“Before starting this program, if I’m being honest, I didn’t think any company would truly care about my disability or how to utilize it in a way to bring out the best in me,” Danny Lakes recently told the Cincinnati Business Courier.
Lakes is one of four managers hired by Procter & Gamble to expand neurodiversity in the workplace after completing a five-week program at the P&G global headquarters downtown. They were hired for a team of Robotics Automation Software Developers and started their full-time jobs on October 14th.
“Without this program, I was honestly lost. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to move out on my own. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be independent. This program essentially gave me the opportunity of a lifetime."
Neurodiversity is the concept that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other neurological differences process information in ways that bring strengths to the workforce. Despite skill sets that include data analytics, working with systems, and high productivity, the talent pool of neurodiverse employees has largely gone untapped.
That’s starting to change with the leadership of companies like P&G. For the consumer products giant, expanding neurodiversity at its global headquarters in Cincinnati can drive innovation by bringing in new approaches and fresh perspectives to solving challenges.
“P&G makes a variety of products to serve a diverse consumer base, so it would be impossible for us to know what is best for those consumers without working side by side with a diverse and inclusive employee base,” said Megan Lavine, P&G Associate Manger of Human Resources who works on diversity and inclusion initiatives. “P&G considers diversity and inclusion a company pillar and responsibility. This program is just one of our latest ways to ensure we can deliver those goals.”
To improve the success of the hiring initiative, P&G brought in two nonprofit partners: Specialisterne and Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati. Specialisterne facilitated training for the core functions of the job. Easterseals job coaches worked with the participants to address the soft skills of navigating a corporate office environment.
One of those Easterseals job coaches was David Tunney, who got to know the candidates and how they functioned under employment conditions, in order to determine their strengths and identify areas where they could use support.
“For some it was developing techniques to work through stress and anxiety or to establish a work/life balance given the amount of work assigned and pressure to perform. Others benefited from facilitation to enhance social skills both in team settings as well as in initiating interactions among themselves and with P&G managers. Nearly all worked through periods of self-doubt regarding their abilities and received frequent encouragement to continue to do their best,” he explained.
Tunney continues to meet with the four hired individuals and their IT manager regularly to assess how they are adjusting to their new jobs, discuss their progress, and work on strategies to address any challenges they may be facing. Tunney also attended follow-up meetings with candidates who did not make the cut at P&G to help them with the next steps in their careers.
“I’ve worked in this field long enough to appreciate a time when employers were apprehensive of even considering employing an individual with Autism,” said Tunney. “I found it gratifying to be a part of something that represents progress in the change in our culture. Not only the acceptance of those with Autism but the recognition and recruitment of the considerable talent they can offer.”
Lavine expressed the value in sharing with the candidates P&G’s need to learn from them and believes that their willingness to do that “helped to build trust and make the experience more authentic for everyone involved.” She said she has met some amazing people that P&G’s traditional talent program may have screened out and wants to learn more about what she can do to expand inclusive hiring practices.
“This project has been a passion for everyone involved on the team. I personally feel that this is not only the right thing to do for the community, but it’s the right thing to do for business. I’m very pleased with the outcome and the team is off to a great start here in Cincinnati. As we continue to support them, we are also looking forward to continuing this work in other areas of the company,” she said.
Your gifts to Easterseals allow us to develop more innovative programs to guide people on the journey to self-sufficiency and employment. In 2018, the collective earnings of those served by Easterseals totaled nearly $11 million! That is money that is being reinvested back into Greater Cincinnati businesses and into our community.
Be the Breakthrough Moment for someone in our community looking for their opportunity to experience the pride of employment.