DisruptHR Edmonton: Interview with Diane Luzny

Diane 2016 01Diane Luzny created InnovAID when the need for her creativity and understanding of special needs met with the need for products for people with sensory issues. Lately, her interests have expanded to sharing the information that she has learned while building her company. There are many ways that people with sensory issues, such as autism, Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder among other conditions, can be supported and helped. As Diane sees it, part of her mission is to simplify the vast amounts of information available and offer it in implementable, bite-sized pieces.

With less than 1 week until DisruptHR Edmonton, we tracked Diane down for a discussion around “disruption” and her upcoming role as a speaker at the event.

HR Gazette: Please tell us a little about yourself – your career path and expertise.

Diane: Creating InnovAID was not a direct route nor was it carefully planned. It was the wonderful collision of marketplace need and my interests and talents. For me, it combined the challenge of continuous learning, using my creativity, and my interest and education in psychology.

HR Gazette: What’s your company and how does it help professionals in the HR & Talent arena?

Diane: We generally work with occupational therapists who work with children with sensory needs, such as ADD, ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. What people often forget is that these conditions aren’t always outgrown. All of these conditions become part of the workplace. They can cause havoc or employers can have structures or processes in place to accommodate and support their workforce.

HR Gazette: What motivated you to become a speaker at DisruptHR Edmonton?

Diane: I became involved with DisruptHR because of Joy Monsma, the organizer for DisruptHR in Edmonton. She loves to learn and share new information that creates a more engaged and supportive workplace.

HR Gazette: What will you be speaking about at DisruptHR Edmonton?

Diane: I will be speaking about how people on the Autism Spectrum can cause stress in a workplace but how that can actually be a positive stress. Often the company culture and processes needed to support a diverse group of people is the same as the culture and processes needed to support those on the spectrum. Unfortunately, these often are neglected until crises occur. By becoming aware and creating a robust workplace, a company can support and draw from a wider variety of people.

HR Gazette: Why is your topic important to HR and Talent pros?

Diane: The Autism Spectrum is broad and encompasses those who are severely affected and those whose autism is a strength and who have done very well in life. People often are only aware of the former. The incidence of autism is rising. Chances are, you are already working with or know someone with autism. Building a workplace that respects and supports a wide range of differences, including creativity and cultural differences, is a strong workplace. A workplace that can grow during good times and survive, and perhaps grow during hard times.

HR Gazette: You only have 5 minutes to speak to the audience. What unique challenges, and indeed opportunities, does such a condensed speaking slot offer?

Diane: I have chosen to speak about a general topic. It is always a challenge to address a general topic, include meaningful ideas and ask for something specific at the end, but more so within 5 minutes.

HR Gazette: How does DisruptHR provide you with a platform to talk about talent in new ways?

Diane: This allows me to present two main ideas: First, if your company if of any size, you will have people on the spectrum working for you. Second, building a workplace that supports these people means you are building a stronger workplace for all.

HR Gazette: The HR Gazette is a big believer in the shift from traditional thoughts of HR to embracing modern HR as part of ‘people and culture’. What does ‘people and culture’ mean to you?

Diane: ‘People and culture’ has a double meaning for me: there is both the company culture and as the world shrinks, there will be many cultures of the world which need to be embraced if a company wants to draw from a large enough pool of people. Thankfully, there is an overlap in the two forms of culture. A healthy work culture supports and encourages productive contributions from people of a variety of cultures.

HR Gazette: Please share 2 or 3 ‘influencers’ in the people and culture space who you follow and tell us why.

Diane: The first two that popped in my head I have been fortunate enough to meet. Both are occupational therapists who have dedicated their lives to working mostly with children but adults as well, and with professionals who work with people with specific needs, to create a generation who have the body-brain connection to make the most of their lives. One is Colleen Basaraba out of Calgary, AB. The other is Diana Henry who is less defined by her location as she travels the world sharing the message of how to make the body and brain work together better. Her website says it all.

HR Gazette: What do you think will be the major developments in the people and culture space to watch out for in the next 12 months and why? For example, how does the growing numbers of Millennials in the workplace shape traditional talent management approaches?

Diane: Right now, with people having the option of being location independent and the opportunity to learn from those from around the world, there will be changes in how things are done. If the focus remains on why companies are in business, the change isn’t frightening but exciting. What are the new ways companies can share their ‘why’?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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