It is very common for people to mistakenly believe that diversity equates to inclusivity when in fact, the two are not synonymous. Inclusion centers on people feeling valued, accepted, and respected while diversity involves a number of different characteristics, such as a person’s gender, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Although companies in every industry have been promoting diversity in the workplace for years it is imperative that human resource departments are ensuring that not only are the work environments diverse but that employees are experiencing a consistent sense of inclusivity.

Diversity is viewed as a wonderful asset to a business’s success and inclusion should be considered just as important. When a business successfully creates an inclusive and diverse workplace employee creativity, collaboration, and overall satisfaction are improved. 

The most common issue within an organization is that while leaders work diligently to build a diverse workforce the company culture is often overlooked and employees are left feeling isolated due to the lack of inclusion. The very first step that management should take to promote inclusion is gaining a clear understanding of how diversity and inclusion differ.

Leaders at authoritative levels should highly consider making mandatory training and getting everyone involved. Not only should inclusion be explained, but strategies should be formed so that employees know how to foster diversity while simultaneously strengthening inclusion.  If a team is already very diverse there should be an astounding amount of opportunities to help improve company culture.

Furthermore, management must listen to their employees. By utilizing focus groups and surveys those in charge can gain insight into the level of engagement among staff and pinpoint any existing issues. It’s a great idea for human resources to create anonymous surveys so that people feel comfortable and safe to speak up and voice their opinions and needs. People should feel heard and be willing to express their concerns without worrying about retribution.

When establishing a plan to build more inclusivity, the goals set should be easily measurable to review at specific dates and times. Check-ins with employees can take place leading up to the goal dates so that if anyone is struggling they receive the proper assistance. Identify people’s shortcomings or difficulties in a healthy manner. FOr instance, if some workers use English as a second language then distribute materials for meetings beforehand so that everyone has an equal opportunity to process information in a timely fashion. This will ensure that everyone will be included in the conversation and capable of giving accurate feedback. This small practice can also benefit people on the team who may be more introverted.

Finally, management should encourage getting people out of their comfort zones from time to time. Although people naturally make habits and stick to what is comfortable, wonderful things can happen when different groups of people get together. Mix things up during collaborations and see how many new perspectives are gained.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.


Challenges of Online Schooling for Special Needs Families That are Less Fortunate

The dire warnings began early this year as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone around the world. Schools closed and hastily threw together remote or virtual learning alternatives in the face of explosive outbreaks. Some have predicted a “wasted” school year for all students, most of all those already at high-risk of falling through the cracks: low-income and special needs students. Often these two high-risk groups overlap and normally have inherent obstacles to educational achievement. These challenges make virtual learning especially difficult for them.

One initial and terminating obstacle is lack of access to high-speed internet services. Poor families may only have cell phones with hotspots and probably cannot afford devices for completing online lessons.

Working parents, especially single parents working multiple jobs, means less support at home. Since virtual learning often necessitates some caregiver-led learning, less affluent children will suffer from the roster of sitters, daycare workers, or family members — including siblings — looking after the children. Revolving caregivers and sibling minders introduce a lack of continuity that disrupts learning.

Financial difficulties limit the effectiveness of the virtual school by decreasing class time, too. Alhambra, California teacher Tamya Daly can attest to this, and to the sibling minders. Daly has had to record lessons because parents advised her that childcare schedules and device-sharing needs made it impossible to do more than one hour of live virtual lessons.

Special needs students have the added need for accommodations as outlined in their Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. These plans are developed to support learning objectives. Examples could be hearing or sight aides, special classroom professionals, and classrooms with fewer distractions for those with learning disabilities. to require special needs kids to manage on their own from an electronic device, away from their designated support, is a recipe for failure. In fact, Governor Gavin Newsom asserted that accommodations are impossible to provide in virtual learning when he outlined a new waiver application program. Schools may apply for a quarantine waiver so that certain high-risk students can receive in-school instruction in small groups.

It’s a tough choice, given fears of outbreaks. Some students cannot accept the opportunity due to underlying health conditions of themselves or their family members. Those who can accept the risks, however, just may have a workable solution.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.