3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat with Tom Tonkin, Ph.D., CEO at The Conservatory Group

Joining us for this episode of the 3Sixty Insights #HRTechChat is Tom Tonkin, Ph.D., member of our Global Executive Advisory Council. A former colleague of mine, Dr. Tonkin is now CEO of The Conservatory Group, where he and his team “help executives, middle-managers and sales leaders to self-actualize in their roles.” Dr. Tonkin’s background in technology for the enterprise stretches back many years and includes just shy of two decades at Oracle in a multitude of roles spanning sales, technology enablement, professional services, and more.

My conversation with Dr. Tonkin centered on diversity, equity and inclusion. Through his observations, informed partially by his doctoral work, Dr. Tonkin believes several things must happen for DE&I initiatives and ideas to move beyond awareness — frankly, only the first step of many that must take place.

For example, he believes strongly that so-identified historically privileged stakeholders’ active, observable empathizing with women’s and minorities’ struggles in these areas will help to advance DE&I efforts overall. It’s a great point. He sees much utility in the role of various affinity-related and other employee resource groups in giving voice and establishing representation for women and minorities in the workplace. The usefulness of these groups, however, while necessary, falls short in advancing the actual equity and inclusion sought.

Our discussion eventually landed on the scientifically underpinned idea of neurodiversity. Who are the neurodiverse? They are, mainly, those who place along the spectrum of autism. Our world, Dr. Tonkin explains, is structured around the neurotypical’s way of thinking. The vast majority of people are neurotypical. Their minds are considered, for lack of a better term, normal. Real-world experience shows, however, that the neurodiverse have much to contribute to the success of teams. A program at SAP is one example. The problem is that they struggle, because of their deficiencies in social interaction, to get hired.

Here is where our discussion segued into the potential for psychometrics and other tools to help organizations make sure the neurodiverse make their way through the recruiting process and get a “fair shot” at joining the organization in order to offer the employer their very particular, valuable skills. The idea is that this ultimately benefits organizational performance. Thinking even further into the future of work, we pondered the possibility that artificial intelligence may one day equip both the neurodiverse and neurotypical with “mental prosthetics” that might greatly help them understand each other and collaborate optimally.

Visitors here really do owe it to themselves to watch this especially fascinating episode of the podcast. Along with his work leading The Conservatory Group, Dr. Tonkin is heavily involved in organizations whose missions intersect with these and related ideas. One, SAMI (short for Smart Answers for Modern Issues), bills itself as a “Real Time Crowd-Sourced Solution for Soft Skills. Another, aptly named Diversity Equity Inclusion, provides a “SaaS-driven solution that makes diversity, equity, and inclusion high-tech and easy to understand for any organization or business.”

Our #HRTechChat Series is also available as a podcast on the following platforms:

See a service missing that you use? Let our team know by emailing research@3SixtyInsights.com.


Brent Skinner 00:03
Well, hello, everybody,

Brent Skinner 00:05
and welcome to the latest episode of HR tech chat. And today’s episode is going to be very engaging and interesting and intriguing for you all. I know this for a fact, because every single conversation I have with our guests, Dr. Tom Tonkin is absolutely fascinating. Tom is the CEO of the conservatory group. And he and I are both alumni, I guess we worked on the same team of Cornerstone on demand, where we that’s where we first began to have our our occasional deep, deep discussions around human capital management, all this kind of stuff. Tom has a pretty interesting background. And and welcome to the chat. Tom, thank you for joining us, if you want to share with the share with viewers a little bit more about your background to so we just so we all know where you’re coming from, and then we can get into some of the stuff we want to talk about.

Tom Tonkin 01:16
That’s excellent, Brent, and I appreciate you taking the time. And yes, you would think after all those conversations you and I had that we would have, the world would just be a better place. Because we we talked about those things, I like to consider myself what I call a recovering executive. The times that we have spent in corporate America has taught me a lot of things. I am an academic as well. And I’ve gotten to be a point where I’ve sort of dabbled in all sorts of things, I think, probably the most interesting part about my background, because again, people could could Google and find me LinkedIn and other places. So I won’t go down that path. But it really has been around trying to understand people’s behavior and why those behaviors occurred. And though that sounds like a broad topic, it really isn’t. Once you start instantiating, again, you and I are going to have this conversation as it develops, you know, not only my academic, but also my professional background has been around that. And that’s been instantiated in sales, learning and development, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. And so that that’s always been my fascination is around what makes us tick, what’s the behavior? And how can we become better versions of ourselves?

Brent Skinner 02:43
interest interesting. Yeah. And, and let’s talk about that a little bit. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, because it’s, it’s, it’s, it is front and center in HCM these days, and there’s a lot of really interesting stuff happening around it, excuse me, my contact, it’s bothering me, okay, it’s better now. I’m in it, and I, I don’t want to let the horse out of the barn, I want to let you let the horse out of the barn here. But, but we’ve had some very interesting conversations around the he and I, and, and around how technology can help with that, and but also around ideas around empathy and, versus authenticity, and all these sorts of things. And people are using some of these words, well intentioned, but but not exactly accurately. And I’ll let you elaborate a little bit on that.

Tom Tonkin 03:44
Yeah, I think it’s fair to start with, sort of given given ourselves a running start as to how someone of my social position ended up in this sort of diversity and inclusion space. It was never really my intention, honestly, to get into this. I started many years ago, both in a professional and an academic trail. And I started looking at cultures, that’s really where this whole thing really emanated from me, doing a lot of research in the different cultures of the world. And I landed in the gaps in in gender equality. And that just became fascinating to me, and very, very academic perspective. I found myself at 1.2 1012 speaking in front of many women, at a leadership conference, about diversity inclusion, and I have to admit to you and the listeners is that was probably one of my more intimidating presentations I’ve ever had as a man. And because of that presentation, I then moved on in 2000. I think it was 30 kena 14 to present to the first annual International leadership Association for women in Sylmar, California, and I spoke in front, again, to many women over 400. And it it the whole concept really not only fascinated fascinated me as a as a academic, but it also fascinated me and arguably made me angry about the inequalities that occurred on not only gender, but as I dove into it, race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, and then as you and I will talk, neuro diversity, and all of these different pockets. And so I continue to dive into that research more. So in the next, you know, I’m blogging, I’m writing, I am part of startups in the technology industry that are trying to solve this problem. And I think, you know, that’s the basis for why you and I are having this conversation today is it’s this thing started probably 15 years ago for me. And here we are. And so again, I’m going to thank you for giving me another platform to have this conversation, because I think, not only is it important from an HR tech perspective, but I also I also think it’s important from a societal perspective.

Brent Skinner 06:23
Yeah, yeah. Well, it is. And there’s so many paths, we could go down right now. But really ask you coming out of those out of those sort of initial experiences, those seminal experiences that you had, in the space where you where you found yourself sort of it sounds like you fell into it a little bit, you know, and you ended found yourself speaking in front of that women’s conference, and then returning I believe, the next year, and what, what has what is, so we so we understand sort of the events that have shaped your understanding of D and I, what is your philosophy or your, your, what is your sort of assessment of DNI today, A and B, what is your philosophy toward it? what’s what’s your what’s your take? What’s your, What’s your feeling about it?

Tom Tonkin 07:23
Well, I think they’re there. Oh, my goodness, that alone, right, it’s gonna consume a lot of our time. But I would say that this there, it’s a real problem. I think, first and foremost, you know, I think there’s a lot of trends where people will say some of these are myths or that no, there’s there’s plenty of strong research that would suggest that if you take a look at all the minorities that there is, there is a problem. On the other hand, I’m going to say things that arguably may go against popular opinion, one of those things would be, for example, in the gender world, if we plan on solving the inequities between gender, speak specifically about male and female, the male population needs to participate in that, that ratification. And I think that’s important as HR professionals out there are looking to create efforts around their organizations diversity and inclusion officers, right. You know, we’re looking at large chief diversity officers coming into the into the picture. It’s important that all parties associated with that diversity are part of that I think what’s happening is there’s a trend to the exclusion of different people. Um, there are there are in the HR world, there’s these things called affinity groups or employee resource groups, which tend to give voice to that particular group, what are the be gender, race or whatever it may be. And it does a very good job of the representation, but it does a very poor job on the advancement of the of the of the equity. And sometimes, for example, I’ve seen many with women’s groups that are solely composed of women. Again, great opportunity for representation, but not a good opportunity for advancement. And I would suggest the academic research supports that assertion that er G’s from an advancement perspective are ineffective. They are effective representation. And I think that’s the first step. But it’s certainly not going to rectify any inequality in the in the workplace, unless we start having male ally ship, or let’s say, a black er g doesn’t have a white ally ship. That’s where the advanced It will come from. And I’m not necessarily sure that that message is resonating in this in the workplace just

Brent Skinner 10:08
yet. That’s interesting. That’s really interesting. Because, you know, and there’s, there’s also some, you know, there’s some camaraderie that occurs when, when you have, you know, exclusively women’s group or exclusively men’s group, right. There’s some of that camaraderie that that occurs to it’s in its positive. Right. But in speaking it, just I’m kind of reiterating some of the things that you said, but just just to think my way through it, right, this idea that a women’s group forming exclusive, consistent comprising solely female membership, right, that is a, that’s great for what I’m hearing you say, that’s great for getting the ball rolling, it’s great for representation, that sort of, it’s the planting the flag in the sand, if you will, right. But then it where, where these, these efforts are losing steam, or maybe take moving in not quite the, the best direction is where they, they, they, they, they retain, are they they they, they double down on this, on this female only membership or whatever the whatever the group is, and that that comes from a good place, because they’re seeking solidarity, and there’s, you know, and there’s, there’s sort of a, a shared, you know, confidence building for themselves in that, but, but what are you saying is that, that does not necessarily advance their actual aim, which is to achieve that, that that equity, whether it be in PE or that inclusion in terms of, you know, company leadership or, or whatnot. Um, let’s go back to nail our ally ship. Because I think that’s, that’s super important. You think about it, right? It is diversity, equity and inclusion, right. So why wouldn’t you want why, you know, it was put differently, you definitely would want to include the group that maybe, you know, needs, needs to hear a new perspective or would benefit from hearing a new perspective, so that it might adjust its own view on the on the matter?

Tom Tonkin 12:27
No, look, yeah, let’s go. Let me let me top off, you know, a few other ideas around this, this, these er G’s as it pertains to advancement, right. So let’s compartmentalized the conversation between representation and advancement. So again, strong with representation, right, this is a voice, you get a chance to talk, you get a chance to air out the issues. However, when I say advancement, I’m talking about real equity, whether it be pay, whether it be a voice and in business issues. I don’t know having the sensitivities to associated benefits that may come from, from the company to these different groups. It’s just not there. And here’s an interesting research fact. And by the way, those that are listening right now, you might want to pull out a pen and paper because I tend to start rattling off references on certain things. One of the issues around resource groups is that it appears that when we talk about it, the problem is solved. And there’s a it sounds argument sounds ridiculous, but it’s true from a research perspective. When we talk about it, it sounds like we both that’s a very interesting book that’s not necessarily DNI, but it speaks to this. It’s a book called The knowing doing gap by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton. And the idea there’s a gap between what we know we need to do and what we actually do. And one of the issues there’s five issues in the book, and one of the issues talks about this talking sounds a lot like doing and when we start putting out drgs or affinity groups, and talking about the issue, it appears as if that advancement is taking place, when in reality, it just isn’t. There’s other research out there that would actually corroborate that point. For example, there has been everything from formal to informal research that would have a before and after employee resource groups. So before a PRG is created. Give me your sentiment on whether or not your company’s inclusive and usually the scores are very low. He RG rolls around basically these affinity groups which provide representation but no advancement, you come and ask the same people the same question. And all of a sudden, it’s 25, the score is 25%. Better. And yet nothing has really happened. Yeah. And so there’s this false sense of, of advancement, when there really isn’t. Another book that’s interesting to look at, or more of a theory is Edgar Schein organizational culture theory. And he talks about the division of a culture between the top would be an artifact followed by values followed by beliefs. And the problem is, is what’s happening right now in the dei world is, we’re fabricating a lot of artifacts. But we’re not changing our values, beliefs and assumptions have those artifacts. So what I mean by an artifact would be in the RG and affinity group, or, you know, a post or a web page, something that says, look, we’re inclusive, or look, we’re diverse Look, look at look at us, so we we support to diversity in the workplace. These are all artifacts, and they’re great, I’m not diminishing that. However, for them to have true advancement effect, you also have to change the values and the beliefs and the assumptions below, which I think sometimes goes unnoticed and unchanged.

Brent Skinner 16:31
How? How essential are these er, G’s to the to the sort of the end goal to the holistic process? Are they maybe see where I’m going with this I

Tom Tonkin 16:46
are, then they are essential. I mean, they are but the problem is, is if you imagine if we were in a whiteboard in your mind’s eye, and I go back to those three levels, you’d have artifact is the thing that exposes your values and beliefs, right? And then you have your values and beliefs. And then and then you have your associated assumptions below that. And what a lot of people are doing now is they’re starting at the top, let’s build these things. It’s it’s again, you and I work there Cornerstone learning, right? It’s, I used to have this conversation with our customers where you would say, just because you bought an LMS doesn’t make you a learning organization. A real simple one is I can stand in the in the garage. But the end, does that make me a car? It sounds silly. But that’s the analogy to what we’re talking about. And so it’s, again, I say it in a sort of tongue in cheek way. There’s a lot of reality to it. The values, beliefs and assumptions have to change. So my advice to everyone out there is really has to start at the bottom. What are your assumptions about values about equity? What are your values and beliefs about equity? And eventually, what would happen the natural gravitation is what’s the vehicle that I’m going to use to expose those values and beliefs in the corporation, which come in the form of affinity groups and er, G’s? So I think it’s well intentioned, but I think we’re going about it from sort of that top down perspective than that more bottom up,

Brent Skinner 18:20
well, if you go from the bottom up direction, right, then you’re then you’re er G is a little bit more has maybe a higher consciousness level, you know, is a little bit more has a little bit more informed, it’s a little bit more self aware of what’s going on with itself. Right, it would be interesting to get to a point. And I think this is what you’re talking about where organizations or groups, they realize when they form an ER g that, you know, this is, this is an important step, but but it doesn’t end here, you know, this, we’re going to have to do something else, eventually, we’re going to have to evolve in order to get to the invent the advancement stage of things, it occurred to me that with an ER g It is essential, not just for the representation part of it, but also not just to establish that representation, but it’s also probably essential for the to to buoy the confidence and the positivity in the group that’s looking to make the change in the organization itself, you yourself said that, you know, after an ER G is formed you, you survey that or you pull that same organization that feels that, you know, diversity has been solved or that it’s better. That is better, right? And it isn’t actually but maybe is maybe it is a little bit, but on a on a sort of an attitudinal in an attitudinal way, right? They’ve made that step. It seems to me that that is That, that positive feeling shared feeling in the group is absolutely essential to moving to moving to the next step. And the idea is to is to educate organizations and groups that, that there is a next step that is beyond the ER g that has to look a lot different.

Tom Tonkin 20:21
You know, as a formation of any group or any program, you obviously should have goals and metrics and ways to measure it. And I think sometimes, again, I think we’re sort of harping on the RG, but use that term as that artifact of whatever might be exposing in your organization, as the goal itself, like, let’s form one, let’s get all of the people that are the minority in whatever the ER g group is focused on. And that’s the goal is attendance and discussion. And, hey, that’s all great, but that can’t be the goal. Right? That’s, that’s what I would call the leading indicators, to eventually what would be a lagging indicator, when we do see equity and pay when we do see opportunity for those in a corporate world that are minorities, until those numbers change. I don’t think we’ve solved the problem yet. And you got to go back to the IRGC affinity groups or whatever that artifact is, and see how useful it is. Hmm,

Brent Skinner 21:31
what what are the next what are the next steps is? Is there sort of a are these are there some best practices here? You know, we talked a little bit about it about including some of the so for, for, for for women’s equality, for instance, equity and gender gender equity, for instance, right. Gender Equity, I bring? I’d

Tom Tonkin 21:55
like to answer that question. I don’t I don’t want to cut you off here. But I because I know where you’re headed with this. And there’s, there’s probably a preface to what your to what your question is. And so I want to cut you off here.

Brent Skinner 22:06
Yeah, there’s a best practice versus versus it looks different everywhere.

Tom Tonkin 22:11
Correct. And so let’s talk a little bit about the the, the acronym. Yep. So it wasn’t too long ago when it was DNI diversity and inclusion. And then they became D, E, and I. And now it’s d e, i and b. belonging. Yeah. And I think I want to, I want to have a little conversation about that. So then I can answer your question. Yeah. So the way this all started with DNI, those are the two things that an organization is responsible for. I need to be diverse, and I need to be inclusive. In layman’s term is diversity, you get invited to the party inclusion, you get invited to dance? Yeah, so these are organizational processes and structures in place. Everything from recruiting, to performance management, to all of the talent management phases, what’s happened is an organization can do all of that, and still leave the people in the company empty, and actually not realizing the goal. And the goal, by the way, is equity and belonging. Right. So D and E, D, and I are they contribute the organizational contributing factors, E and B are the way those minorities feel and are treated. So there’s still there’s that disconnect between those two things. So when you come out with a plan, the question is organization, leadership, whatever you’re talking to, yes, diversity and inclusion, it’s your responsibility to start, however, the implementation or the how has to connect to those feel like they have equity, or equality? And they feel like they belong. You know, I mean, again, this some of this stuff, I always bring it down to some common denominator, right? You can get invited to the party when you’re a teenager. And but all the cool kids are in the corner, right? And all the nerds are like, you know, wallflowers, which by the way, I sympathize, because I was one of those nerds. And so yeah, I got invited, but boy, did I not I didn’t feel bullied. Nor did I feel like I had any kind of equality with the cool kids.

Brent Skinner 24:52
I have one up on you. I had to crash those parties, but it’s just yeah. So what’s what’s interesting here is, um, it’s interesting to see that the acronym evolving with our under sort of our collective understanding of what this really is about, right. And I like what I was trying to try to figure out, I don’t think there’s really a rhyme or reason to Brown is that like it was diversity. And then once you have diverse when you have diversity, then you do end goal diversity is equity, because at that end goal of diversity is also inclusion, belonging. But the end, the end goal of inclusion is also equity and belonging, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting. neuro diversity, though, I want to make sure that we hit on neuro diversity, because that’s that, to me is is is a really interesting sort of frontier of thinking around what diversity is, you know, to me, you know, as important as diversity is in terms of skin color, and, and ethnicity and all that sort of thing. That’s very important. But to me, we really start to get to the nub of what true diversity is when we talk about neuro diversity.

Tom Tonkin 26:13
Yeah, let me let’s, let’s dive into that, because that’s my latest research, passion and understanding is, so I did all this stuff back when it was not cool, if I may say, so. Yeah. When everyone kind of thought that diversity inclusion was just going to happen, because we’re all good people. And it just did. I mean, I’m not stating any, any surprises here. And then what happened was a lot of people became vocal, a lot of the obviously the, the social issues manifested themselves. through, you know, the multiple racial unrest that we’ve had in this country. And what happened is, you add ethnic and racial people speak out in and be very vocal, and you had sexual orientation issues, and you had gender issues, right, all of this, these braids and these efforts became very vocal and became very apparent to everybody in the world, and you know, actions being taken. Meanwhile, there’s a very interesting group that we’re leaving out, which is those that are what I what is called neuro diverse, neuro diverse are people that are on the autistic spectrum. I basically am talking about those that have Asperger’s that are highly functional, but they have this condition. And the condition looks a lot like social awkwardness and inability to express themselves and, and very hidden and introverted in all that they do. Which goes completely against everything that makes neuro diversity inclusion alive, which is Yeah, having your own voice in in parades, and all this other stuff. So I felt compelled to say, look, there’s a lot of people now in diversity inclusion that have jumped on that a lot of people that are getting it right are getting it wrong, or they’re working through it. I gotta tell you as a thought leader in the space, I’m allowing all that sort of to happen. And I don’t need no one needs another log in the fire from me on that one. Yeah, I’m spending my time on night neurodiversity. And, and exploring that and trying to find what we can do to help those in that spectrum. I’ll give you a fascinating and very sad statistic 74% of the people we know with in the autistic spectrum world are unemployed. I’ll just let that number sit with you. And your listeners. Imagine if I were to say that about any other group on the planet, we would be outraged. And yet, here we are. And why is that? Well, I’m going to tell you, our world is built in what’s called a neural typical world. There are expectations that we have of people in social and professional settings that go against every neurodiverse person and therefore they can’t fit. I equate a neurodiverse person sitting in a collaborative meeting. Similar to a person, a wheelchair, looking at a set of steps, is just like how do I manage and navigate that? Well, we certainly would never allow physically disabled person, not to be able to conquer those steps with ramps or elevators or whatever it might be. And yet, we’re expecting neuro diverse people to collaborate and speak up and And speak their mind and all this, which is completely against that. And somehow that behavior appears as if they’re disengaged, they don’t understand what’s going on. And we somehow slapped them lower in the chain than we would anybody else. So that gives you a perspective of what it is, you know, the issue that we currently have with that, with that group

Brent Skinner 30:24
is interesting. I know, it’s just a slight tangent, but it’s super interesting to me that with neurodiverse people that we assume so we assume that they are nor or that they are fully capable, like, we assume that and we can’t see inside their head. And we don’t realize that, you know, they, they are, you know, they have challenges, but they also have, and I want, I want to make sure we cover this too, there’s a there was a very interesting corporate case study around this that was done. But that there’s that they just think differently, and that we should be adapting how we do things too. We should be assuming we should create, we should be flexible, so you can flex to what they do, so that they can be as helpful as possible, which we actually need. When speaking about more conventional like traditional diversity, right? It’s, you know, the issue has been people sort of making judgments about others based on how they look or who they are, and not realizing that they are potentially exactly like us, right. So it’s, it’s almost the inverse. It’s very interesting. That’s, that’s why I think neurodiversity is so that’s why it’s so fascinating to me, and why I think it really gets to its full circle real sort of deep dive into diversity.

Tom Tonkin 31:53
So there’s a couple terms I’d like to introduce in this conversation, and hopefully it proliferates into your listeners lexicon, but there’s a difference between stereotype and archetype. Right, and stereotypes are, you know, a microcosm of our experience. And some of the stereotype traits are obviously true. But a lot of them aren’t. And usually, stereotypes are also, it’s just a way for our brain to compartmentalize and make it easy for us to categorize our experiences in the world. archetypes on the other sense, our sense is our, our, our set of components that help us build up into instantiation. of an individual. And, and so, so, so think of stereotypes as sort of that top down generalization. Think of archetypes is a bottom up. aggregation of components. Yeah. And traits, in this case of people. And what’s interesting about neuro diversity is when you’re talking about white, black, male, female, it’s arguably for the most part very apparent, because you can see it however, neuro diverse people are black, or white, or men are female, or, you know, are everything. Yeah, and you cannot see it, the only way you see it is through their behavior, which again, is not how we have looked at diversity in that lens. We’ve never taken a look at let’s say, a woman and say, I’ll pay attention to your behavior. Maybe we should, right? I mean, we look at them, whether they’re female, or you know, born female, and we then use the stereotype to then take a look at them. Where if we were to take a look at an archetype and look at their behavior, and we would have much more interesting conversations, and arguably get to know people a little more. I want to share an interesting story. It’s actually part of my research for my book, on sincerity out of all people. Alan Alda. Everyone knows Alan Alda from mash. He’s gotten into a whole discussion and a thought process around empathy. So Alan Alda is going to make my book where he talks about empathy. And one of the exercises that he talks about is I’m noticing what other people are thinking or feeling. And he says, How can I become a better empathic empathetic person? Well, maybe as I look at people and try to guess, their insides a little bit, by maybe the way they behave and all that. What was very interesting about that is a researcher picked up on that premise from Alan Alda and made it a real research project. Oh, really? Okay. And then what he found was a couple things. Number one, yes, people became more empathetic, but not for the reason you think they didn’t become empathetic because they kind of guessed right of whether people were they became more empathetic just because they noticed other people didn’t really just noticed other people. And what I’m saying is that can apply across the board with everything, but actually can apply to those in a neural diverse world. And it works on that what I call that archetype, that component. Accumulation towards a person, what are their behaviors? What do they think, what’s their background? You know, these are all the components to an archetype of what makes an individual. And that’s significantly more interesting than than anything that we’ve talked about, as far as diversity is include inclusion.

Brent Skinner 36:09
And looking at the time, I want to make sure we touch on the technology piece of this. Oh, yes. Yeah. How does technology help organizations? If you could also quickly share the the example there’s a there’s a, there was a corporate team example that I think we had a discussion around previously around, they brought in some neurodiverse people, and they were able to, if you, would you share that with listeners first. And then and then. And then let’s touch on some of this technology.

Tom Tonkin 36:41
Yeah, so that so there are actually two case studies that are out there. One of them is SAP, and sap recognize this as an issue, meaning the neurodiverse issue, and they decided to build a business that would exclusively hired those of neurodiversity. Now, one of the interesting things about people that are neuro diverse, is they’re highly, they’re very loyal. They’re their moral compass is very high. But they have a superpower of focus. And they, SAP has a group, which focuses on debugging, and finding bugs on their code with neurodiverse people. And that particular group has generated over $30 million of savings of finding things that would take what usually would take longer down this the software development process much, much earlier, and anybody in the tech world as people are listening to now know that if you catch the bug earlier, that’s cheaper than catching it when you’re deploying and literally down. Yeah, well, SAP has more than paid for this entire group, because they had that now Microsoft, by the way, is another organization that’s very, very high on the non neurodiverse. Development and hiring and usefulness. So it’s, this isn’t a hiring, what would might consider that they set disabled person, I think it’s a very capable, but a different capable, it’s a superpower. It’s that they do. And so I encourage people to really take a look at a lot of the book books out there. There’s a whole bunch of neuro diverse resources out there. Now. Let’s talk a little bit about the technology as time closes out on us. Yeah. Hopefully, by now your listeners are bought in. They’re thinking, Okay, Tom, we’re in now, what are you doing? I’m actually involved in two different startup organizations. One’s called Sami games and other ones called diversity, equity, inclusion, calm, and Sami games. It basically without getting into a lot of you, by the way, it’s Sammy Gaines, co CEO, if anybody wants to go and connect in and talk a little bit about that really is kind of a sort of a bottom up view, we’ve been talking about this whole archetype and components. Basically, the software tool is aggregates. what is really happening in the workplace at its lowest level, and provides immediate solutions to those problems. So it’s not a top down view. For example, if I’m having problems with a co worker, let’s say you’re taking the credit for my work. How do I how do I, how do I solve that problem? How do I understand how that problem is? Well, in the past, we would say go, you know, go to the leadership books, and you know, you’ll figure it out. And people are like, Look, I don’t have time for that just need those problems. So it’s a very inductive view of data right? There is a place where people can talk about it. And you can see that how that can work in a diversity and inclusion culture. Words like how am I dealing with my, you know, my disparate or diverse team and no one’s listening to me. That’s one thing. Diversity, Equity, inclusion calm, which really supports a product called dei namics, which is a diversity and inclusion, equity inclusion assessment tool is sort of the other end of the spectrum. It’s like, Where are you, as a company, as a person? Right, it does have very in depth surveys and assessments that generate reports, not only to the organization, but also to the individual to say, what is it that I can do in where I am, and this is the philosophy is, is pretty simple. Again, it’s very inductive, right from the bottom up. But also it draws a line as to where you are, right? Everyone has a very self righteous view of their beliefs. But I can tell you that you and I, and then and research will bear this, we have biases, it’s just it is, and most of our biases are unconscious, very difficult to change. The secret to changing unconscious bias is to make a conscious, okay. And that’s the only way you cannot change an unconscious bias in its unconscious state. You have to move it forward, basically, to that executive function in your brain to say, Oh, I am biased towards, you know, fill in the blank. Okay, now that I know that I can fix it. And that’s what these assessments are made for.

Brent Skinner 41:40
We can go another five minutes or so. And because I want, I want to ask you a couple follow up questions around the technology here, because I think this is super important for, for for HCM for talent. Right. So. And you might have known that I would go here. We have a lot of artificial intelligence being applied in talent acquisition right now. Okay. And almost all right under the wire, we looked right in there, almost made it. But seriously, though, right, we have we have programmed and this is a larger issue across the industry, where there’s a real concern about who’s programming this AI and what it’s looking for, because people are already starting to use it. And what the AI isn’t, I don’t know if it’s quite where, where some of the alarmist say it is right now. But let’s just leave that behind for the moment. Right, there is some AI this being used in talent acquisition, right. And, you know, and presumably, in the, at least in some way in the selection of people, right, at least the people who make it to the past the first pass the sourcing round baby, right? How can we? What’s going on there? I’m kind of answering the question. I’m just looking for your, your take on this or your reaction, right. I mean, I think that this, some of this neuro diversity, that neuro diversity conversation needs to make its way into the programming of these algorithms.

Tom Tonkin 43:27
Here’s the issue I have currently with AI, like technology, Far be it for me suggests that AI is not going to get there. But I don’t think AI is there. Now for this issue. Let me tell you why. So the fact is that AI needs to be programmed. And they’re programmed by people that have unconscious bias. I just explained to you that the only way that I can remove unconscious bias is to make it conscious. Because I can only deal with it. If I’m a programmer, and I’m not dealing with my own AI, all I’m going to do is I’m just going to transfer that unconscious bias into the software. I’ve always been a proponent of software as being a proxy, to how we treat and connect to people is, and I’m talking about this, this part of talent management, the diversity part, technology is a proxy to how we want to deal with the scalability thing or it’s a automation thing. It’s a calculative thing, right? It’s making us better and faster. And until we can remove our own unconscious bias prior to programming, this proxy that I’m calling artificial intelligence. All we’re doing is we’re scaling an unconscious bias. your listeners can go to the Google and see the famous Amazon case study. When they tried to do that. They tried to use Ai for recruiting and it No, it didn’t work, it was actually more bias than people were because it scaled it. I always said that if you install software on a bad idea, all you’re doing is enabling scaling a bad idea here, so you’re going to do bad things quicker and bigger. So you have to make sure that your ideas are, are correct before you enable and scale them through software.

Brent Skinner 45:28
Yeah, scaling that narrow perspective, unconscious perspective, that that group in aggregate programmers, you know, is it programmers typically are certain kind of, they have a certain sort of temperament and attitude, right. And so, that’s Yeah, it’s something to think about. And

Tom Tonkin 45:51
here’s another neural science view of things. So I’m going to use these numbers loosely, but you get the idea. So when we’re conscious about we’re getting about 136 pieces of information at us that we’re consciously picking up temperature to the room lighting, word sounds. Our unconscious brain is picking up about 2 million pieces of information. At that same time. We use those 2 million pieces of information to inform us about our environment and the people we interact with. To think that we can somehow program 2 million pieces of information that we don’t even know what it is. Seems a far fetched. proposition. Again, will we get there someday? Oh, I absolutely do. But that’s the problem. What we’re faced with right now.

Brent Skinner 46:54
Yeah, it’s a it’s a huge challenge. huge challenge. Great stuff. Tom, thank you so much for joining us today. And we will when we post this chat just for viewers, when we post this chat, we’ll include links to, to the to the sites that Tom mentioned, and we’ll have to we’ll have to do this again.

Brent Skinner 47:21
Oh, well, we often do we just need to hit the record button. Isn’t that right? That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. World’s a better place when Brent and I talk. I just don’t know what. That’s right. That’s right. We got to get to get out of our shell. So much, Tom, have a wonderful weekend.

Tom Tonkin 47:42
Thank you. Thanks for the time and goodbye, everybody. Absolutely. Take care. Bye bye.

Share your comments: