Project IDD Part 3
Thinking Differently: Unleash the Power of Invisible Diversity
Welcome back to Project IDD, where we’re giving organizations the tools and insights they need to build a truly diverse team.
Inclusion is the key to diversity, and diversity is the key to innovation. While many have made progress in promoting the importance of diversity, most still overlook the role of inclusion in the plight for true equality.
Diversity isn’t achievable in any organisation without inclusion. Companies must create an inclusive environment before even thinking about creating a diverse organisation. Those companies focused directly on diversity face indirect discrimination by hiring individuals based upon their ‘diversity criteria.’
The attributes that can contribute to diversity are practically endless. Not all of these characteristics can be readily observed.
Diverse characteristics include things we can see, such as gender, race, or age, as well things we can’t, like skills, values, experience, personality, background, culture and neurodiversity. Alongside visible diversity, non-visible characteristics are a key element of a diverse workforce and a dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking team. If you’re only measuring diversity by visible differences within your organisation, your workforce won’t be truly diverse.
Often, people assume that if a workforce is visibly diverse, then it must also be diverse in other ways, such as in skills, experiences, and values. However, this is not always the case. It is important to recognize that visible diversity, such as race and gender, is not the only aspect of diversity in the workplace. It is essential to be inclusive of all characteristics, both visible and invisible, to build a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.
When we value and embrace diversity in all its forms, we open ourselves up to new ideas, perspectives, and ways of thinking. People with diverse backgrounds, skills, and experiences bring a wealth of knowledge and understanding to the team. Each individual’s unique identity, shaped by a multitude of factors, allows them to approach things from a unique angle.
Someone with a different educational background or professional experience may approach a problem in a way that is different from their colleagues. Similarly, individuals with different perspectives and experiences can bring new ideas to the table, encouraging the team to think outside of the box. These unique mindsets allow teams to consider all possible solutions and arrive at the best solution.
When it comes to disability inclusion, It’s important to understand not all disabilities are visible. They can range from mental health conditions to chronic pain or learning disabilities, which are often misunderstood or overlooked in the workforce.
In Project IDD Part 2, we spoke to Eric Ingram, CEO and co-founder of SCOUT, about the importance of disability inclusion. Eric is a passionate ambassador of disability inclusion, and the ways different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences can take space organisations to the next level. We also speak to Danni, EVONA’s digital and direct marketing manager, about her advice to organizations as a disabled person herself.
We spoke to space industry trailblazers, SkyFi, get their take on diversity and inclusion in the sector.
SkyFi are a group of explorers, scientists, engineers, and analysts charting new territory and bringing the farthest corners of the world closer to home. They believe that everyone should have access to the benefits of space technology, and are passionate about democratizing space to make this a reality.
On top of driving technological innovation, SkyFi are passionate about making the space sector a more inclusive and welcoming place for all. Their unwavering dedication to their mission and commitment to diversity and inclusion make them a leading force in the space sector.
How have your teams’ individual characteristics, background, skills, experiences, contributed to the success of your company?
“As a user-focused space company, we recognize that individuals with unique experiences and expertise can bring various perspectives and fresh ideas to our projects. We cast a wide net to find the best talent, bringing in individuals with broad experience who are able to connect with customers on a human level. Our employees have independence and ownership over their work and everyone plays a crucial role in building our company into what we know it can be. We are also a fully global team, with teammates across 6 time zones, which allows us to share cultures, viewpoints, and ideas that others may not have considered. Our goal is to provide the most up-to-date imagery and data about planet Earth to everyone on Earth (and beyond!). To do so, it only makes sense that our team represents everyone on Earth as well.”
How does your organization create an inclusive workplace environment for individuals with invisible diverse characteristics?
“At SkyFi, we’re passionate about making Earth observation accessible to all, and this goal is at the heart of everything we do. We aim to foster a culture of acceptance and gratitude, where every team member is recognized for their unique contributions to our shared mission. By encouraging open communication, promoting inclusive policies and practices, and providing support and resources, we make sure that our employees can focus on growing as individuals and as leaders. Every day we make a concerted effort to ensure that all voices are represented, heard, and have a true seat at the table.”
The essence of diversity lies in embracing and valuing different perspectives and approaches. In today’s fast-paced business landscape, companies are recognizing the benefits of diversity to unlock innovation, gain fresh insights, and better adapt to change.
Neurodiversity (ND) is a prime example of how companies are broadening their definition of diversity. In simple terms, ND refers to natural variations in the way a person’s brain processes information. Some examples of ND are Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), Attetion Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), dyscalculia, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.
By welcoming and supporting neurodiverse individuals, companies can tap into a diverse pool of talents, skills, and perspectives. ND employees add enormous value to any organization, bringing strengths like pattern recognition, memory , mathematics, attention to detail, outside-the-box thinking, and focus. They can see things from different angles, and they can come up with solutions that others may not have considered.
Unfortunately, many organizational structures don’t allow neurodiverse individuals to thrive. Both within hiring processes and role structures, there are exclusive processes and procedures that are hindering this talent.
We spoke to Theo Smith, author of Neurodiversity at Work: Drive Innovation, Performance and Productivity with a Neurodiverse Workforce, about the barriers neurodiverse individuals face in the workplace, and how organizations can provide support.
Theo is a pioneering champion for neurodiversity, driven by his own personal experiences as a neurodiverse individual. Recognizing the lack of awareness around this topic, Theo founded Neurodiversity At Work LTD, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace. As a sought-after diversity and inclusion speaker, Theo encourages audiences to embrace neurodiversity and understand the benefits of creating inclusive and welcoming environments for all individuals.
What are some of the specific challenges that neurodiverse individuals face in the workplace?
“If we look into the workplace, the barriers the ND people are facing are systems and processes that have not been built with them in mind. It’s very simple, the diagnostic model, right? What happens is, if you’ve got questions as part of an interview process that are not clear, they’re ambiguous, because of the way some of our brains work, we may overanalyze what is being asked. Therefore, if it’s not clear, we may start to second guess what the question may be. So, what we’re starting to do is work three times harder trying to answer that question than somebody else. It’s because the question, in the slight nuanced way that it’s being asked, is confusing to us.
If you imagine an interview process, how many questions do you have an interview process? How much thought and consideration is being put into them? Are your job adverts clear, accurate and up to date? How many points of information, communication, of contact have you got that may be confusing? We know this has an impact on women, and it has a greater impact on ND talent more broadly. These people have been questioned so much more, they’ve been misunderstood for so long, and they’ve been challenged around their so-called problems and why they need to be fixed, which they don’t.
So there’s a lot of self reflection and self doubt, and rumination of thoughts and ideas and concepts that give us very, very busy brains. If stuff isn’t clear and concise, it takes us too much time to be able to respond, and therefore we can look a bit odd in an interview situation. We either don’t speak, speak too much, or go off on tangents and for the person interviewing, if you’ve got a scoring mechanism, like in a lot of bigger organizations where it’s very structured, this is the problem that you have, because the there is no room to go off piece.”
How can we support neurodiverse individuals in both their professional and personal development?
“If we’re thinking about supporting employees, you’ve got to understand that employees and managers often do not know their challenges and strengths. Young people certainly have that challenge. Young people, often coming out of university or college, generally have a lack of focus around what their strengths are and where they should go from here.
My wife, because she was academically brilliant, went into law. But quite quickly realized after a couple of years, it was the worst place in the world for her to be because of the way that her brain works, it just was not right for her. But because of the lack of support, it meant that she ended up making some poor early choices. That makes it really difficult to go back on yourself and rewind. So, the sooner we can let individuals within the organizations better understand their strengths and their challenges and how they’re aligned, the more power we can give to those individuals.
That then translates to managers being more informed and having greater power around supporting their workforce. That combination is critical and key, but often we don’t think about it. We say managers must become more inclusive, managers must understand people on the autism spectrum better, but the problem is if the manager comes along and goes, “Hey, I wanna be really inclusive. How can I help you?” And the employee just goes, “I have no idea. I’m kind of okay today, but tomorrow when I’m crashing and burning, I still won’t know what to tell you.” Therefore, there’s the disconnect, but you can’t put all the onus on the managers to go and find out each individual.
You’ve then got to empower the individual to be able to better understand their strengths and their challenges. And that’s where organizations need to really start to double down on. And I’m telling you that won’t just help the organization in their performance, if you can get in early enough with individuals, you could literally be transforming that individual’s future pathway, right throughout their life. They become more productive, have more self-worth and value, way beyond that moment. Because often we make too many poor decisions too early, that means we’re fighting against the tide for too long. And if you’ve got a CV that looks like it’s got three or four mistakes, you might be working really hard to then get organizations to take you seriously.”
As Theo explains, to attract and retain neurodiverse talent, you need to analyze your company’s structure and processes. Inclusive advertisement and recruitment strategies are a key part of this.
We spoke to Chris Bell, EVONA’s senior technical recruiter, about his unique perspective on ND inclusive recruitment.
Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) aged four. Although it’s something he has rarely spoken about in the past, he wants to use his position as part of the 16% of people with AS in full time work to make a difference.
Based on your experience in the recruitment industry, as well as experiences as a neurodiverse candidate yourself, what advice can you give to companies looking to be more inclusive of neurodiverse individuals during the recruitment and new starter process?
“For me, it’s about creating an environment where people feel comfortable to talk about their own personal ND. It’s easy to speak generically about it, but without giving the people it affects the space to talk and make an impact, there will be no change.
During the new starter process, really listening to the individual is vital. Everyone is different, so for example, don’t tar everyone with AS with the same brush. The spectrum is vast and what is a struggle for one person may not be for another. In these cases, inclusion means:
To improve the hiring process for ND candidates, employers should rethink typical interview processes. While ND individuals can excel in specific areas, some may struggle with performing well in interviews that rely on social cues. For instance, people with AS may find it challenging to maintain eye contact or communicate verbally. To combat this, employers may want to consider using “work sample” tests, specifically designed to assess a candidate’s abilities and skills related to the role they are applying for by having them complete tasks relevant to the job. This approach provides a more accurate assessment of a candidate’s potential, particularly for an ND individual.”
What advice would you give to a neurodiverse individual for the job application and interview processes?
“Hmmm I should be able to give a good answer considering I am one of these people….
I would recommend that candidates ask questions around what the company are doing in terms of inclusion in general, as well as their stance on neuro-inclusion. It’s about finding a company who doesn’t just accept the neurodiversity – this is the bare minimum. It’s about embracing it and having people with different backgrounds to come together to achieve great things… or recruit in my case!
Personally, I believe it’s completely up to each individual if they wish to disclose or not. From experience, I know how daunting this prospect can be. A load of things run through your head, including how it could affect way people could see you, how you could be treated at work, will declaring this mean I won’t get the job…
There are different opinions when it comes to disclosing during the hiring process. Some people strongly believe in being upfront about it right from the start, while others feel it’s only necessary if they need a special accommodation during the interview. At the end of the day, it’s really a personal decision, and everyone should do what feels right for them based on their own needs, preferences and comfort level.”
A truly inclusive workplace is one that recognizes and embraces all elements of diversity.
Inclusivity is unique to each individual. To achieve genuine workplace inclusion, it’s essential for your company to establish a structure that not only attracts, but nurtures and retains talented staff from all walks of life. With this fresh approach, your business can unlock a range of untapped potential that will drive success and innovation.
Throughout the Project IDD trilogy, we’ve covered all bases of diversity and inclusion. We’ve shown companies exactly how to reassess and restructure their processes, flipping their old understanding of D&I on its head.
Using these tools, we know you’ll soon understand the true value of inclusion first-hand. We truly hope you use these facts, figures and insights to drive meaningful and long-lasting change through the incredible work you do, with the backing of a strong, dynamic, and innovative team.
Project Inclusivity Drives Diversity – White House EditionDiscover Project IDD: White House Edition, a trilogy empowering space sector equality with key insights & tools for fostering diversity & inclusion.Read More
Thinking Differently: Unleash the Power of Invisible Diversity (Project IDD Part 3)Part 3 of our guide and find out how to attract, and retain, diverse talent that can take your organisation to the next level.Read More
Project Inclusivity Drives Diversity: Part 2Part 2 of our guide and find out how to attract, and retain, diverse talent that can take your organisation to the next level.Read More