How do you continue the journey when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging? A recent SIA webinar  included a deep, rapid-fire discussion of the barriers, framework and components to create and keep your DE&I program moving forward.
Topics discussed in the webinar event included a couple areas of diversity often overlooked in DE&I initiatives and steps companies can take to address them.
Neurodivergent candidates. Neurodivergence and neurodiversity are terms used to describe people who process information and behave in a way that differ from actual or perceived norms. Although many neurodivergent individuals may have exceptional talents and other stand-out attributes, they often remain overlooked and misunderstood along with being stereotyped, particularly when it comes to employment. This has led to high rates of unemployment or underemployment throughout this community. Examples of neurodiversity includes autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other neurological conditions.
Barriers to DE&I
What barriers keep well-intentioned companies from moving forward at the pace they would like?
- Lack of corporate mandates/strategy
- Lack of data
- Change management
- Limited ecosystem of partners
- Confusion on where to start
Candidates with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities have historically been overlooked and misrepresented in society, leading to isolation in some cases. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment as well as other contexts, has advanced understanding of the nature of various disabilities and raised awareness to the fact that people with disabilities can achieve significant personal and professional goals, but more still needs to be done. For the purposes of the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. Examples of disabilities include visual impairment, hearing impairment, mobility/physical disability and hidden disabilities.
To ensure your program is including candidates from these communities, take some steps to actively screen them in, such as:
- Provide qualifiable requirements in your job descriptions
- Be understanding of reasons for employment gaps
- Appreciate and look for translatable skills
- Give weight to other skills that can be beneficial
Be aware of your company’s narrow or fixed versus flexible requirements and capitalize on the more flexible. Always be aware that any particular résumé may be nontraditional and remain open to possibilities; if you can, be creative when it comes to inclusion.
Drive success and make accommodations. The interview process can also be a barrier to some candidates. To ensure a fair experience, you can take some steps to even the playing field. For starters, arrange parking, pathways and access points in advance and be extra thoughtful about the first impressions and experiences a candidate may have. Also, build more time into the overall interview process. Finally, plan for accommodations in advance, such as translators or therapy animals.
Large panel interviews, which can be intimidating for anyone, were discussed during the webinar  as problematic for certain candidates. Consider reasonable accommodations for those with less interview experience and different levels of sensory perception, and slow down the process to appreciate the abilities that can drive great talent outcomes for your company.
You may also consider visual or audible alarms and review your website and electronic systems to ensure they meet accessibility guidelines.
The Bottom Line
According to a study released  by Accenture, organizations with advanced DE&I practices gain increased innovation, improved shareholder value, improved productivity and broader access to talent. In fact, sales at these companies grew almost 2.9 times faster than other companies over the past three years, while EBITDA grew 4.1 times faster.
Enterprise buyer organizations in the webinar audience, as well as the panelists, noted training and awareness as a critical component to success.
“There has to be a training to be conscious to hire people who do not look like you,” one attendee commented. “It also takes a commitment from the hiring manager, i.e., invest more time to train and take more ‘risk’ when hiring a neurodiverse candidate.”
Another advised, “Make sure the door is open, give these candidates a chance to succeed. Work with your hiring managers to understand translatable skills and align to reasonable accommodations.”
Moving the Needle Forward
Use understanding, empathy and support to create action. Consider a strategy to integrate and accommodate your DE&I solutions within existing processes. Make a conscious effort to remove barriers, screen in and provide reasonable accommodations. This will drive an increase in engagement and retention and expand your culture of inclusion and belonging that will help you develop a more diverse workforce. Your company can help address untapped talent and unmet need in your local communities and ultimately implement a cost-effective, scalable and sustainable talent acquisition strategy. Gain the strengths of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce and create an atmosphere where everyone feels like they belong.
This creates a culture where people bring their authentic selves to work and the results are visible to all.