Diversity

Building a More Inclusive Workspace

In today’s competitive job market, companies are looking for ways to diversify their employee portfolios and bring in the best talents. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who have not been given the opportunity to utilize their unique skills. One non-profit organization in Michigan is looking to change that. Autism Alliance of Michigan strives to help individuals who are on the autism spectrum find quality jobs that allow them to use the skills they’ve gained through college.

In 2016, Autism Alliance of Michigan teamed up with Ford Motor Co. to employ over a dozen individuals in different fields including communications, engineering, and financing. Other employers across the country including General Motors and DTE Energy Co. have hired dozens of employees with autism. The CEO of Autism Alliance of Michigan emphasized that “there’s this untapped talent pool that we should be looking at to fill these jobs.”

Autism is a developmental disorder that can cause communication and behavioral challenges. This can lead to difficulty finding a job even with a college degree. The government does not specifically track unemployment rates within the autism spectrum community. However, according to The Detroit News, studies have shown it can be as high as 90%. Individuals who do get a job, often get put into positions that are not in their field of study.

The Detroit News, interviewed Kevin Roach who graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in electronic arts. This type of major focuses on using digital media software like Adobe Photoshop. However, after graduation Kevin was doing manual labor and felt that his talents were not being utilized. Fast forward two years, and Kevin is now working for Ford Motor Credit Co. LLC asa Junior Technical Renewal Analyst. The Autism Alliance of Michigan as well as other organizations provide support for companies that choose to partner with them. This way, if an employee needs support adjusting to a new work environment or new supervisor; they can be put in contact with a support member. This helps employees feel comfortable and accommodated while also allowing them to use their talents.

As a new generation emerges into the workforce, organizations are giving students with Autism a head start at finding a career they have a passion for. Project Search for example, is an initiative that has connected Detroit public schools’ students with disabilities to a broad range of jobs. This way, students are able to get support even before college. Initiatives like these, prove that there is value and importance to build a diverse employee base. There is a lot of potential that could mutually help companies with their workforce needs and individuals looking for a fulfilling job. Companies can help remove boundaries and contribute to their community by partnering up with university disability resource centers. These efforts can help build a more inclusive workforce.

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Workforce Diversity: New Ideas Within the Manufacturing Industry

 

When we think of diversity, many of us tend to think about physical characteristics. However, workplace diversity entails much more than that and for good reason. In a working environment, each employee brings their own unique personality and work ethics to an organization. An article published in HV MFG’s Fall 2016 issue, highlights the benefits to hiring a diverse workforce. First, bringing different mindsets into a company can help challenge the status quo and use critical thinking to create new ideas. This is becoming increasingly important within the sector of manufacturing as competition continues to grow both domestically and internationally.

In order for a diverse workforce to be truly advantageous to a company, certain steps first need to be met. For example, the organization must be committed to hearing new ideas and accepting criticism when necessary. Having a “it’s always been like this” attitude not only silences the voices of others, but it can lead to stagnation in company growth. In addition, the company culture needs to be open to change, otherwise new employees may start to conform for fear of not being accepted.

To ensure those steps are met, first management endorsement is key for current employees to embrace change rather than fear it. If the management level of an organization is not thrilled about new ideas, no one will be. Interestingly, research has shown that holding numerous diversity training workshops might not be as effective as people think. Often times, individuals will forget most of the information given during the training sessions and it might spark backlash. Instead, focusing on eliminating bias opportunities has a more positive impact. For example, having supervisors objectively evaluate each employee to see who deserves a promotion rather than going with a gut instinct or a supervisor’s personal feelings.

Another important step is to avoid blaming individuals and lecturing employees, this will only cause problems to worsen. Rather, supervisors should rotate employees around to different departments. This not only allows the employee to meet new people, but also helps train them in various skills that could be used in the future. Finally, a workplace should embrace conflict and instead re-frame it as an opportunity to learn. Change can be daunting at times; however, it is necessary in our fast-paced and globalized world. A diverse workforce exposes people to new ideas and fosters growth; all important attributes in the modern-day manufacturing industry.

 The full article on Workplace Diversity on HV MFG’s Magazine can be found here. 

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