2022 was a year of two tales.
Life returned to normal for many as the COVID-19 pandemic started to recede. At the same time, new global challenges emerged to test our mental and financial health.
Despite the uneven road, we’ve observed remarkable resilience and positivity from so many people within the LifeSpeak family: both clients and members of our own organization. It’s truly been inspirational to observe the tireless ways people everywhere have met these challenges with ingenuity and perseverance.
To help you continue supporting your people into the new year, we’re sharing key insights from the most read blogs on LifeSpeak.com in 2022. Below you’ll learn how to identify common gaps in an organizational DEI strategy, embrace ability diversity, help working parents navigate school stress, and much more.
We know these insights will help you tackle 2023 with the same enthusiasm and passion you brought to 2022.
As part of our Fresh Starts series of blogs, DEI strategist Siobhan Calderbank outlines five strategies any organization can use to re-evaluate its DEI program. She urges organizational leaders to remember that “there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to DEI. Inherently, DEI is about our differences, and a robust plan will be flexible and multifaceted.”
Let’s look at a few of her suggestions.
Start by acknowledging the unique challenges of underrepresented individuals. For example, many racialized individuals benefit from experiencing fewer micro aggressions while working from home. To help them return to the office, encourage leaders and managers to hold courageous conversations that build empathy and understanding.
“Everyone wants to feel a sense of connection,” Calderbank says.
And yet members of underrepresented communities may struggle to feel a sense of connection at the workplace because they feel pressured to downplay parts of their identity by changing how they look, dress, or act.
One way to foster inclusion is by creating Employee Resource Groups for underrepresented individuals and allies to socialize, network, and learn. These groups are further supported by leaders who “make individuals feel seen, heard, respected, and valued.”
Diverse hiring and promotion policies are a good first step, but Calderbank says organizations need to go further. Mentorship opportunities can help multiple candidates grow. It’s a great start with lasting benefits.
Organizations can also highlight leaders who redefine leadership norms. These leaders can sponsor diverse talent “by connecting them to internal stakeholders, introducing them to their network, sharing their wisdom and guidance, providing endorsements and creating opportunities for them to develop and grow into senior positions.”
“Language is a funny thing,” Founder and Chair of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion Michael Bach says. “With one simple word you can diminish a person and leave them feeling excluded, or you can lift them up and ensure they feel included.”
Consider the terms ability and disability. Ability is the “quality or state of being able” whereas disability is a “physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.”
As Bach says, the first word passes no judgement. The second is all about limits. It focuses on what a person lacks.
Ability diversity, then, refers to differences in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical abilities. It reflects the fact that we all have different abilities, and no one is better than anyone else.
Why should employers care?
“Talent,” Bach says.
Around 25% of the population lives with a diverse ability—a massively under-employed group of people.
According to researchers, people are “more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks.”
These can include birthdays, public holidays, and job changes. Temporal landmarks help us take a broader view of life, let go of past mistakes, and pursue present goals with more passion, drive, and commitment.
We can apply this insight every September to set new goals for children and parents in three key areas at the start of the school year.
Today’s teenagers are spending more than seven and a half hours a day consuming media. To reduce the social stress associated with its use, LifeSpeak expert Dr. Ledley suggests making sure teens understand that technology encourages us to present our best selves, and what they see may not represent reality. Teach teens to ask questions like: Do I have any evidence to prove this is the truth? Is there another way to look at this?
Dr. Ledley says parents can alleviate homework stress by clearly defining roles within the home.
For example, when kids fail to complete their homework, they face the consequences at school. Dr. Ledley says missing recess or being sent to the principal’s office is a more impactful punishment than being yelled at by a parent.
Additionally, parents should recognize their own roles. Kids should do their own homework; parents shouldn’t do it for them. It’s not a parent’s job to re-teach material that was already taught in school. It’s not their job to correct homework either. If a child doesn’t understand a concept, parents should encourage kids to ask questions at school.
Many kids find organized sports very stressful. They might feel overwhelmed by the number of sports they are told to do or embarrassed if they doubt their athletic abilities. Dr. Ledley says parents often push kids toward certain sports. But when kids are not ready for a sport and they fail, they blame themselves. Often, parents blame the kids for not trying hard enough. Then kids start to believe they just aren’t good at sports and can’t do them.
To mitigate these issues, Dr. Ledley recommends enrolling children in one or two sports at a time—maybe the parents choose one and the child chooses the other.
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