Many employers are actively aware of the need to promote diversity in their workplaces in matters
of race, gender, beliefs, and sexual orientation. But neurodiversity, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other alternative ways of thinking, is an area that is often overlooked. In fact, only 1 in 10 HR professionals consider neurodiversity in their people management practices . Employers who overlook the significance of neurodiversity are actively limiting their talent pool and missing out on untapped potential.
The challenges neurodiverse individuals face
It’s a sad reality that neurodiverse individuals are more likely to struggle with employment and it’s
estimated that around 80% of those with Autism Spectrum Disorder are out of work.
The truth is many employers have ingrained ideas about what makes someone employable. It is said that hiring managers know within 90 seconds whether they’re going to employ someone or not. This is a frightening fact as it means our fate is largely sealed based on the superficial. There is a certain way of behaving that people associate with the ‘norm’ and in an interview certain body language and the way we conduct ourselves could put an employer off.
For the neurodiverse, this means the job-hunting process is littered with obstacles, and even more tiresome in the COVID Zoom era where we’re having to convey our personalities on a tiny screen. Employers need to learn to abandon judgements.
Neurodiverse individuals often bring more to the table than those considered neurotypical. Employers just need to be mindful that every individual is different, and their needs need to be tailored accordingly.
The workplace environment itself can be challenging for certain neurodiverse individuals, so
employers might need to make some adjustments so these team members are comfortable. This
could include headphones for those who become easily distracted or overwhelmed by excessive
stimuli or, if possible, creating quieter more muted spaces within the office that cater for these
sensitivities. As many of us continue working from home – it’ll be important to make sure methods
of communication work for all employees.
Certain individuals will prefer to communicate face-to-face, so turning on video in calls might be a solution to this. Getting feedback from all team members about how they want to keep in touch is the best way to finetune remote communication style and make it all-embracing.
The value of a neurodiverse team
As the saying goes “variety is the spice of life” and it’s also the spur of innovation. Having a diverse
workforce often means more ideas, a wider skill set and more opportunities to think outside the box
and get innovative. Neurodiverse individuals can also bring selective skills to the business.
Research from the CIPD suggests that particular forms of neurodiversity lend themselves to specific strengths.
For instance, those with autism are often gifted analytical thinkers, dyslexia is frequently linked with high levels of creativity and ADHD with entrepreneurial abilities and great sales skills.
How to ensure an inclusive company culture
Businesses often look to quotas as a solution for diversity issues. But quotas don’t resolve the
problem at its core – they’re a quick fix. There are also mixed feeling around quotas, with some
perceiving them as patronising or leading to people filling posts they’re underqualified for.
It’s first and foremost most important that businesses nurture a company culture that’s inclusive to all. It’s crucial that hiring managers understand diversity and the challenges all individuals face.
Putting training programmes in place that educate on these issues will help make the hiring process more open-minded. Thankfully we are living in a time where many companies are well aware of the
benefits of hiring neurodiverse talent, such as Intelligence agency GCHQ or Microsoft which has an
Autism Hiring Programme.
The fact of the matter is that being different is a good thing. No one wants an organisation full of
cookie cutter employees who all think and act the in the same way. A bubbling melting pot of
different thinkers will lead to a thriving business. Without this mix, and any resistance, a company
risks stagnating. Neurodiversity therefore needs to be on every manager’s agenda.