Key Tactics to Promote Inclusion of Invisible Diversity Traits

Jul 10, 2018

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Takeaways from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council Executive Luncheon

Harnessing the Power of Difference: Tactics to Promote Inclusion of Invisible Diversity Traits. Insights from the NOD Corporate Leadership Council’s Executive Luncheon “Bringing Our Whole Selves to Work”. 1. Set the tone from the top down; 2. Cultivate trust to boost disability self-ID rates; 3. Disclosure can reveal supportive networks; 4. Tackle stigma head on to succeed; 5. Get outside of your comfort zone; 6. Take action to advance a culture of authenticity.

On the 20th of June the National Organization on Disability held its Corporate Leadership Council executive luncheon titled “Bringing Our Whole Selves to Work:  Harnessing the Power of Difference by Uncovering Invisible Diversity Traits.”  Presented in partnership with The LGBTQ Community Center, representatives from over 45 companies attended this exclusive event that spotlighted how corporate cultures can welcome unseen diversity segments, like LGBT identities and non-apparent disabilities, such as mental illness. Sarah Mikhail, Executive Director of the LGBTQ center highlighted that “Sarah Mikhail, Executive Director of the LGBTQ center highlighted that “there is no such thing as a single because we do not live single issue lives.”  We are all a combination of many things which impact our daily living.

  • Set the tone from the top down

Panelists Nora Vele Executive Director, Global Diversity & Inclusion of Merck; Eric Mitchel Associate Vice President, Human Resources of AT&T; and James Mahoney Executive Director & Head of Autism at Work at JPMorgan Chase & Co., shared insights and leading practices to support employees with invisible diversity traits in the workplace. The panel encouraged self-identification and disclosure of disabilities by managers, supervisor and higher management as a way to inspire a safer environment for employees to also self-identify and request accommodations if necessary.  It has been proven that those whom disclose their disability to employers are more productive than employees that chose to mask their true selves.

  • Cultivate trust to boost disability self-ID rates

When asked what was being done within each organization to promote harnessing the power of difference while bringing your whole selves to work, Ms. Vele stated that in creating a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities, Merck began with their employee resource group (ERG) and focused on eight aspects—one being the importance of self-identification.  Merck found by using infographics they were able to increase the amount of employees whom chose to self-identify.  Merck also created “A Day in the Life of an Employee” to help promote awareness of a fellow employees discussing their disabilities while filming them at work and home.  Ms. Vele shares that companies become more enlightened when employees are listened to and feel cared for—and companies can reap increased productivity when employees can free up ‘emotional real estate’ by disclosing their full identities at work.

  • Disclosure can reveal supportive networks

Carol Glazer, President of the National Organization on Disability engaged in a fireside chat with Lisa Lucchese, Global Head of External Reporting Operations & Co-Executive Sponsor of Access Ability, Mid-Atlantic, JPMorgan Chase & Co.  Ms. Lucchese shared her experiences and challenges navigating understanding and disclosing her mental health diagnosis in the workplace. Ms. Lucchesse makes clear that because someone has a diagnosis it doesn’t mean it’s easier, it just means they have more information to work with [to understand the supports needed to succeed].”  It was through focusing on her career that she was able to feel normal. “The harder we work the more normal we feel,” she contends.  When asked how disclosure helped her as a worker, she shared that now she can talk to people about her own experiences and her own realizations. Emphasizing the importance of being true to yourself, she shared that when faced with hardship, an opportunity to make the biggest changes in one’s life may also presents itself.  “Having a network encourages you, and honestly, you want to do more.”  Bringing your whole self to work creates creativity, enhances ability, builds resiliency and develops empathy; it’s a winning formula.

  • Tackle stigma head on to succeed

Eric Mitchell spoke about how AT&T branded their health insurance as “Bringing Your Healthy Self to Work.”  They believe that not disclosing a disability causes a stress—that’s largely avoidable, so they’ve launched a campaign for employees to sign a pledge, take a photo and share their disability as a way to help stamp out the stigma of mental illness.  In addition, they have created a webcast entitled, “Everything is not fine:  I may look o.k. but you don’t know what is going on under the surface,” to inspire and promote authenticity around mental health. A year later a second version followed: “Everything is still not fine” took on a more pronounced stance on ensuring employees were comfortable disclosing a mental illness—which proved to be even more successful.  Sharing personal stories is a powerful tactic, so finding ways bring your organization’s stories to life can encourage employees to be authentic regarding their disability.

  • Get outside of your comfort zone

James Mahoney of JPMorgan Chase & Co. spoke about their innovative program to hire candidates with autism, which touts a high success rate in terms of productivity and integration.  Regarding their aptitude in visual detail, these new hires with autism were equal in quality to their peers and 48 percent faster.  “Today we are at 95 people in a dozen locations and in 25 different roles,” states Mr. Mahoney speaking JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s employees who are on the autism spectrum.  The firm has designed, along with their office of disability inclusion, new techniques for this cohort in terms of recruitment, onboarding, and integration well up to retirement.  Mr. Mahoney stresses the importance of thinking outside of one’s comfort zone with the understanding that it is healthy for people to challenge your perspective.

  • Take action to advance a culture of authenticity

“After all is said and done, let there be more done then said,” shared moderator Karen Brown, Global Diversity & Inclusion Executive & Advisor. This insightful quote was a rallying cry for all to take a proactive approach to improving the culture of inclusion within the workforce.  Ms. Brown spoke on the importance of being authentic, saying: “authenticity is a daily practice of letting go of who we think we should be or who we’re supposed to be.”

The executive luncheon sought to chart solutions to common corporate challenges, providing the attendees with useful tools to promote diversity, inclusion, and harness the power of difference within their own companies. Ultimately, trust and authenticity are key especially in bringing your company’s message around disability inclusion and mental wellness to life.

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