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Mini-cast 59: Amy Huot and the Importance of Inclusion

Bret Keisling and employee owner Amy Huot discuss why it’s important for EO companies and organizations to promote programs that will allow more people to thrive in the workplace.

Huot, who speaks only for herself in this episode, is a fully-vested employee owner at Proponent and is president of the New England Chapter of The ESOP Association.


Mini-cast 59 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:00 In Episode 55 of the ESOP Mini-cast, Matt McKenney, an employee owner of Hypertherm, discussed the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative. In this episode, our friend and employee owner, Amy Huot, shares her personal view on why it's important for companies to have programs like this and why ESOP organizations should include presentations like this at conferences. Why is it important to me? Because I'm Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership.

Announcer: 00:33 Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast, a great way to wrap up the week.

Bret Keisling: 00:44 Hello, my friends. Thanks for listening. What is the number one challenge facing almost every company in the United States these days? Labor. Companies face tremendous challenges in attracting and retaining quality employees. It covers the gamut across all industries, sectors, et cetera, et cetera, and yet there are many barriers to employment including issues faced by those with health problems, mental health problems, addiction recovery and that sort of thing. A large number of people believe, and I'm one of them, that we can do more to remove some irrational barriers to employment and bring more people into the workplace than are otherwise being accommodated right now. I sat down with my friend Amy Huot, who is president of the New England Chapter of The ESOP Association. She's a fully vested employee owner at Proponent, and I want to make clear she's not speaking in any of those roles. She's speaking just for herself as someone with a chronic illness, she has lupus and she'll discuss it, and her take on why it's so important that companies work more to accommodate folks and organizations include more presentations like this. So with that, I'll simply say this is part of a longer conversation that I had with Amy and in the coming month or two we'll circle back, we'll present you the entire conversation along with tips on how companies could start setting up programs if they were inclined to do so. So with that, here's my friend Amy Huot.

Bret Keisling: 02:35 Amy, as we're speaking as the final day of the New England conference, and I could spend an hour with you thanking you as president of the chapter and everything you've done. So congratulations. It's been a very great conference.

Amy Huot: 02:48 Thank you!

Bret Keisling: 02:48 And that's not what we're going to talk about today...

Amy Huot: 02:49 Yep. No it's not. That's okay.

Bret Keisling: 02:51 So at this conference there was a session called "Lessons Learned from the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative." And I've shared on other podcasts at the planning meeting for this session, you were instrumental in helping get this selected out of all of the other programs. And I wanted to chat with you about why it was important for you to have this session on. Ironically, as president of the chapter, you couldn't get to the session. I did.

Amy Huot: 03:18 Unfortunately. [Laughter.].

Bret Keisling: 03:19 But it was important to you. It seemed to me, not just -- and I happen to be in recovery, I don't know if you are or not, but that wasn't it -- it was important that both companies have programs like this and you seem to think it was very appropriate that an ESOP Association or NCEO, whichever, has these type of sessions. So what motivates you?

Amy Huot: 03:41 Well, it originally started when Jessie from Hypertherm pulled me aside in DC and said, hey, we've got this initiative that we've launched, that we're doing right now. It's very popular and really wanted to talk to you about it and maybe get it onto the agenda for the planning session. So he told me a little bit about it and I thought, wow, that's, that's great. I mean, you think about New England with the opioid epidemic right now, it's more and more in the news, but then how as an employee owner and how as a company, managers in a company, how do we deal with that? It's still something that seems like it's unspoken -- you don't, you don't really want to speak about it. You can get in trouble for speaking about it when it's actually, you know, it is a disease. And then you take it one step further people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, you know, it's, there's a certain amount of shame that you might have when you have that, when it's no fault of your own and there's a certain amount of feeling like you need to hide it, otherwise people might judge you or maybe you're not going get the same opportunities to advance at the workplace as other people would. And I just know that from personal experience. I've had, I have, a chronic illness and I had to hide it early on in my career because I wasn't getting the same opportunities, I actually was fired from a job when they found out that I had just been diagnosed. And I got a, you know, it's not you, it's us. Well it's because it's illegal to fire somebody, but...

Bret Keisling: 05:11 But it happens all the time.

Amy Huot: 05:13 It happens all the time.

Bret Keisling: 05:13 And one of the things, Amy, that I want to say, and it's just me being technical because my sister is a leading transgendered activist. I'm in recovery. I've been very candid on the podcast that I can get anxiety, depression and that kind of thing. You mentioned the chronic illness and the program at today's conference is recovery. All of them are separate. We're not trying to conflate a physical ailment like you have a chronic illness with my recovery issues. And we're not trying to conflate those with someone who has transgendered or any of the issues that arise in the LBGT or any of the other communities.

Amy Huot: 05:48 Right.

Bret Keisling: 05:48 What we are all saying is that the approaches to allow people to function without shame, aa you mentioned, to be at their highest productivity. That's the common thread. I just don't want people listening to think that we're confusing all the different things. That common thread is how you react. So we're talking recovery, but you saw that in the importance of your own with the chronic illness.

Amy Huot: 06:10 Yeah. It's about acceptance. No matter what. It's all about acceptance as an employee owner in your company. How, as an employee owner, if I feel like there are people who are looking at me differently because I don't have the same health situation as everybody else who works there, what is going to incentivize me to work as hard as possible and to feel like my company is investing in me? And luckily, at Proponent is very, they're awesome. They're very, very accommodating. So I luckily don't have that issue, but I have been on the receiving end of you know, those, that behavior, that unacceptance or you know, not being accepted. And it's through no fault of mine. I can't help with what happened. But you know, it's something that I never wanted to talk about for fear of some kind of repercussions, but I don't have to do that anymore and it's really not necessary. And I would like for it to not be, I would like for that fear to not be necessary for anybody who is struggling.

Bret Keisling: 07:13 Okay. We're going to leave our conversation with Amy Huot right there. As I said earlier, we have a lot more conversation that we'll be bringing to you before too long. I'm so grateful to Amy Huot and inspired by her. I'm fortunate to know a number of people who share the truth of their life as they go about their daily business. And it inspires me to try and do the same. And I'm grateful, as I said, to Amy, not just that she's open, but would allow me to share her story on the podcasts. So with that folks, we're going to wrap it up. Hope you'll join us next week. Have a great day. Have a great weekend. We'll see you soon. Bye. Bye.

Bitsy McCann: 07:50 We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.

Standard disclaimer: The views expressed herein are Bret Keisling's and don't represent those of his own firms or the organizations to which he belongs. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field, and the fact that he mentions an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement. But if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, we'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself!


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