As a national sponsor of the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), Spring has been involved in the organization and its events for over a decade. Each year the team
looks forward to the Annual Conference, among other DMEC events and initiatives. This year it took place in the fun city of Austin, and we made sure to do some sightseeing while we were there.
This was my first DMEC conference and I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge present. There was an obvious eagerness to learn that hung in the air, and learn we did. Over 700 professionals specializing in areas like occupational health, disability management, FMLA/ADA, claims management, HR and more gathered to share best practices and experiences. The resulting 40+ educational presentations and workshops did not disappoint.
Spring attends and sponsors a range of events throughout any given year. After each one, we take the time to reflect on key takeaways and then share them with our peers (like you!).
The name of the game in Austin this year was inclusivity. Here are five featured topics that explain why.
“Impactful Diversity and Inclusion Strategies for the Workplace”
This session highlighted the importance of workplace diversity and the trend towards it as a corporate goal. The presenter walked the audience through the different types of diversity, including the more obvious such as race, sexual orientation and gender, as well as the areas of diversity often over-looked: veteran status, education, tenure, full-time vs. part-time status, etc. We learned that these different demographics may have varying degrees of stress, pain, or health issues based on that one facet alone. Generational differences in things like returning to work and communications tendencies and preferences were also discussed.
“Neurodiversity: Driving Innovation from Unexpected Places”
A small team from EY led this discussion around neurodiversity, which is not a term you hear every day. The session focused on the importance of including autistic employees and understanding their specific needs from an employer. A shockingly low 32% of autistic adults are engaged in some form of paid work, a statistic which needs upward improvement.
Anne Hirsh and Deb Dagit started out this presentation by opening the audience’s eyes to “Five Signs of Inclusion”: ethos, public relations/marketing, policies and practice, physical accessibility, and technical accessibility. They then walked through several tools and platforms that can help employers exhibit all five signs of inclusion.
“Disability and Fitness for Duty in Transgender Employees”
Brian Hurley, a medical doctor and expert in addiction and mental health, led an interesting session that educated attendees on sex development, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and gender dysphoria. He helped raised awareness around issues in the workplace, citing that 90% of transgenders surveyed reported experiencing harassment at work, and ended with an outline of model employer practices pertaining to transgender employees.
“Get Explicit About Implicit Bias Using Compassionate Dialogue”
In this presentation, more indirectly related to inclusivity as some others, a woman led an interactive discussion around implicit biases and the fact that we all have them. These are involuntary, inherent attitudes and stereotypes that we may not know we have. This of course can be problematic in the workplace, so audiences were given “debiasing” techniques to prohibit their implicit biases from interfering in fair and compliant practices.
With over three full days of educational presentations, there were plenty of other hot topics such as mental health, return-to-work strategies, FMLA and ADA issues, and data and technology trends. The Spring team partnered with clients to present “Implementation Done Right”, where they highlighted best practices and tips for top-notch absence management programs.
All in all, the event was a valuable learning experience. But it wasn’t all business – we hosted an “extracurricular” activity at a local Austin brewery to relax and mix things up, and there were all sorts of networking opportunities throughout. We are already looking forward to next year’s conference.