[Title slide with an image background. The title "Attact and retain diverse talent: Neurodiversity hiring practices" appears in white text in the middle of the screen. Top right hand corner box with white background with blue logo CAI Neurodiverse solutions. Under that box is speaker Ronald Petit, and under that box is speaker Anthony Pacilio.] 00:00:07 - 00:01:03 Anthony Pacilio Welcome everyone to today's webinar, attract and retain diverse talent: neurodiversity hiring practices. My name's Anthony Pacilio, vice President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. A little bit about me. My responsibilities here are to help organizations build neurodiversity programs and to lead our global expansion efforts of CAI Neurodiverse Solutions. My expertise lies in managing neurodiversity recruiting efforts, developing Canada pipelines, ensuring best practices for onboarding support in training and organizational success. And a few things before we begin. I'd like to take a moment to go over some housekeeping items. If you have any questions to submit during the discussion, we ask that you use the Q&A feature found at the bottom of your Zoom app. Hopefully everybody knows where that is. There's going to be a time at the end of the discussion that will address as many questions as we can. [Agenda slide with white background with four colored boxes on the screen listing the order of events. Top left navy blue box stating 5 minute introduction, bottom left dark blue box stating 35 minute discussion, top right light blue box stating 15 minute audience Q&A and bottom right green box stating 5 minute wrap up. All 3 speakers still showing on right hand side of screen: Top right hand corner box with white background with blue logo CAI Neurodiverse solutions. Under that box is speaker Ronald Petit, and under that box is speaker Anthony Pacilio.] In addition, you're going to find more information on the event in the chat box, so be sure to follow along with that as well. And lastly, as always, I want to let you know that we're recording the session today for future viewing. So first, let's take a quick look at today's agenda. You're going to see the estimates of timing for each part of our discussion, and we'll be sharing with you each question visually as well. [Meet Our Guests Slide with white background. Below the title are three circlular speaker headshots in order from left to right the speakers are: Scott Gibson, Chief Strategy Officer at Melwood, Ronald Pettit, Director Disability Inclusion & ADA Compliance, Royal Carribean Group, and Anthony Pacilio Vice President, Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. Anthony has a blue bubble below his title that says Moderator.] 00:01:04 - 00:01:33 Anthony And onto today's guest, so let's meet today's guest. First up, Scott Gibson, chief Strategy Officer at Melwood. Scott joined Melwood in 2013, bringing more than a decade of public policy expertise, strategic planning leadership and enterprise-wide human resource management to his role with the organization. Scott also shapes Melwood's long-term strategic objectives, helping the organization respond to market changes and drive service innovation. And by forging partnerships with industry leaders and community stakeholders, he's launched innovative new programs such as abilIT, which prepares people of differing abilities to launch careers in IT. So thanks for joining us, Scott. 00:01:34 - 00:02:21 Anthony In next up, Ron Pettit, Director, Disability Inclusion & ADA Compliance, Royal Caribbean Group. Ron's passion is to enable guests with disabilities to have a great cruise vacation experience and make Royal Caribbean a great place to work for employees with disabilities. He's an experienced disability inclusion leader in the travel and hospitality industry and is also responsible for the accessible guest experience and product development as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at Royal Caribbean Group and their two global cruise brands, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises. He leads a team of 30 people dedicated to just this market. 00:02:22 - 00:03:02 Anthony So thank you to you both for being here today. And we're going to take a look at today's webinar subject matter as well. So our webinar's going to focus on how organizations are doing the important work of identifying and defining their own diversity and inclusion goals. And for many, it's a matter of identifying gaps and opportunities and then designing solutions that drive improvement. And growing number of public and private organizations are turning to the untapped pool of neurodivergent individuals to fill these gaps. And integration of neurodiverse teams will deliver that measurable increase in productivity and that quality of work. 00:03:03 - 00:03:47 Anthony So in this 60 minute webinar event, our guests Scott and Ron, will share their experience with implementing and supporting neurodiversity hiring practices. We're going to discuss how organizations can begin hiring, finding and attracting neurodiverse talent. What types of employee training and education can be put into place for neurodiversity awareness. What support and career mobility mechanisms are used to retain and expand neurodivergent individual's career paths, and what best practices are companies utilizing to promote inclusivity. 00:03:48 - 00:04:36 Anthony So all right, so after all of that, we are going to start out with our very first question. Scott, we're going to start with you, my friend. Can you begin with sharing a bit about Melwood and the abilIT program? [First question slide appears with blured office background with white text over the center stating "Can you share a bit about Melwood and the abilIT program?" Scott's headshot and title are shown below with a white background.] 00:04:37 - 00:05:07 Scott Gibson Absolutely. Thanks for having me today. So Melwood started in 1963. We're actually celebrating our 60th anniversary this year. And we started when a group of parents decided that there had to be something better for their children. So in 1963, and actually for much of the 20th century, the main path for a child with an intellectual or developmental disability was institutional care. And these parents were often told that their children were untrainable and unemployable and they thought, no, that there has to be something better. 00:05:08 - 00:05:41 Scott So they started by teaching plant care in horticulture, as it means not only of creating a therapeutic activity, but teaching job skills. At the time in 1963, landing a job, any job was considered success and agriculture was still a viable industry in our area. As the 60 years have gone by, our understanding of neurodevelopmental disability has also expanded. We know that people with neurodevelopmental disabilities are capable of much more. So success today is not about landing just any job. It's about launching a career of choice. 00:05:42 - 00:06:19 Scott With the abilIT, what we've done is we've taken our 60 years of experience preparing somebody for work through personal and professional development, and we've wrapped that around industry respected certification curriculum. In the case of tech, it's generally a CompTIA certification like A+ or Security+ or Network+. What we hope to do is produce a graduate who has increased confidence, increased self-advocacy skills, the ability to identify and leverage their natural systems of support so they can succeed in work, but that also has a credential that industry respects that certifies know-how. So we can build entry level talent to fill tech and tech adjacent jobs. 00:06:20 - 00:07:01 Anthony You touched upon something, and it happens probably every webinar, every conference that we go to, we talk about self-advocacy and I know I'm throwing you a little curve ball and that's near and dear to my heart. So I'm neurodivergent myself. I have extreme social anxiety disorder, I have depression. But teaching the piece of self-advocacy early on, I mean, how critical is that? I mean, I know it's critical in my case, but the criticality of you educating and telling folks you got to do this too. 00:07:02 - 00:07:59 Scott It's incredibly important. So we want to build a system where we are teaching people to be successful, not teaching people to rely on Melwood. So we want to be there for the start. We want to be a resource that somebody can reach back to. But the reality is for these types of hiring programs to work, there has to be some self-advocacy and there has to be a natural system of support. So we need to increase the confidence of our program graduates to say, here is an area where I need an accommodation, here's an area where I have a need. But we also need to coach employers to create a culture of psychological safety where employees feel comfortable saying, I have a need, I have a request for accommodation. And I will say that cultural psychological safety, I might be thinking about it right now through the lens of disability accommodation, but it's actually really critically important for our entire workforce. 00:08:00 - 00:08:50 Scott And I hope, one of the themes today is everything that we talk about that is a great way to accommodate neurodivergence is really a great way to support your entire workforce. We keep seeing study after study that talks about workforce burnout and our workforce dealing with lots of things, lots of stressors in their personal lives and finding work-life balance, particularly in this new world where what is work and what is personal seems to kind of collide, particularly as we're working more and more from home. And our work days are stretching. Psychological safety is the second key. We've got to empower people to ask and to advocate, but we really need to make sure they feel comfortable advocating for themselves, asking for something they need. And so both sides need to work on that, but that's the key to real success. 00:08:51 - 00:09:02 Anthony And so along with the self-advocacy, you talked about the program graduates, can you talk a little bit about the training that you provide? What's the process? How long is the process to- 00:09:03 - 00:09:55 Scott Sure. So we intentionally designed the program to mimic the workday and to mimic the college semester. And we do that because our two real goal outcomes or either somebody advances in their career by going to an employer or somebody advances in their career because they decide four year of formal education is for them when they thought perhaps maybe it wasn't previously. So a program participant comes to us and they commit to 14 weeks. It's Monday to Friday, replicates the workday. So it's let's say 8:30 to 5:00, a short break for lunch. Some of the days are in the office if you will. They come into a classroom, they come into a lab that's set up like a security operation center or an IT bench area, and they work alongside others. Some of the days they're working asynchronously and independently from home, kind of mimicking again that telework environment that's become common. 00:09:56 - 00:10:27 Scott So they're actually seeing the hybrid work day now, they're seeing time in office and time at home. Their time is spent half on personal and professional development training and half on technical skill development. They come into this program knowing that they have to invest time beyond the workday on that technical skill development as well. Just like when they enter the workforce, they're going to have to invest time beyond work and kind of keeping their skill sharp in training and looking for continual learning opportunity. 00:10:28 - 00:11:26 Scott So that's really important for us. We want to mimic all of the expectations that'll be in place for a workday. We also want to mimic the stressors. So deadlines, knowing that you have to sometimes work beyond normal hours if you want to get something done. Working next to somebody in a shared workspace. One of our instructors is actually... it makes me laugh, but every time people come in he gets a really crinkly bag of chips and he does that because he is like, "You know what? That's something you're going to have to deal with in shared workspace. Sometimes people are going to be noisy, sometimes they're going to be heating up leftovers." We want to pull out those stressors early so that way we can talk to people about well, when something bothers you, how do you respond? How do you self-advocate for your needs in a way that is going to be productive and not in a way where you're going to stress out and then perhaps tailspin? We want to identify those stressors early and then teach a model for coping and self-advocacy. 00:11:27 - 00:11:42 Anthony Yeah, the bag of chips analogy and metaphor is it can go along so many different lines. So I appreciate that. So the candidates that come in, what are you looking for? 00:11:43 - 00:12:14 Scott So candidates come to us from all walks and backgrounds. We have everybody from high school graduates to master's degree holders. In fact, I think we've even had a PhD candidate. What we look for in general is what we call the knack. So we look for an interest in succeeding. We look for a drive, we look for an interest in this field. We want to make sure that people aren't being typecast into these types of roles, but that there's a true and genuine interest and that there's a drive to succeed. If we see those things, we believe a person can be successful. 00:12:15 - 00:12:42 Scott Generally speaking, capacity to do the work and intellect are not the challenge most of our program participants and graduates face, it's actually the social interactions of work. So they're struggling with the social expectations that are really prevalent in entry level hiring and that's why they're not getting employed. I've had a program participant come to US, college educated, self-taught seven coding languages. 00:12:43 - 00:12:44 Anthony Oh my gosh. 00:12:45 - 00:13:06 Scott He could only find work stocking shelves. He was facing barriers to employment because he was struggling with the social interaction and social expectation of entry level hiring. So we saw the interest, we saw the drive, we saw the barrier, and that's the type of program graduate that we're bringing in or type of program participant we're bringing into the program. 00:13:07 - 00:13:18 Anthony And you talked about a abilIT off the top. What other roles are you looking to fill? What's coming across your desk? 00:13:19 - 00:14:03 Scott So as we enter our next strategic plan and as we come out of Covid, we think the model that's in place for a abilIT, so taking that six years of experience on soft skill and personal development and self-advocacy and pairing it with technical curriculum, we think that's a model that can succeed in any industry. So what we're doing right now is we're looking in our area and saying where are the biggest pockets of unmet need for entry level talent? Because we believe those are the areas where employers will be most likely to embrace our program graduates. So we are looking at expanding this model into jobs in the care industries, whether it's childcare, healthcare, eldercare, construction. We just recently launched Building Paths, that's our construction trades related program. 00:14:04 - 00:14:26 Scott Customer care, which can be anything from logistics to the call centers that are now kind of funneling the new customer experience. The customer experience isn't big box retail anymore. Fewer and fewer people are going into the store and leaving with the product. They're talking with people at call centers, they're coordinating orders that need to be shipped and logistics need to be processed. So how can we help there. 00:14:27 - 00:15:05 Scott The creative arts in the DC metro area and cultural institutions is actually another big area. How can we support that industry as it has a growing need for unmet talent. But that's what we're looking for. We're looking for where are the big pockets of opportunity for entry level talent and then what are the relevant certifications? If we can have that unmet need and we can find a relevant certification that we know industry will respect, we think there's an opportunity for success there. And those are the areas we're growing into. We want to be really clear when we graduate somebody that it's not Melwood saying they have the knowhow, it's an industry respected certification saying they have the knowhow like CompTIA and the case attack. 00:15:06 - 00:15:29 Anthony And I appreciate, we do talk about tech a lot. It does obviously resonate within the community, but I think we are opening up avenues for employment opportunities not only for individuals but clients as well and organizations. So we need to service as you are the whole kit and caboodle, so to speak. So- 00:15:30 - 00:16:15 Scott Absolutely. Our program participants in general have a wide array of interests. I think tech has just been an area of focus for so long because there's such an unmet need and because tech was used to non-traditional recruitment backgrounds. So in the early days of IT, a lot of people were self-taught. The tech tycoons, when you think about them, many of them were college dropouts. They self-taught coding and they went to be successful. So you had a lot of need for entry level talent. You had a willingness to be creative in how you were going to recruit, a willingness to shun the traditional pathway to work. And it just created an opportunity for success. But there are program participants that are interested in a whole wide array of careers. [Second question slide appears with a blured background of a table and chairs. The white text over the background states "Can you share how Royal Caribbean's program began and where you're at currently?" Ronald Pettit's headshot and title show below in the bottom left hand corner with a white background.] 00:16:16 - 00:16:38 Anthony Yeah, absolutely. And Scott, I appreciate, you starting us off on that. I'm going to turn to Ron. Ron, we've spoke before. And Royal Caribbean just getting started on their journey with neurodiversity initiatives. Can you share how this has come to be and where you are currently? 00:16:39 - 00:17:41 Ronald Pettit Yeah, Anthony, so thank you very much for the invitation to be here. It's going to be a pleasure. So to answer your question, I think it's a few things. One is that I came to Royal Caribbean about 17 years ago and we were doing some really great things in terms of the being inclusive guest experience. We are an industry leader in providing the most amazing, unforgettable and accessible crucification for people with disabilities. But it's just more than that. So about eight years ago I worked on putting together a strategic accessibility plan that not only include the guest experience, but really the employee experience and making Royal Caribbean a great place to work for people with disabilities. And also looking at digital accessibility and making sure that our websites and mobile applications are accessible for people with disabilities. 00:17:42 - 00:18:58 Ronald So it's building out that plan. It was really kind of struck us to say we are very mature in our journey for the guest experience. And then of course we're very early in our quest for inclusive employee and digital experiences. So around the same time, Royal Caribbean International became the world's first autism friendly cruise line, which is the guest experience program. And it was really kind of amazing because I, like others had certain misconceptions of what autism was. And so we partnered with an organization called Autism of the Sea, and together we were on a journey together to what means to take care of people with autism and other developmental disabilities on border ships. And so we created this sort of inclusive, warm, and welcoming program for people with autism and other developmental disabilities on our ships. And giving them a la carte program, they can use all, some, or none of the features depending on their needs. 00:18:59 - 00:19:41 Ronald So it's things like priority boarding and check-in, it's good and free meals, it's autism friendly movies, social stories, et cetera. So we built this program around that. So the idea came about that not only did we want them to sail with us, we wanted them to work here. And so one of the things we also did was put together an autism advisory board. I have three advisory boards and not just on autism, but I have a disability advisory board that's separate from autism. And then I have a advisory board of accessible travel agents who specialize in accessible cruising and travel. 00:19:42 - 00:20:37 Ronald So when we put together our autism advisory board, we began working with a lot of organizations in South Florida and nationally. So we work with organizations like College Living Experience, Dan Marino Foundation, Autism Speaks, Autism Society. And so we've had hiring success with Best Buddies, which is based here in Miami. And the great thing about that is that that came about because Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, our CEO of Celebrity Cruises. She's one of the few women that's running a billion dollar organization and she's done a remarkable job of creating gender equality. 2% of our seafarers are women, but at celebrity cruises it's 32% of our bridge officers are women. 00:20:38 - 00:20:57 Ronald So she and her team held a way for gender equality, but she also is on the board of directors for the International Best Buddies organization. And that's how the hiring initiative got started. It's because we had senior leadership support and I think that's so critical of any program that we put out there. 00:20:38 - 00:21:18 Anthony So we're going to stick on that senior leadership piece. You can find that senior leadership can typically be large advocates of neurodiversity, but how was this need recognized by those individuals? 00:21:19 - 00:21:54 Ronald Well, I think that when you talk about senior leaders, and I think we talk about trying to gain support for the initiatives that I do, Scott does, and many companies do. You need to get the buy-in from senior leaders and they're motivated by many different things and some of them are motivated by revenue and money. After all, businesses are here to make money. But we're also here to deliver unforgettable cruise vacations. And we're also here because we're propelled by our people. 00:21:55 - 00:22:27 Ronald So we really generally care about our employees and our guests. I think the other thing that also motivates some senior leaders is the personal connection they may have. They may have a son, daughter, a family member who's on the spectrum or otherwise has a disability. We also find those leaders to be very passionate about making the world a better place and creating opportunities for individuals that otherwise would not get those opportunities. 00:22:28 - 00:22:54 Ronald So as I mentioned, getting that senior leadership is so important and critical because your program will succeed. I've seen it many companies that have dedicated leadership support for neurodiversity programs in addition to having executive sponsors for the disability ERG and other accessibility initiatives. That's also a great best practice for some companies as well. 00:22:55 - 00:23:09 Anthony So as you start the initiative, what's the plan to hire, find, attract neurodiverse talent? 00:23:10 - 00:24:17 Ronald We're still early in the journey, so I'm kind of interested to see how it's going to go. But really the interest is we are learning from people like Scott and other companies that have had neurodiversity hiring initiatives for years. So the first challenge that we've had is really kind of identifying the business unit partner to join us on our journey because sometimes people really want to change everything in a day and then revamp the company's talent acquisition process. And that's a large scale. So what we love to do at Royal Caribbean is pilot, tests and repeat. And I think that's important. So we identify a business unit partner, IT, which is actually perfect for many neurodiverse candidates. It also kind of starts the conversation and awareness that neurodiverse individuals are not just geared toward clerical warehouse roles, not even just IT roles. There's so many. [Question slide showing blured background of a group of people gathered around a table. The question is written in white text on the screen, "What are some challenges you've faced when getting started with neurodiversity hiring?" Ronald's picture and bio show below in the lefthand corner with a white background.] 00:24:18 - 00:24:50 Ronald Scott mentioned some of that as well, that neurodiverse individuals are in a variety of roles depending on their abilities and capabilities. I think that one of the things that we also have to think about is what's kind of amazing is we already have people who have autism working here. I've known them for years, they self ID themselves to me. And a lot of it has to do with obviously the pride that they have in our company about having our autism friendly program and the fact that Royal Caribbean takes great care of its employees. [Question slide showing blured background of a group of people gathered around with white text on the screen stating the question "What is the demographic of the candidates you are receving?" Scott's headshot and title show in the bottom left with a white background.] 00:24:51 - 00:25:30 Ronald So we know there are people working here already and they've got hired without a dedicated program. Here, we want to do and be intentional about it and we really want to accelerate that because we want to increase the number of people with disabilities working here. I think that the other thing that's happened for us particularly, we're in the travel hospitality interested heavily impacted by the pandemic. And so things have gotten paused for the last couple of years, but now we're kind of back to return to service. It travels on the rebound and we're very excited about that. 00:25:30 - 00:26:27 Ronald So a lot of things are getting back on track and what's also really great is that there's a lot of resources to help us. That's part of how you address some of the challenges. You have your program there at CAI and I know that we're corporate partners with DisabilityIN and which is a really great organization. It is the business to business organization that celebrates disability inclusion in the business world and they put together an Autism at Work playbook. It's kind of a roadmap. I know CAI was part of that authoring of that playbook and really it's kind of like, hey, it's a playbook, helps you get started, it can help you scale. It can help you think about things that you didn't think about. And so there are resources and organizations that can help you. And like I mentioned, we want to leverage our autism advisory board and the organizations to help us as well. 00:26:28 - 00:26:46 Anthony So you were talking about some of the challenges and I heard you loud and clear. I'm going to go to Scott from that perspective. Is there any challenges that you experienced or have experienced that you'd like to share on that one? [Question slide with blured background of a group of people with white text over top stating the question, "What are some challenges you're faced with when getting started with neurodiversity hiring?" Ronald's headshot and title show below on the left bottom of the screen with a white background.] 00:26:47 - 00:27:26 Scott So I think the biggest challenge we face whenever we're talking with an employer who wants to start a program is fear of the unknown. Fear that they're going to do the wrong thing. And I would value progress over preventing mistakes. I think most of the disability community, when you look at the unemployment rates and underemployment rates faced by people with disabilities would say, well intended progress is much better than perfection and so let's move forward. I also think that what we need to do is we need to step back and realize that... and Ron's already said this, there are neurodivergent individuals in our workforce. 00:27:27 - 00:28:07 Scott One in 40 people is diagnosed as only autism spectrum. If you have a workforce scale or a talent pipeline of scale, you are already dealing with some individuals who are affected by neurodivergence. So I would encourage people to not just look at this as how do we bring new folks into our workplace, but how do we help people succeed. And a great first step is by asking your workforce, what's working? Setting up employee resource groups that involve people who are autistic and their allies, people who are neurodivergent and their allies. 00:28:08 - 00:28:44 Scott But the biggest challenge is that fear of the unknown. And quite frankly, I think a lot of times what we have to do to set up a place that will succeed when it comes to embracing neurodiversity, we like to think about it as something we have to do for a particular group. But employer after employer has told us, we started with that approach. We started with that mindset and we realized what was really fundamental to success were things that we had to do for everybody, not just for our autistic employees, not just for our neurodivergent job candidates. 00:28:45 - 00:29:24 Scott At the end of the day, what's really essential to succeed in one of these programs, whether it's for hiring or retaining employees, is getting to know people on an individual level and working to design your work processes and your recruitment processes to accommodate as wide an array of the population as possible. This is really about universal design. And at the end of the day, the reason why our hiring process is so broken for entry level talent and for observing and evaluating neurodivergent candidates is because it over relies on social rapport. 00:29:25 - 00:30:14 Scott Any of us thinks back to our first job fair, we remember walking around a really big crowded room. Sometimes it was a conference hall or a convention center or the school's gym and the employers had booths and you had a resume that was barely one side of a sheet of paper. Maybe you had an internship or two, you had your GPA to show knowhow. But what you really needed to do was you needed to build a quick rapport with a reporter... or a recruiter, excuse me, where they thought that's somebody we can invest in. It's that old adage, "Hire for fit, hire for attitude, train for skill." Well, if we're being honest, one of the primary diagnosis criteria for autism is pervasive struggle with social interaction. Chances are that person is not going to fare well if they're being evaluated on building a quick rapport alone. 00:30:15 - 00:31:07 Scott We know that neurodivergents often presents with hypersensitivity for certain sensory stimuli, whether it's hearing or visual stimulation. It can be hard to focus in a crowded room, but imagine if you also have hypersensitivity in your auditory function. You might not just be hearing background noise the way most people hear background noise. You may actually be hearing several conversations going on around you at once. That can be a very painful experience, very hard to focus. How much is our entry level hiring process focused on these types of social interactions versus true skill assessment? And that's where we've been working with employers like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. We looked at what the entry level role was, how can we break it down to skill assessment so we can start evaluating talent and move away from social rapport. 00:31:08 - 00:31:29 Scott When it comes to retaining and supervision, it's getting to know your individuals on your team as individuals, what enables success, what detracts from success, and then doing your best to focus on the things that enable it and to block and tackle the things that are going to detract from it. But that's true regardless of whether your employee is autistic or not. 00:31:30 - 00:32:02 Anthony No, no, absolutely. And I wanted get you another question. So we talk about neurodiversity and neurodiversity takes many different forms, autism being one, ADHD, PTSD, the dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia. Scott, I'm going to stick with you. What's the demographic of the candidates that you're getting? Are they college graduates out of high school? I know you talked earlier, but who are the people coming to you? [Question slide with blured background of a group of people gathered around with white text over it stating "What is the demographic of the candidates you are receiving?" Scott's headshot and title show at the bottom on the left hand corner.] 00:32:03 - 00:32:43 Scott So interestingly, it's primarily young adults. We have started with an individual who's about to graduate high school and then we've served an individual who has earned a PhD. So they vary in education. The balance of male-female is interesting because it highlights masking as a challenge. So our female participants tend to be older, but one of the reasons for that is a primary cause for a woman to be diagnosed with autism is still today that one of her children was diagnosed with autism and it caused questions about things that she's experienced in her life. 00:32:43 - 00:33:07 Scott What we have learned with time is that women are much better at masking. So there are some cues that we just see as typical behavior for girls, and so we underwrite them. A girl being shy or more quiet or less engaged is often written off more than it is with a boy who is typically expected to be more rambunctious and outgoing. 00:33:07 - 00:34:01 Scott But women have also reported that they're really good at masking. And what that means is they're kind of good at suppressing some of their neurodivergence and trying to act in a way that they think is expected. And that's extremely exhausting. We have program participants who have come to us who have said that they love knowing that an environment is safe. And it gets back to a point I made early on about psychological safety. When you create an environment that is psychologically safe where somebody can self-advocate and say, I have a need, and they feel like it will be taken seriously if not met. If they know that they won't be punished for articulating that need, then they feel comfortable bringing their true self to work. And the case of masking, that means they don't have to spend energy masking and it's exhausting. It takes away from their ability to focus on work. 00:34:01 - 00:34:36 Scott So one of the things that we think is truly key is employers creating this psychological safety and by saying we're interested in neurodiverse hiring, by saying we're looking at how we can accommodate more people at our talent pipelines, how we can better supervise and support our existing workforce. You're helping build that culture of safety which will allow your existing workforce to start stating their needs so they can be more productive and it'll start attracting talented candidates who just want to work in a place where they know they can be themselves. 00:34:37 - 00:35:00 Anthony And so we're talking about attracting that talent. And now Ron, I'm going to switch gears to retaining the talent. We know over the past few years people have migrated from one job to another and that seemed to increase exponentially. What are you doing, what is Royal Caribbean doing right now to keep that talent? [Question slide with a blured background of three people on laptops with white text over it stating "What are you doing to retain your talent right now?" Ronalds headshot and title are shown in the bottom left hand corner with a white background.] 00:35:01 - 00:36:04 Ronald Well, I think Anthony it's several things. I think we always talk about the things that we offer all of our employees like benefits, health and wellness programs. I think one of the really great things that came out of the pandemic was really this whole concept of remote work. And I know that there's different ways of accomplishing that. Some companies have gone completely remote, some companies are back in the office, some are the mix in between. I think we're all still finding our way, but for our people here at corporate headquarters, Friday is a remote day. We do have early out hours and we have the ability to work remotely several times a year. And I think those are really great opportunities for not just all employees, but people with disabilities and people who are neurodivergent because sometimes having that remote work capability helps out some individuals. 00:36:05 - 00:37:10 Ronald One of the really great things that we've had is we've had some employee parents webinars where they talk a little bit about having a child with a disability. Most of them have autism spectrum disorder and they talk about sometimes remote work helps some of their children, sometimes it doesn't. So it did really work on the individual. And I think Scott and I think we've all talked a little bit about treating people individually as an individual and it's human nature to bucket people into a category. So, this works for this type of individual, so I'll just keep doing that. And the reality is everybody is different. And so we have to take the time to know our employees individually. And I think that's one of the really great things about culturally at Royal Caribbean Group is that we take time to get to know our employees and try to work with them on an individual one-to-one basis and clearly creating that supportive environment. 00:37:11 - 00:38:00 Ronald And one of the best practices I've seen at other companies that I would love to do here as we continue on our journey for our neurodiversity program, it's really talking about buddy system and really tying up the neurodiversity individual with another employee, whether they be disability neurodivergent or not, they still feel supported by a peer. And that is really something that I really like to see happen and I think has great benefits because we can create a supportive environment from the supervisor and the manager, HR, our hiring partners, but there needs also could be another layer of support that the employee gets. And that's something that I'm thinking about as we move on our journey. So those are just some of the ideas that I think about retaining employees. 00:38:01 - 00:38:34 Anthony Gotcha. And I appreciate that, especially the culture piece, which is so huge. Scott, getting the talent is one thing. Is there any new ways that we're trying to bring talent in or is there mostly organic? Is there anything that's sticking out to you that is bringing folks in at this point more than it was the past three to five years, let's say? [Question slide showing blured background with two people talking and shaking hands. There is white text over it stating "Are there any new or exciting ways you are trying to find your neurodiverse talent?" Scott's headshot and title are shown in the bottom lefthand corner with a white background.] 00:38:35 - 00:38:41 Scott Yeah, so what I think is exciting but it's getting to be less and less new because it became a norm with Covid is workplace flexibility. 00:38:42 - 00:38:43 Anthony Got it. 00:38:44 - 00:39:20 Scott And workplace flexibility has really been key in this space because there is... and I mean this is one of the frustrations I see when we talk with partner employers. Everybody wants to know what to do. Well there is no one, here's what you do. And then all of a sudden you'll be better at serving this population because for everybody who is hypersensitive, there's somebody who is hyposensitive, right? So for the person that wants that really quiet space, there's also somebody who probably thrives when there's a little bit of background noise. And so a lot of this is about how do we create an environment where there are flexible options and people can kind of match themselves to what they need. 00:39:21 - 00:39:52 Scott And we're seeing that flexibility increase not only with the ability to work remote, and let's be honest, pre covid working remote was one of the most commonly requested accommodations. It was also one of the most commonly denied because there were a lot of employers who just couldn't figure out how this role could be done from anywhere in a way that was secure and effective and productive. And now we know that there are whole industries that could be moved to remote and maybe not as productive, but they're moving along and they're moving well and they're moving secure. 00:39:52 - 00:40:13 Scott When we start going to remote, we also start seeing flexible workspaces show up. So Kay Sergeant, who's the director of workforce at HOK talks about the new normals. We've got to become this kind of sharing culture in the workplace. We can't have this flexibility where we can work from home all the time and then also expect that we're going to have a private office all the time as well in our workplace. 00:40:14 - 00:40:56 Scott And so we see employers setting up these hoteling spaces within their work where people can request the space that they need that meets their needs. So if I need a little bit of a more open space where there's background noise and visual stimulation, I can request that. If I need a quieter space, I can request something that looks more like a private office or more like a cubicle. And I think that works incredibly well because it allows the employee to accommodate their needs and self-select that flexibility. In terms of new, one of the other things that I see that is exciting is I'm seeing employers being open to changing the way they look at entry level talent, the way they evaluate entry level talent. 00:40:57 - 00:41:30 Scott There are two things that I really want to call out. One is more employers looking to find a way to assess skill and know-how for entry level talent so they can rely less on that social interaction. Sometimes it's an online assessment, sometimes it's an in-person practical assessment. But that is really helpful because that social interaction, the overall reliance on it in entry level hiring has been a real barrier to entering the workplace. And it's just fundamentally true that the best way to get a job is to have a job. Nobody likes to be the first employer. 00:41:31 - 00:41:54 Scott I laugh sometimes I think about one of our program graduates coming into my office one day and saying, Mr. Gibson, where do you get your first job? Because I keep applying for these entry level jobs that are marked entry level, but that require one to two years experience. So where do you get the first two years? And so I'm happy to see that this focus on assessing skill is starting to compete with the social interaction for entry level talent. 00:41:55 - 00:42:46 Scott The other thing that we have to talk about and that we're seeing employers talk about is the paper ceiling. And so what I mean by the paper ceiling is the over-reliance on a formal college degree. We've seen the federal government issue an executive order saying that they want to find ways to assess skill beyond college degrees. We're seeing more and more states adopt policy focusing on the paper ceiling. And I think we're starting to see more and more employers say college degrees, while it makes sense how they were used as a filter for talent pipelines for a long time don't necessarily capture all of the best candidates. We've had several program graduates who were incredibly intellectually gifted, incredibly capable. College was not a good match because college wasn't a good match for other reasons. 00:42:47 - 00:43:22 Scott We have a lot of program graduates who come to us where college was a struggle because there is a hard decision you face when you have a child in their high school years who is affected by an intellectual or neurodevelopmental disability. If they go on the path of typical graduation, so four years in high school and graduate out, their support services generally stop with graduation. If you put them on a completer path where they're in high school for more years where they may earn a certificate of attendance instead of a traditional diploma, those support services can stay into their mid 20s. 00:43:23 - 00:43:59 Scott And so you see parents face this choice with their teenage children and that's going to affect their competitiveness later on in life. There was a young man, Ryan Laurie, who posted on LinkedIn. It was a handwritten letter to his future employer where he talked about all of the skills and talents he brought to the table. Perfect. I mean that post went viral. Incredibly capable and talented individual, but if you had a college degree requirement, Ryan probably wasn't going to get through your applicant tracking system. 00:44:00 - 00:44:13 Scott We've got to be open to recognizing that there are more paths to the workplace than a four year degree and then being hired. And that's going to be true for our space in particular, but I think it's going to be true for the workforce in general. 00:44:14 - 00:44:42 Anthony No, absolutely. Those are incredible points and I think we're almost going to get to some other questions here from our audience in a moment. But before we pivot there, I'm going to give you each about 30 seconds, 45 seconds tops to give us a key takeaway. And Ron, I'm going to start with you from today's talk. [Key Takeaway Slide appears with blue solid background and the words "Key Takeaways" in white.] 00:44:43 - 00:45:39 Ronald So I think the key takeaway is that if you're just starting out, start somewhere, start small, start what's resonates with you. And a couple of things that have happened to us and other companies on the journey is think about getting senior leadership support, finding the passionate champion that will help you further your program. Look at autism related organizations in your neighborhood, in your community that can also help you understand neurodiversity autism better and how you approach it. So just get started somewhere and I think you build upon success, try for that very one match and then you're done. Don't try to say, I'm going to hire a class of 10 people and place them all and just start somewhere and build upon that success. 00:45:40 - 00:45:43 Anthony Gotcha. And Scott, I'm going to turn it to you. 00:45:44 - 00:46:28 Scott I'd really like to reemphasize the point that Ron just made by also being clear that progress is better than preventing a mistake. We face staggering rates of unemployment and underemployment for people with disabilities, including people with autism. Progress is greatly needed. And so I think it is fair to say that the community in general would support any well-intended step in the right direction. Please don't be afraid of a mistake. And I think you are going to find, as I've said a few times, that what you really need to do to be successful in this space, you really need to do to be successful as a manager in general. 00:46:29 - 00:47:12 Anthony No, absolutely. That's an amazing kind of key last point on that one. And I think we're turning to the coolest part of what we do. We talk for 45 minutes and I ask you questions, but now we have the audience who actually have some outstanding questions for both of you. Scott, the first question's going to go to you actually, it says, how would you suggest working with leaders who don't have a personal connection to neurodiversity or a natural buy-in to see the value of programs like this? [Audience Q&A slide appears with solid blue background."] 00:47:13 - 00:47:59 Scott So I argue all the time that we don't just have a moral imperative to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace. We actually have a business imperative to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace. The prevalence of autism right now is about 1 in 40 children. That's a sizeable segment of the potential workforce. We really cannot afford to leave that talent at home. The portion of the population with disability is also a sizable segment of your consumer base and you just can't afford to write off that larger portion of a consumer base. And so while I would always love to lead with this is a great thing to do and we should all be doing it for the moral imperative. The reality is there's business imperative behind it as well. 00:48:00 - 00:48:31 Scott Look at how long jobs are sitting open right now. It's a very competitiveness workforce. Unemployment has generally been pretty low over the past couple of years once we kind of came out of that Covid blip. It's competitive. It means you have to kind of poach people away from other employers. So we really to succeed long-term, have to figure out how do we expand the workforce? How do we expand the workforce? We've got to invite more people in who aren't actively in it today. One of the biggest pockets for unemployment and underemployment is disabilities. 00:48:32 - 00:48:33 Anthony Correct. 00:48:34 - 00:48:39 Scott And so there's this business imperative. You have to go there if you want to succeed long term. 00:48:40 - 00:49:40 Anthony And I think one of the other things that as neurodiversity work programs begin to blossom and grow, we always talk about this one piece, we talk about the business imperative and then we also in the same breath and it's always in the same breath. We're saying, this is not charity. There is a return on investment for these talented, amazing human beings that you're bringing into the workforce. And if we could, Ron, Scott, and myself and others who do this type of work, if we could just open the eyes to everybody... excuse me, to show them the value. And it's not so much the bottom line sometimes, it's more of the you're giving somebody newfound confidence and independence. There's a lot more that goes into the ROI than just the dollar figures. 00:49:41 - 00:50:23 Scott And it turns out as employee engagement and loyalty and retention. When you find somebody who has struggled their entire life entering the workforce and sustaining employment, when you give them a chance and you make them feel safe and you make it feel like you're invested in their success, that's an employee who's engaged and an employee who's loyal. And for almost every organization, your number one investment is your people. That's really what makes you different. That's what allows you to succeed. And when you have happy engaged employees, you better enable success. If your employees are happy, they treat your customers well, right? 00:50:24 - 00:50:25 Anthony Yeah. 00:50:25 - 00:50:49 Scott If your employees are happy, they go the extra mile. If your employees feel safe, that's when they bring creativity to the table. And so building this, you're right, it just, there's so many benefits to business when they set themselves out to be a place that gets to know their employees as individuals, finds out what's works for them and designs their processes to set up the most people for success. 00:50:50 - 00:51:15 Anthony Got it. And Ron, a question for you, and this comes up with pretty much every program that gets started. You had talked about your advisory boards and one of the questions out there was do you have people with disabilities on your advisory boards or your divergent individuals on your advisory boards? 00:51:16 - 00:51:41 Ronald Definitely, yes. So I think that this is one of those things that we talk about a lot internally here about inclusion of people with disabilities as we do things. There's a phrase in the disability community, "Nothing with us, without us." So if you're making a decision or doing something about people with disabilities, you better include people with disabilities in the process. So the advisory board is the way of doing that. 00:51:42 - 00:52:07 Ronald So on our disability advisory board, we have actual people with disability. It's a cross disability advisory board. I did this up at my previous company at Northwest Airlines and created a cross disability advisory board. And that was kind of an amazing experience because we brought these group with different disabilities together and said, okay, we've got to take care of all of you on an airplane and here's what we're going to do. And some of the things that we were doing conflicts with other people. 00:52:07 - 00:52:44 Ronald So it's kind of really interesting conversation to discussion. And the same thing happened here at Royal Caribbean. It's kind of bringing all those things there. On our autism advisory board, we've got people with autism on there, we have parents, we have educators. So we have a mix of different types of individual that represent on our autism advisory board. And I think that's another good best practice that you and your company should be thinking about because you want to include people with disabilities as you build out and develop your neurodiversity programs and get them to be part of the process. 00:52:45 - 00:53:10 Ronald I think that's one of the things that I think the autism community has challenges with some time. It's because a lot of the work it's done and say, oh, we're doing it for people who have autism. And it's like, no, they are part of the solution and the answer, and they need to be part of the process. So I think that's a really great best practice to work with. 00:53:11 - 00:53:34 Anthony Yeah, no, absolutely. And Scott, question to you, how do you describe the working relationship between clients and neurodiversion associates? I mean, there's a couple different angles I guess you could answer that in, but any thoughts on that by chance? 00:53:35 - 00:54:30 Scott So when we work with an employer and one of our program graduates that's placed, and one of the things we always do is we commit to retention support for the first 90 days to really help enable success. What we work to avoid or what we are not is easiest to be clear about, we are not a middleman. So we don't want to set it up, so every conversation is our program graduate talking to us about frustrations with the employers, and then we relay it and vice versa. What we aim to be is a resource for both parties in the relationship to say, I'm having difficulty, is there something I should be exploring? Is there something that perhaps I'm doing that's causing the communication between me and my employer or me and my employee to not be successful? Are there ideas I don't know about or techniques I don't know about that I should try? 00:54:31 - 00:55:00 Scott So we're a resource that they can talk to, but the whole time, what we're really pushing and helping facilitate is a successful relationship between the two. We want to build a natural system of support. So we want to make sure that the program graduate is aware of all of the employers benefits and how to leverage them and that they know here's who you go to to ask questions, whether it's somebody in the human resources department or whether it's an employee assistance program that the employers set up. We want to be that kind of safety net for the supervisor. 00:55:01 - 00:55:37 Scott So as they're trying things out, they feel comfortable saying, Hey, I've started working with this new employee in onboarding and I've noticed that we have meetings and the meetings aren't successful. I feel like they're getting it, but they're not. But what other techniques can I try to make sure that I'm successfully communicating and training and we offer that resource. But what we're clearly not and never want to be is a middleman that has to be a conduit for all information. That doesn't enable long-term success, right? We want both the employer coming out feeling more confident in their ability to supervise and the employee coming out more confident in their ability to advocate and communicate. 00:55:38 - 00:56:26 Anthony Understood completely. And one of probably the last question that we'll get to, because this one we can talk about for hours, it's about culture. And the question is, how do you help shape that corporate culture to be more inclusive? So people that haven't started a neurodiversity work program or whatever it may be, how do you do? Is it leadership that you got to hit and get that training or is it just holistically, you should just be doing this and this is the piece of it? So again, we got about two minutes, but Ron, I'll give you the shot at it because you touched on it a little bit earlier. 00:56:27 - 00:57:16 Ronald Yeah. So I think culture is in the intangible thing sometimes, okay? There's a lot of work done to find company culture and you could get to that. Let's talk about your mission and vision and values and those sorts of things. But there's a lot of cultures' unwritten rules of behavior, and sometimes you have to study that to figure that out. And I think it takes a lot. So one of the things I learned a long time ago, and culture change takes time. It's not like you can change it overnight because a lot of the cultural things that we do are embedded in us. And so it takes really intentional work to change company culture. And there's a lot of things. 00:57:17 - 00:58:00 Ronald I think that one of the best example is it's inclusive behaviors. So really it's like a subset of this is meeting stuff because a lot of stuff that we get done in companies, it's meetings, but there's written unwritten rules about how we do meetings. And so things like the squeaky wheel gets the noise, the person who talks loudest and over other people gets heard, things like that. And so you have to really check yourself. And it's not just the leadership, it's really about the individual members at the committee because everybody has to demonstrate those inclusive behaviors. 00:58:01 - 00:58:48 Ronald Sometimes the person with a disability or a neurodiverse cannot speak up for themselves and they don't want to be seen asking for a comment, et cetera. So others may have to watch out and say, Hey, wait a minute, we haven't heard from Ron today. It take a few minutes for Ron to respond. Don't say, okay, get Ron to speak in five seconds or less. Sometimes people may take a few minutes to collect their thoughts and contribute to the meeting. And I think starting off small with those inclusive behavior and start spelling them out and really kind of hold everybody accountable from leaders to the employees and the managers in between, and really kind of say, you are now responsible for demonstrating inclusive behavior. And I think that's one way you can start to change culture. [Closing slide appears with background of people in a room sitting on chairs. The word webinar is shown on the left in blue and below that is the title of the webinar "Attract and retain diverse talent: Neurodiversity hiring practices". Below that in larger text the screen reads "Thank you for attending!" and below that reads "To learn more, visit www.cai.io/neurodiverse-solutions".] 00:58:49 - 00:59:46 Anthony Absolutely. And I think that's a great way for us to end today. And unfortunately our time is over today and I'd love to thank Scott and Ron for joining us today and sharing their insights with us. It's been an absolute pleasure chatting with the both of you as always. And again, we could talk, like I said, for four hours. And I'd also like to thank the audience for your attention and participation. And later we're going to be sending everyone that attended a recording of the event to share with your colleagues or peers. And in the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about CAI Neurodiverse Solutions or know someone that is, visit our website at cai.io and fill out our contact form. So thank you all for joining us today, and I hope you have a great rest of your day.


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