Episode 10 | Hiring for Neurodiversity at TD Bank – Keith Isaac
As neurodiversity is becoming more respected in the corporate world, one of North America’s top ten banks, TD Bank Group, has taken steps to adjust its hiring processes, opening the door for talented candidates who were previously excluded. In this episode, I am speaking with Keith Isaac, the VP of Capital Markets, Risk Management for TD Bank Group, and the parent of a child with autism. Keith talks about the new practices adopted within TD Bank to recruit and onboard neurodivergent individuals. As the parent of an autistic child, Keith Isaac has been inspired to bring awareness of neurodiversity into the workplace and effect meaningful change at the bank.
Here’s to, as TD Bank Group says, “maintaining a welcoming, barrier-free culture for everyone”.
I hope you enjoy listening as we speak about:
00:04:42 From “people with disabilities” to “individuals with diverse abilities”
00:05:10 TD Insurance on the forefront
00:07:54 Autism has a spectrum
00:09:47 Barriers need to be broken down
00:11:28 Re-imagining the interview process for inclusivity
00:14:02 The benefit of COVID and the new candidates
00:16:30 Technology has been an equalizer
00:17:44 Culture and the need for connection
00:20:09 The organization benefits through inclusivity
00:23:50 Lack of clarity and communication leads to burnout
00:25:52 Best practices for ADHD would help all of us
00:27:39 How big changes happen
00:32:40 Never needing inclusion or diversity pillars in the future
00:35:14 Hopes for his daughter
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This podcast is hosted by Clare Kumar. As a productivity catalyst, highly sensitive executive coach, and speaker, Clare cultivates sustainable performance in busy professionals so they can keep making rich contributions in all areas of life and achieve greater fulfillment. She inspires leaders, professionals, employees, and entrepreneurs to respect humanity and boost performance through marrying productivity and pleasure. After all, why shouldn’t you have fun while getting things done? If you're a visual learner, we’ve crafted a version for YouTube as well.
Ready to learn more, or want to find out more about coaching with Clare or hiring her for your next engaging event? Contact Clare here.
Clare invites you to leave a review and a rating wherever you listen to this podcast. Please share if you have friends, family, or colleagues who are interested in supporting neurodiversity.
Song Credit: Cali by Wataboi from Pixabay
Production: Judith George, To Be Reel
Podcast Art Design: Sharoline Galva
Clare Kumar: I was speaking with a journalist recently about my passion for inclusivity and sustainable performance and how highly sensitive people are, however, often marginalized and invited to opt out or burnout and her ears perked up. When I made the connection between high sensitivity and the neuro divergent.
So neurodivergency is getting to be more well understood. And there is some interesting work, very powerful work underway right now at one of Canada's top five banks, one of north America's top 10 banks, TD bank group. They are very proud of their focus on diversity and inclusion. Let me reduce, uh, a statement on their website.
It says diversity and inclusion are part of our fundamental values. That help us support our customers, colleagues, and communities from our hiring practices to accessible design. We're working towards maintaining a welcoming. Barrier free culture for everyone. And I just wanna celebrate that barrier free culture because having that mission is gonna open the doors for inclusivity, for a lot of people and the nerd version and highly sensitive or amongst those, there is also an article in case, in one anyone's interested in finding it, the case for changing the way you hire, which is what we dig into in this episode.
In this podcast. I am speaking with Keith Isaac. He's the VP vice president of capital markets, risk management for TD bank group. And he's got new practices within his organization to help him to adopt and recruit and onboard. Neuro divergent people. So tune in to find out what prompted Keith to really become a champion in his organization for this effort.
See how many people have been onboarded and are in the company right now. And the impact that that's had find out more, more than why this is the right thing to do. Why it's a business imperative. I hope you'll enjoy this episode.
Clare Kumar: Keith, thanks for joining me today and I'm thrilled that you'll be able to share the inspiring things that you and your company are doing with TD Bank Group. I'm really hoping you can just explain for listeners what the initiative has been so far, maybe just give us a bit of a description and then we'll dig into it a little bit more.
Keith Isaac: So I'll start with saying TD is well recognized for inclusion and diversity, and that's in all pillars, in all areas, whether it's race or gender or sexual orientation and also bringing on people/individuals with diverse abilities I think we're undergoing a bit of a branding change in what was called “peoples with disabilities” first, but I like the newer one which is “individuals with diverse abilities”. So, looking for, you know, different ways of increasing our diversity in our workforce. So this was one initiative that was, we partnered, I think the first, I can't take credit for being the first, TD Insurance was the first in 2016 to do a cohort with Specialisterne. So Specialisterne is a Danish organization. It's Danish for “the specialists” and the mission is a million jobs. And essentially it's focusing on those on the autism spectrum and with other neurodivergence. So we're using the term neurodivergent because everybody is neurodiverse, it doesn't really tell you anything, so this way it's a better descriptor. So they started with that in 2016 and the way we have it organized is generally depending on what segment you're in. There are the individual diversity pillars, and then there's usually a segment group that does things within those pillars. So I am on the risk pillar and it was sort of a no-brainer. I saw a webinar around what the experience was in the first cohort. And, I have a tie to autism because my daughter's on the spectrum. So it was a very natural thing for me to say “Okay, yeah absolutely I can be the executive sponsor of the risk cohort”, which was in 2017 and in that cohort, we brought on eight people. So I solicited six roles alone into my own team and then there were two other risk roles in there.
Clare Kumar: Wow. How big is your team then? So six people out of?..
Keith Isaac: 250.
Clare Kumar: Wow. Wow.That's awesome.
Keith Isaac: But that was the first cohort. So now I've hired in the interim intervening space over 20. And, then the bank is now approaching about 50 all together. So it's been great.
Clare Kumar: Amazing. So, I just applaud that effort, because yes, the way you phrase it “individuals with diverse abilities”. As a productivity coach, I talk a lot about productivity being personal and we need diverse ways of thinking, I mean the science around diverse voices leading to richer solutions is well documented and well proven. So, you mentioned a personal connection with your daughter. And I've also looked at other backgrounds of people who have been champions with organizations and how does that influence your proclivity or your appetite to say, you know, put your hand up and say, “Oh, this totally makes sense”? How did you connect the dots there?
Keith Isaac: Well, it's easy to see the potential and it's easy to see how, you know, she could be otherwise othered or put into a box and saying, well, you know, if you look back to Rain Man, right? Which was at the time, a very sort of ahead of its time movie, but it was a double-edged sword because it really characterized almost all autistic people as someone who was Dustin Hoffman's character. But the reality is if you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism. So everybody's different, have different strengths, it is a spectrum. I like the way we got away from saying linear. People like to use the term high-functioning or low-functioning and it's not an accurate descriptor because you could be very high-functioning, you know, in terms of how you write, but then be nonverbal and that doesn't mean you're any higher or lower. So, knowing what her potential was, knowing her character and all that, and seeing, you know, turning around and seeing what the barriers are gonna potentially be for her in the future, it was a very easy leap to do that. So that's one piece. And the other part is what will Specialisterne will tell you is, “Yes, it's nice to do it for the people that are coming in as the candidates, but it's also bringing in that diverse viewpoint from, you know, other points of view. Those who are neurodivergent, it's actually an advantage to business because you are having people look at problems in a different way.”
Clare Kumar: Right? So moral imperative. Business imperative. The two go hand in hand. And that's what I'm hoping leaders who are listening take away from our conversation is that there's the potential here to include minds that as you say, they might have been othered and in the corporate world, what did that look like? Thus far? You know, without this modification and adjustment.
Keith Isaac: Well, it's still there. So, I mean, it's, we're still, you know, there's still an organization called Specialisterne cause there needs to be. I mean, hopefully in the future is you don't need one because then, you know, all of the HR, it's really HR processes really around recruitment and onboarding and then inclusion just within the workforce in general. It's actually easier to make smaller tweaks than it is to actually have those individuals come in and try to conform to whatever is supposed to be the workplace norms, right? And he workplace has built up barrierts in a lot of different ways, whether it comes from the job description, which always contains jargon, you know, colloquialisms, things that wasted things or, you know, “proven leadership ability” but what does that actually mean? Right? So if I'm looking at that and I've either never had a job before or I've had one and maybe I've, you know, managed a yogurt shop or something like that. It's like, well, I don't know. I don't have that so I'm not applying. So right away, that's a barrier.
Clare Kumar: I don't even think you have to be neurodivergent to not understand what that means.
Keith Isaac: Yeah, but everybody likes to put it in for whatever reason. Cause if I don't put it in there, then maybe I just won't get that. Right? It makes no sense.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. So it's taking a hard look at the HR processes from inviting people to be part of the company. Then all the way through. And yeah, because if you haven't got people into the company, then they're not even part of the conversation to begin with. Right? Yeah, I was looking at some research, because there's ADHD in my client base and in my family and looking at that particular group and looking at the numbers of kids that, you know, just get to the end of high school and the attrition that happens again in university and then there's further attrition with even investing so much effort and inability to actually get into the workforce. So could you share a little bit about maybe the kinds of changes that have happened to make that process more inclusive. So you mentioned jargon and some of the language, what else has evolved inthe process of bringing people into the company?
Keith Isaac: Well, there's also reimagining the interview process because everybody's, you know, these days again, do we think it's the best approach to hire somebody and match them with a job based on a one hour behavioral interview? It's really not, right? It's like oh well, it's a fit and I get a feel and all these kinds of things, but really you're not necessarily matching what the strengths are and the skill sets and the ways of working that will actually, you know, appeal to the workforce that'll align with it.
And so that's another place, which is a huge barrier. So again, this is a structured way of bringing people in back when we were doing it in 2017, it was actually bringing, you know, the recruitment process was looking at how individuals would build Lego robots.And just watching as they made the task more and more complex, how they attended to it. And so when you saw a profile as a blind hiring, so it was see the person doesn't- like they get a candidate profile. And the profile has all of the usual credentials and education and experience, and also has “What's their endurance like? How do they attend to, you know, do they ask a lot of questions? Do they need a lot of details before they go on to the next step or they're able to take that initiative?
So you get a sense of what that person's work style is as well. And whether the role is, you know, the way that you think that the group would work together and, the role itself, the types of processes and whether that's a match or not.
Clare Kumar:] Interesting. Does it look at all about the amount of work that needs to be done potentially quietly on your own versus in a team environment? Like the different work spaces that come into play and work practices that fall out of that?
Keith Isaac: Well, I think you can, the nice thing about it is, again, you know, the stereotype is that these should all be behind the screen type of jobs and, you know, because everybody's coming in is introverted and they're not good communicators and you throw that out the window when you meet the first candidate. Because,what they'll do, they'll bring it in, it's a four week onboarding process. And it's done in cohorts for a couple of reasons because there's supports, you need to amortize that support over a number of people, because there's a job coach that's bringing them into the workforce. Right? And so, the first two weeks they tend to meet in groups and do things in scrum. And then in the meantime they get used to where they're going and there's some things we just take for granted, like “Where's the office?” right? yeah
Clare Kumar: Yeah, especially now,
Keith Isaac: You know, exactly right. You know that one. Well now this has been, actually COVID has been a bit of a positive in some ways, because it's actually been somewhat easier for some newer candidates to align to the workforce because it hasn't been like in your face five days. Right? So, it's been a bit of an equalizer which is very nice.
Clare Kumar: I love that, which brings up another point. Oh my gosh, there's so many things you're saying that I would just love to jump on, but one of the most prevalent things that I've, as a highly sensitive person, and that I see in the neurodivergent community is that autonomy and having some ability to influence where and when, and how we work is really critical to achieving the greatest productivity.
And I'm wondering if you are seeing that now any differently as we've emerged through the pandemic or we're still emerging through it. And we've had, to a large degree, a lot of autonomy. And right now there's a lot of dialogue, especially in some banking organizations about “I just want everything to go back to normal and want all the butts in seats again.” Right? So what's your sense, especially working with this population and seeing the connection to their efficacy?
Keith Isaac: Well, I don't think there's any– I mean, I've always been a believer of what and where you worked and having,–you know, FaceTime is not necessary if the job doesn't require it. So if I have a customer facing role, yes, I believe that there's relationships that are formed when you're meeting face to face and it's not a deal breaker, but you know, there is more gravitation towards doing that.
Clare Kumar: Well, just as a thought though, I have a TD securities advisor and our meetings are so effective on zoom, cause I can see that screen she's showing me so much better than looking over her shoulder at her desk screen which was never really angled for me, the customer, anyway. So I'm actually having a better experience. With my advisor, working remotely, it's like, we've navigated it, we've worked. Everybody's comfortable on zoom now. The lighting is good. The sound is good. We understand if there's a dog barking, we'll reschedule or we'll use Krisp.ai and get rid of the sound. So it's interesting because I think over the past months the way we have accomplished, or evolved to accomplish tasks has also shifted to some degree.
Keith Isaac: Yeah. I think it's great technology has been a good equalizer that way, so I do think we should take advantage of it. We're trying to say we don't want you to lose. The concern, I guess, is how our culture is built. Right? And this is the thing that you can't get, and I don't think we're gonna know for a while, whether or not that there's really– there's a lot more turnover now sort of in the last few months, the market's very hot for people and a part of that is its believed to be because we've evolved in remote and that our personal tie to the organization is fraying in that way. So you don't get to hang out with your team and all that kind of–I don't know if that's true or not, that's a feeling. And so it's easier to take if a head manager? calls you, it's easier to take that call because “Well I've just joined the organization two years ago. I haven't even met any of my team. I don't really feel that I'm letting anybody down and so I can go.” So there's a bit of that and it creates a bit of that transaction and orientation that way. I don't know whether or not that will stick, or that's true, or it is just a function of “that's just the market” or “the group of people”.
Clare Kumar: So yeah, it's a big question because as we look at culture, I think there's been an absence in many organizations of building time into the day to foster that connection. There's so many stories of people still eating lunch at their desk, even when they were in the office. Right? So it's like, I think we were missing even that social connection need that we had.
And yeah, certainly if somebody's joined an organization, they haven't been able to have it, but I'm not sure if it was there in the North American culture to the extent it has been in other cultures where I've worked. In Tokyo, for example, one of the great joys of going to work, besides the work itself and the people, was we would go out to lunch everyday.
And lunch in Tokyo was phenomenal and way cheaper than dinner. So it was like the only way to really maximize that experience, but we made time for it.
And in Europe I hear some of the same, but it really depends. And I think we're at a pivotal moment where we can say, “What kind of culture do we want to instill and really make time for and talk about in the way we construct work?” And yeah now for different people, it's going to be “Oh, no, thanks. I don't wanna go out to our group lunch. That's gonna be uncomfortable” But maybe you know small groups or maybe there's different ways it can emerge, but that need for social connection for most of us is there to some degree.
And I think you're right, we've had especially for introverted people and potentially people on the spectrum as well, greater comfort in not being so in the spotlight, if you will. It's been interesting. I was in a meeting this morning and we were talking about the future of work and I said, “Can I please be the voice of inclusivity at this table? Because in the whole return to work conversation for convenience or control issues, we need to remember that we've invited a lot more people to the party. And they've been making incredible contributions.” So, speaking about the contributions and what you've noticed, I'm curious what you've seen in your own experience, bringing these six people first out of 250 now grown to 20 and now 50 people in the organization, what are you noticing are some of the benefits of bringing this group of people in?
Keith Isaac: Well, I think there's a benefit to the individuals as they're learning different tasks and some of them are not even coming with financial services experience. So they're able to, you know,–clearly it’s, I've always believed, attitude and competencies before technical cause the technical is the thing that you can usually teach.
So you're usually, you know, you're getting the right people in the door that way. I have people with sort of medical backgrounds that might come in and say, “Well, okay, let me look.” It's a complex problem and it's data related, but it doesn't have to be financial services data so explain to me that product, and now they know it's not a barrier that way. So I think you realize that the talent pool is wider, and broader than you thought it was to begin with. I think another big one is the other realization for me is this is no different to group than my neurotypicals in the sense of if I look at where they are now, some of the groups who've come through the organization. So I have, you know, on one end I've “Steady Eddys” who are in the same role that they were in when they were joining and they're very happy and they continue to do it really, really well and don't really seek to or necessarily have potential for doing other different things, but that doesn't matter, it's a perfect fit. I have tons of people who need to go and find what the next thing is. So it's really nice to have people who are willing to continue to do what they do and do it well all the way to the end of having people who have been promoted and who have received legendary awards and all of that great stuff, too. Right? In the same way there's all everything in between. Right? You’re segmenting a group, but the group is this really, you know, overall a population is basically what you're seeing with neurotypical. Yeah. So that's on the employee side, on the manager side, we like to think of this as universal designing, right? Where you are designing processes that are necessary to get the most out of the employees that you have that are neurodivergent, but they're better for everybody. Right?
Clare Kumar: Well, exactly. When you were describing the hiring process and taking out jargon and a four-week onboarding process, when I started way back in Telecom, way back in Telecom, I remember 20 days, which is like four-weeks onboarding, training and being part of a cohort. We had a two-week where we were with the same 20 people, I think it was. And you really felt part of something. So, I hope people leaders are listening because it is building this social connection, a sort of a heavy front end, that will build this trust and engagement and support, and we all actually need it.
So what are we doing? You know, how can we take some lessons from this? And do you think there might be a trickle down effect from some of this really focused work you're doing for this community and that it might have positive benefits that'll extend out of this work?
Keith Isaac: Absolutely.
I mean, I've already seen it. So, the other part of it, what I was gonna mention was the manager's side. Right? So at the beginning we were very selective about which managers we were gonna have participate in the program. Yeah, they had inclusion. They were generally good communicators.
Like we were selected because we wanted it to succeed. It was basically a pilot. And what they discovered, one of the things again,that this group in particular needs is clear communication. Like there isn't the–like how many times have you walked out of a meeting with a subordinate or a superior and it's like, “I think I know what they want, but I'm not entirely sure”, because they weren't really clear what it was, they were looking for.
Clare Kumar: I have some research from Eagle Consulting and one of the causes of burnout and frustration is lack of clarity/lack of communication. It's like it's in there for everybody. Absolutely. Yeah.
Keith Isaac: So this is a must for this group. But the managers discover well if I apply the same things, the same methods of communication with the rest of my team, I'm getting more out of my team that way. And then it's a virtuous circle.
So the other managers in their peer group start to see, “Oh, like I'm having this issue with this person or this group or that I can't.” “Wait, well, did you try this? And did you try this? “And so it trickles. So now whenever it's a cohort that's coming in and we wanna add a couple of roles to it I don't really think about who the managers are gonna be, because I know the managers in the team have learned from the other managers in the team and they come with an inclusive mindset and they come with that communication. And you know, if they need a little bit of support they get the support. But at the end of the day, they are ready as opposed to “We don't know, we still kind of, you know, are in the old ways.” So it really is a change for everyone in the way that you do things and it should be the way of the future, frankly. Well, the way of the present, and then even much more ingrained. I think that's where the struggle is to, you know, Specialisterne is great but you know, you wanna get to a million jobs, you need to help enable companies to do these things on their own.
And it's taking up the saying, “Okay, well, how do we bring this into HR more broadly?” And then we apply the same kinds of discipline around the job descriptions and the interview process and the diverse slates and all the onboarding pieces where we get that the most outta way, because I don't see anything in this that we're doing that is sort of throwaway, right? That, “Oh, it has to just be an accommodation, right?” These aren't really accommodations. Accommodations are very few and far between. These are table stakes to get the most out of your employees and managers.
Clare Kumar: I'll tell you as someone who studied productivity now for 15 years and read deeply on ADHD, everything that I learned that would help somebody with ADHD kind of helps everybody. It's just like, “Ah, chunking work. Yeah! Breaking things down, being super clear, you know, really navigating your calendar well. It's just, it's interesting because I don't think it's taught very well in our school system. And so if you're lucky, you've got a great role model and you watch what they do and you go, “Ah, I'm gonna, I'm gonna absorb some of that.” But we've got different motivations for figuring that stuff out too and if we're not highly motivated to figure out how to be organized. Oh, I know I've seen interventions from teachers and binders in school and I'm like, “Oh yeah”, cause it's not innate for everyone. If only it could be part of the way that we were thinking about helping everybody navigate systems.
I mean, I guess in, you know, I think of kindergarten classrooms and we have very clear instructions. We have well labeled places and we have time that embeds tidy up time and we've got a musical cue that says everybody's gonna do this now. and then it falls apart after that and you're just left up to whatever happenstance. Yeah. So what do you think is gonna happen in your organization then as a result of being bold enough to invite this way of coming in? And it's, like you say “It's trickling out in the HR process.” Do you think there'll be anything more formal to say, “Oh my gosh this needs to be a way of operating now”?
Keith Isaac: I hope so. I think it’s like anything else, change is hard for people and large changes really need the tone from the top to say that this is– it's just a very hard thing to do, I think just this general organizational inertia. And I speak from a very progressive organization.
But I do think that most companies do struggle with that to say, “We've just done this, we've always done it this way.” And people are very comfortable with their, call it biases, you know, small B biases, the way that you know, “I've gotten to where I've gotten because I'm successful. And I've been successful because I do things this way. And so why should I change it?”
Clare Kumar: You think Elon’s got some of that going on? It's very interesting to look at Elon as a case here, right? Because neurodiversity, right at play. But I think also a bias, maybe small B maybe big B “The way I work is the way everyone should work”. And I think that leadership bias exists in a lot of founders and like, it's my right to say, “This is how we're gonna do things, and this is how we're gonna do things!” But it's interesting to have somebody on the spectrum, you know, I think maybe not making room for diversity in approach to work. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Keith Isaac: Yeah, ironic. It's almost ironic. Well, I mean I've heard sort of, you know, is it a tactic or not a tactic, right? You know, sort of the theories you're going saying, “Well, he's got to hire, he's got to fire 10% of his staff anyway. So maybe this is a way that he can kind of filter things out.”
But I don't know when it's one of those things where you've had to let go of stuff for a couple of years. So depending where you're actually at, when you step back and look at it and say, “I'm happy where things are, or I'm not happy where things are.” So, you know, if you see that as binary then “I'm not happy the way things are”, then I've gotta bring it back to what it used to be, because it was better back then. And so I don't know whether he's kind of saying “it's throw out whole baby with the bathwater again.” Colloquialism I shouldn't use but, you know, along that way is really just throwing everything out versus saying, “Okay, well, what, what actually has worked and hasn't?”
Clare Kumar: Yeah, where's the nuance? Is sort of my question in here. And is it another good marketing ploy to just take up some news space? But I think there's a leadership role there in terms of inclusivity that is completely not on the to-do list there for sure. But I was particularly curious when you've got somebody of the community sort of just you know?
Keith Isaac:Yeah such sort of, “What's worked for me is, you know, this, Yeah, I am a billionaire. I'm brilliant. And it's because I worked so hard. And so the students say.”
Clare Kumar: Yeah, and when I was in the corporate world, it was regular that 10% of the workforce fell off on the way and, you know, was, was invited to–
Keith Isaac: It was the Jack Welch theory.
Clare Kumar: Right, exactly. So that's not really new. So, how are we gonna be nuanced? I heard some research out of a U of T professor this morning saying that they've done some research and segmented people who are, you know, what will they do if their company says you must come back to work? And they segmented into the top performers down to the bottom performers and the top two groups had the highest percentages of people that said “I'm gonna take myself somewhere else.” So it's not like you're gonna say, ”I wanna get rid of the poorest performing 10%”, you might lose your top 20%.
Keith Isaac: Yeah, well the head of machine learning for, was it for Apple? I think didn't believe in three days a week in the office.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. Okay. It's like, this is kind of a universal thing. It has nothing to do with the work performance. So at your own risk leaders whether you're thinking this. I have one last question for you and it's, jumping off from the point that you said, “The neurodivergent community. Yes, it, the Specialisterne work came from autism, but then expands into all kinds of neurodiversity.” And when I look at neurodiversity, I firmly include highly sensitive people in that, but there's no diagnosis. And so ADHD, there's diagnosis, for some getting a diagnosis can sometimes be expensive and challenging and have all kinds of barriers to it. How does that play into what's happening at TD Bank Group? And whether a diagnosis is critical or whether there's an effort to really take down barriers for anybody who might identify as neurodivergent?
Keith Isaac: So, I mean you'd have to ask Alan, Chris and Specialisterne about, you know, their intake. My understanding is I think it is a diagnosis that's required to get into the program, to get into their database. But I, I'm not sure.
Clare Kumar: Ok, I will ask him.
Keith Isaac: Yeah, you can ask him. I do think it's a challenge when you're doing–so here's the thing, you're working on inclusion with diversity pillars to hopefully never need inclusion or diversity pillars in the future. And so, you know, but you have to start somewhere and everybody is very performance focused and making sure that they bring in a number of people to know, “Well, I do have a representation from that group.”
And therefore, I can hope while they're in the door. They're progressing through, they will create their own communities and sooner or later it, you know, you won't need to do it anymore because that they'll be well entrenched as part of the workforce. And, you know, we don't no longer see it. We're way off from that and so I think it's a challenge when] you don't have an identifier. But I think the openness of a– the thing about what's interesting about the diagnosis, also a disclosure because, you know, we don't require people to disclose. So, you know, in some cases I know they've come through Specialisterne so I know they have some diagnosis. I don't know what it is and I don't need to know, and it's really up to them to even say whether they’re, you know, there's individuals that I have that are happy to do podcasts. Right? Yeah. And to say, ”I am neurodivergent. I'm on the autism spectrum and I'm hired at TD and this is all fantastic.” And I have some that even to the date, like we're showing how inclusive we are, but they still don't feel comfortable. And so you're managing through some of those things. So I think the main thing is if you don't have one and you wanna sort of identify that way without calling it or labeling it anything, it's to be honest and open about the things that make you, who you are and why you're a highly sensitive person, therefore I need X, Y, and Z. These are the things that make me go. These are the things that make me stop, and just be open that way. And the hope is that you end up with the right kind of management team or peers that are able to support you for who you are. And frankly, that's really what, even with a diagnosis, that's really all that it's all about.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, exactly. I have a whole talk called “Nevermind The Label”, which is kind of what I wanna get to. We wanna break down barriers, not people. That's the opportunity. Thank you so much for shedding so much light and I'm hoping inspiring our listeners out there to really think about how you might bring this kind of initiative into your organization. I just wanna leave you with one question and this is coming back to what you might wish for your daughter, as you know, as she grows and becomes eligible to be part of your organization or other organizations there, what do you wish that she will see when she's ready for that?
Keith Isaac: That she'll be able to do whatever she wants to do. That there won't be barriers for her. That she will be, you know, considered for any opportunity in the same way that any neurotypical would. That those biases and those barriers are gone and that when she enters the workforce, much as we think about for school, you know, that people appreciate her differences.
And I mean, that's the biggest thing I think from an inclusive society is approaching with curiosity and interest and caring and that stuff. And you'll find people who are, you know, who don't wanna label you and don't wanna, you know, “Oh, that, that's just weird.” Right? And understand loving her for who she is and wanting to work with her for who she is. That's really what it comes down to cause I think it just makes a better workforce. I'll leave you just one little anecdote. Around the group of people and how using the language and all that is in the colloquialisms to know neurodivergent, “You know one person] with autism, you know one person with autism”.
But one thing that tends to run true is “nuance is difficult”, very literal. So if you're telling me “There's many ways to skin a cat”, I'm looking for a cat. Right? Like, why are you using that term? So these kinds of things. So I was telling a story about that and sort of the water cooler talk and all that stuff and one of my senior managers spoke up to me and he says, “All of those things that are a barrier in the sense, because they don't get, they don't get your conversation. Like, it's all of you've gone into like if you're talking to me about what's happening in the real world, but not using jargon or colloquialisms, I know what's happening
And he says, “It's a barrier for me too.” He says, “English is my third language.“ Right? “And so I can access, I can understand when you're talking to me about work and doing very simple things, but if you start to use stuff or like think outside the box, where's the box?” Right?
Clare Kumar: True, excellent, excellent example. Right? So, yeah.
Keith Isaac: And that creates a more inclusive workspace is all that I have to say. Because people are part of the group.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. Well, just a personal thanks for being a champion in this area. And for your daughter, I wish the same. So, yeah thanks for joining us and spreading the good work that you're doing.
Keith Isaac: Okay. Thank you always will.
Clare Kumar: Awesome. Thanks so much.
Keith Isaac: Thanks for helping me out Clare.
Clare Kumar: Oh, my great pleasure.