Aon study finds HR professionals believe DE&I policies drive performance, but support is lacking for neurodiverse employees

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Global professional service firm Aon plc has released the results of its 2023 HR Future Focus Survey, which show that when asked about their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) strategies, HR professionals do not believe that their workplace is actively supporting neurodiverse employees. They are also undecided on whether their people managers are truly inclusive.

Katherine Conway, head of inclusion and cultural initiatives at Aon, said:

“Not embedding DE&I in your retention strategy puts your firm at risk of losing the benefits of a diverse workforce: unique perspectives, better collective problem-solving and innovative ideas. Inclusion and diversity are very important for employees and diverse talent will leave when the work environment fails to support them.”

How people genuinely feel

Aon’s study used the firm’s Neurotech® listening tool, Reflection, which captures two types of insights: a ‘traditional’ score (i.e., what people are prepared to say (consciously moderated answers) and a neuroscientific score (i.e., how people genuinely feel).

The difference between the two scores reveals a cognitive dissonance gap – the difference between what people say and what people really think. When both scores are close together, it suggests low cognitive dissonance, and indicates people responding authentically. However, when there is a clear gap between the scores, it indicates a degree of inauthenticity.

The survey shows a marked disparity when participants were asked to respond to the statement, ‘We actively support neurodiverse employees.’ The traditional score was 54 percent, while the neuroscientific score was much lower at 39 percent. This significant 15 percent gap indicates that HR professionals feel that not enough is being done to help neurodiverse employees in the workplace. This is reflective of what Aon is seeing in the marketplace with few firms doing enough.

Managers matter

This gap is further demonstrated when employees were asked to respond to the statement, ‘Our people managers are inclusive.’ The traditional score was 61 percent, while the neuroscientific score was 10 percent lower, at 51 percent. Issues are also expressed in these statements from the report. 

  • ‘Employees are engaged with our company’

Traditional score: 67 percent / Neuroscientific score: 42 percent (25 percent difference)

  • ‘We authentically embed DE&I in retention’

Traditional score: 55 percent / Neuroscientific score: 31 percent (24 percent difference)

However, Aon’s survey also showed that despite the perception that DE&I is not genuinely embedded in retention strategies (a difference of almost a quarter), when it comes to reward, HR believes that it is being effectively rooted in policy. The traditional score was 51 percent, while the neuroscientific score was 61 percent. The positive 10 percent incline in the authentic response, indicates that the majority of respondents feel that DE&I is embedded within their reward strategy.

Data-led strategies

Nathalie Hyatt, strategy principal at Aon, said:

“Lower traditional scores show that, although HR respondents have a feeling that their DE&I policy makes them better performing and that they “authentically embed DE&I in reward’, they may lack data to back up what they believe. This is in line with the lack of data-led benefits strategy as shown by the negative association score on ’Data informs our benefits design/strategy’, in the Reward section of the findings. Here the traditional score was 63 percent and the neuroscientific score was down at 28 percent, showing a cognitive dissonance gap of 35 percent.

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“Inclusion drives successful engagement with diverse talent. HR leaders that can use data to inform their people strategies can better support, nurture and develop a workforce with a differing range of views, opinions and thoughts. This helps shape business outcomes and performance. Supporting neurodiverse employees is a key part of driving a culture that values difference while at the same time promotes inclusion.”

For more information, download Aon’s 2023 HR Future Focus HR Respondents Survey. For more information about Aon’s Neurotech® listening tool Reflection click here.

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