Spot The Difference

Can you spot the difference when someone attends interview? 

If someone doesn’t respond to your cultural “norm” how do you respond?

Spot the DifferenceAs the decade comes to  close we have reflected on our business and remain resolute to raising awareness of difference, championing those struggling in employment, and to helping employers to support the diversity present within the workforce.

It’s well publicised that 1:4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and in England, 1:6 people report experiencing anxiety or depression (a common mental health problem CMHP) in any given week.  Can you spot them?

According to Mind in recent years the overall the number of people with CMHPs has not changed significantly.  Worries about things like money, jobs and benefits do make it harder for people to cope.

Neyber estimates 20.3 million workers are affected by money worries.  This is not just confined to the young or lower paid in the workforce. Almost half (46%) of employees earning over £70,000 per year are affected too.  They also report many are unable to save because they don’t have savings, causing issues if something unexpected happens leading to additional debt. They found, of those with no savings, 80% have debt to repay, and for those with debt, the average amount is £7,555, around a third of their annual salary.

In 2019, using population projections from the ONS and polling by Carers UK. It can be estimated that 8.8 million adults in the UK are carers.

According to the UK Census 3 million people combine caring for a loved one with paid work.  Around 1:9 workers in the UK has caring responsibilities, but polling from 2019 suggests that this may be close to 1:7.  Over 2.6 million people have given up work at some point to care for loved ones, 2 million have reduced working hours.

Can you spot them in your workforce?

Who in your workplace:

  • is a carer;Spot the Difference
  • has a mental health problem;
  • is struggling with finances;
  • has recently split up or divorced;
  • is autistic, dyslexic, etc.
  • is within an abusive relationship;
  • has empty nest syndrome?

How can you find out what’s behind the forced smile, changes in behaviour or performance?  The truth is many managers are still afraid to have what we call “human conversations”.  Our work shows changes in performance, behaviour, and or increased absence are either ignored until they escalate, or are still managed with Policy.

Capability to address performance changes

Discipline to address behaviour changes

Attendance Management to address sickness issues.

The truth is all of these are sanction focused.  Whether we intend capability and attendance management to be supportive they are received defensively.  Once we get into procedure managers fear breaching policy and our staff feel they need to defend their corner.

Conversation and relationships built over years go out of the window.  Trust is lost. 

We all have life outside of work and every year we lose valuable assets through not recognising life outside of work and how it impacts on us in the workplace.

Spot The Difference

Get to know what is “normal” for your staff and then spot changes when they occur.  Have a chat in the same way as you would a friend or family member.  “I’ve noticed you don’t seem yourself…..”


How easy in your recruitment process is it to disclose Autism?  Research shows people are being diagnosed with Autism (Aspergers) later in life as adults.  Often through changes in work, burnout, anxiety and the like.

How much do you know about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

If you’re reading this as a HR lead, what do research have you done?  Have you included awareness raising sessions?  How would you deal with a late diagnosis of an existing employee?  How do you manage transition for anyone becoming disabled in your workplace?

Let me tell you a story

My son has ASD.  He was diagnosed in year 10 at school, so was about 15 years old.  He suffers with anxiety, which can be extreme at times.  He lives in a very black and white world, loves rules, structure and routine.  He also has difficulties handwriting.

He appears confident.  He’s bright and articulate.  He is exceptionally good at retaining information relating to subjects he has a passionate for.  He did well at school.  He completed one year at University.

In October 2018 he secured his first job.  What you’re about to read relates to recruitment, induction, onboarding, and general management ability.

My son chose not to disclose his ASD and therefore accepts responsibility for his part in what occurred in his entry into employment.  He was afraid it would go against him and he wouldn’t get the job.

He had a general induction to the organisation.  What HR professionals would describe as a traditional business induction to the organisation.  There was no onboarding programme that looked at his personal development requirements, nor was there acknowledgement of this being his first job out of university.

Due his anxiety and ASD he does not drink alcohol, nor does he socialise widely in pubs or clubs.  His first job was with a local gambling company.  He doesn’t gamble either.  Part of the company culture is a Friday afternoon beer.  He faced comments like “you don’t drink, gamble, socialise… what do you do?”

Spot the DifferenceIt is fair to say he can be very forthright, direct and could be perceived as inflexible.  He is also wired differently so sees things not as we do, and can often identify solutions and ways of doing things that we would never think of.  In this way he will challenge the norm.  As his mum, I can imagine he may have challenged and questioned.  Early feedback was positive, however, he began to get feedback he couldn’t relate to.  Ultimately, he left after 6 weeks.


Recruitment – make it easy for people to declare what may impact their employment with you.

Recruitment – what type of person will fit your culture and the role you have to fill?  Profile your organisation, teams, and roles.  Create a role profile that reflects the organisation, role and person.

Onboarding – what has the recruitment process told you about the person joining your organisation?  Traditional Induction is good and has it’s place, but each employee has their own needs to be successfully introduced to the organisation and role.  This includes their individual training plan.

Employment Entrants – do you have a strategy for employing school leavers and graduates?  I think we’ll all agree we remember our first job and a lot of us will recall our first day at work.  The impact we have as employers on education leavers can not be underestimated.  It’s a huge responsibility.  Managers need to be prepared for this.  Consider giving a mentor to education leavers to be managed experienced people managers.

The Role of HR – how do you create awareness of life outside of work?  What about diversity?  Do your managers understand Autism, Domestic Violence, Gender Reassignment, Menopause …. etc?

When managers are describing issues with staff do you associate purely with performance or cultural fit?  What we see and experience on the surface may not always be as it seems.

Can you say your managers can spot the difference?

Are leaders, managers and staff diversity aware, mental health aware or socially aware enough to spot the difference?  Or could they jump to conclusions?


Taking a step back to evaluate situations, our processes and culture can ensure we don’t miss out on the best person for the job.  Workplace adjustment is far less costly than losing staff or not being to retain them.


Every story needs a happy ending.  My son now runs his own business with the help of Spectrum Enterprises CIC, and has learnt to understand his ASD with the support of Kieran Rose who has supported him since 2018 and continues to do so.  Find out what it’s like to be him.

If you’d like to review your culture, look at team dynamics, or help with any of the issues here, give us a shout!  Call us on 0191 303 7775.  We’d love to hear from you.