“Many organizations worldwide are grappling with the opportunities and challenges of working with diversity. Diversity is a complex concept. ” ~ Working with Diversity: A Framework for Action
Inclusion in the workplace looks very different than diversity initiatives. A trap organizations fall into is thinking they are one in the same. This has been especially evident with the recent surge of autism hiring initiatives. With the pronounced promotions of ‘Autism in the Workplace,’ there are remarkable gaps in inclusion education. And these gaps are resulting in injustices for the autistic population.
It’s a well documented fact that most diversity and inclusion initiatives fail without proper planning and forethought. Despite this fact, many organizations don’t dedicate time and energy to inclusion plans. This practice is not only dangerous for an organization’s bottom line–disengaged/absent employees, risk of litigation–but dangerous for a marginalized minority of autistic citizens.
Before putting time and attention into hiring autistics, it’s vital to have a plan for what happens after the neurodivergent job seeker is through the door.
It is arduous to comprehend why pages and pages of ways to source and hire an untapped talent pool of autistics is regarded as more essential to promote than inclusion for autistic employees.
There is no use providing an employment door for autistics to potentially slip through, if there is no true inclusion waiting on the other side.
When universal inclusion is truly an organization’s priority, business leaders can cite how the company fosters a sense of belonging and how inclusivity measures touch down on each and every department level and each and every individual business stakeholder—from the job candidates to the outlying community members. With true inclusion, there is:
- An inclusion mission and vision;
- Time dedicated to consider what needs to be done for universal inclusion;
- A workplace inclusion plan with short- and long-term goals and benchmarks;
- Internal resources without a reliance on outside resources (external job coaches) or quick fixes;
- Opportunity for employees to contribute ongoing feedback about the workplace culture;
- Inclusion measures embedded in all departments, policies, processes, and procedures for all employees;
- A workforce educated on the pitfalls and dangers of diversity initiatives;
- A plan to address resistance to diversity and inclusion measures among employees and key leaders;
- And ongoing (quality) diversity and inclusion education and training.
An agency dedicated to real inclusion has a plan and takes time to adhere to the plan and instigate change. Thought leaders and minority members are brought in, employees’ input is solicited, time is carved out for progress and examination. Metrics are set. Taskforce leaders are assigned. Money is budgeted. A true place of inclusion dedicates time, energy, and space for frank discussions about what’s working and what’s not, opens the door to diverse voices, instills a sense of trust and safety.
When inclusion is done right, the benefits encompass a wide range of psychological, communicative, societal, and economical aspects, such as increased employee well-being, lower levels of workplace prejudice and conflict, attentive listening, increased engagement, and elevated levels of work productivity and business revenue. When it’s not done right, or set as an initiative for another day, the scale tips.
Without proper attention to inclusion measures, we are not making ripples of transformation. We are creating a tsunami, where only the strongest members of a marginalized, bullied, ostracized, overlooked, isolated minority survive, while the remaining, less fortunate, less resilient, drown. It’s not enough to invite everyone to the dance, when you forget the music.
These are the author’s personal opinions based on over 2,000 hours of research into the topic of diversity, inclusion, and autism. Marcelle Ciampi (aka Samantha Craft) is a respected advocate, author, professional educator, speaker, and friend to many autistics. For more information go to myspectrumsuite.com