should be expecting, which areas perhaps they can look forward to understand for more detail.

Sarah 20:43  

As you said, Faye, people when they are doing things at speed when they're in a crisis, this is when you're most likely to make bad decisions or make decisions based on your bias. I wondered both of you, if there was one thing that you would want employers to kind of keep In the back of their mind, what would it be? 

Faye 21:03  

I would say think, "What do I want this organisation to be like after this process has finished?" That helps you to plan for the ongoing welfare of your staff and the structure of the organisation.

Maggie 21:17  

I totally agree. It's about the future. It's about dignity. So I think probably for me would be: the future dignity, plan, communicate, and probably communicate again, because you can never communicate that that's where, you can always communicate more, can't you?

Faye 21:35  

Yeah, it's, communicating with staff is the most vital part of this.

Sarah 21:40  

Well, thank you so much for your advice on navigating this difficult process, Maggie and Faye, I'm sure our listeners will really appreciate your insights about communication, well being fair selection, and ultimately, that question of how do I want my organisation to be at the end of this process? What do I want it to look like in the long term? Thank you. 

Maggie 21:59  

Thank you Sarah. 

Faye 22:00  

Thank you, Sarah. 

Sarah 22:02  

This has been The Acas Podcast. You can find more information on redundancy and your rights on our website and I've put some direct links in the session notes for this episode, including our helpline number. If you found this podcast useful, please do like review, subscribe and share with others who could find it useful too. 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.