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Mark Rainbow, ER Senior Manager at Openreach, discusses the reason they chose Cognassist and the impact it has had on employees.
Openreach is a huge organisation at 38,000 people strong, so naturally they’re always looking to improve their approach to diversity and inclusion. Mark and the team knew they wanted to do more to address the lack of understanding surrounding neurodiversity in the organisation. Cognassist was their chosen solution to help identify and support different thinkers, and Mark spoke about how it all came about…
How important is neurodiversity to Openreach?
Neurodiversity is really important for us. It was a gap that we had, but not an intentional gap, just purely a lack of understanding of what neurodiversity is and what falls under the umbrella of neurodiversity. Bringing attention to neurodiversity has been massively powerful, especially over the last couple of years.
What challenges did you see within your organisation that needed to change?
The lack of understanding was the biggest thing. Education and awareness were needed. And, if you look across any change that happens, the responsibility generally falls on the first-line leaders.
That’s a lot of responsibility that sits on the first-line leader population, those that are managing teams or team leaders.
Can you tell us more about your approach to inclusion and diversity within the organisation?
We have made real space for gender, race, and people’s different characteristics, and we’re seeing more people declaring or sharing their experiences. Obviously, that’s in strictest confidence, and is only seen by a very select few people.
But from a stats perspective, we’re now starting to get a bit more of an understanding of the actual representation of different groups we have across the organisation, and, across the whole diversity and inclusion agenda.
What sort of trends in your industry drove the need to look at Cognassist or how did you first hear about us?
In my role at the time, which was Senior Training Delivery Manager for the UK, I had been looking after all the national learning development centres. With the volume of recruitment and new entrants, more people were declaring upfront. As an organisation, we realised we needed to be better prepared from a recruiting perspective.
But I soon realised that we needed to also include the rest of the organisation.
That was the big driver, and I wanted to explore how we can better understand our people and help people to understand themselves better. So that’s where I first started with a small trial and then went bigger.
What were you looking for in an inclusion solution?
I was looking for something that can help individuals. We are who we are, right?
I have twin daughters, and my wife and I treated them the same, but they could not be more opposite to each other. They have different tastes and interests. So, I believe that everybody thinks differently, whether you are neurodiverse or not, and I don’t want anyone to feel marginalised.
I wanted a solution that focuses on the individual and who they are as a person, not on a label they may or may not have. When I searched for neurodiversity assessments, there were not many organisations that offered assessments which were scientifically backed up.
I am not an expert, but I have a neurodiverse child. I have an interest in it from a personal and work perspective. So, I lifted the lid on it, and it has grown from there.
What would you say made Cognassist stand out over others?
The fact that it wasn’t an off-the-shelf product at the time. It was something that I developed and worked with the team.
It was helpful just to get a cognitive function report and that’s proved valuable for us from a selling point. When we went to run the trials, we wanted employees to understand how your brain works rather than saying, “Do you think you’re neurodiverse?”
So, we had lots of people who just wanted to understand how their brain works that didn’t know that they were neurodiverse or are not neurodiverse, but it’s helped them as well. So, it has a broader focus, while still capturing neurodiversity disclosure data.
How did our team help with the implementation, and your reaction to the team?
From my perspective, it was very good. We had a very clear project manager, who set it out and all the pieces of the puzzle fitted into place. We had very good support from the team from Cognassist to be able to get us through the process, particularly around getting engagement and trying to get as many people to go through the assessment as possible. And it was good to see the response from employees wanting to do it.
“I think Cognassist has been great to work with, and it should be available to all. It has made a real difference, and we are looking forward to seeing the impact it has in the future!”
Openreach ER Senior Manager
Can you tell us about the success of Cognassist?
The trials have been massively successful. About 600 people took part in the trial, and 500 of them were licensed with Cognassist. The bulk of the feedback we’ve received is for Cognassist, which is good. Overwhelmingly, about 85-90% of people recommend that it should be available. By raising more awareness, we’ve given people more confidence. They feel more confident in themselves and feel able to address any challenges but also build on strengths.
What have you been most impressed with regarding Cognassist?
Probably the support from the team, who have been flexible and listened to feedback, adapting the reporting side of things. They are willing to work with us and meet all needs, not just providing an off-the-shelf product. I think that’s been powerful.
What to take a similar approach to Openreach?
Talk to us about neuro-inclusion