Top Tips for Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace

NEURODIVERSITY IN THE WORKPLACEWelcome to our latest edition of HR Blast! This week we discuss the topic of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, challenging ways of thinking to break down stigma and raise awareness on how neurodivergent employees are a hidden talent pool that can make a valuable contribution to all our organisations.

As always, our top tips in this HR Blast from Jaluch, provide practical and useful advice for employers to focus on what they can do to create an inclusive, neurodiverse workforce – a workplace that fully embraces and celebrates the uniqueness of all their employees, irrespective of age, race, gender, disability or neurodiversity.

What do we mean by neurodiversity?

According to ‘good ole’ Wikipedia, neurodiversity is described as ‘a basic aspect of natural differences within a given species’.

It has also been referred to as ‘variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions’.

Neurodivergence incorporates individuals who may have Autism, Aspergers syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dysnomia, Dyscalculia and Tourette’s syndrome.

Dr Nick Walker, a Scholar and Speaker describes neurodivergence as ‘diversity of the human brain and mind’, which is a wonderful simplified and succinct way to describe what we are talking about.

It’s all about inclusion!

The term ‘neurodiversity’ actually gained popularity back in the 1990’s by an Australian Social Scientist called Judy Singer, who was autistic herself. The notion of neurodiversity has since gained further momentum and is becoming more recognised.

According to Dr Nick Walker ‘We are all Neurologically diverse species: the enormous innate variation among individual human bodies extends to our brain, which differs from one another like fingerprints’. He says:‘the idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” brain is no more valid than the idea that there is one “normal” or “right” gender, race or culture.’

Given the uniqueness of each and every person and the fact we are all so diverse in many aspects (not just our brains and our minds), everyone has the potential to contribute in a valuable way to organisational success if given the opportunity and made to feel accepted for who they are and recognised for their contribution, whatever that may be.

So how do we challenge and change our thinking?

Perhaps we need to start by seeking to normalise neurodivergence. After all, Autism and other learning difficulties are fairly common with 15% of the population estimated to be neurodivergent. And normalising something usually starts with something as simple as talking about it!

As well as not understanding/knowing about neuro issues such as what autism is, or how someone with ADHD may respond in a traditional environment, there is also a real lack of understanding amongst employers and HR staff of the benefits and contributions that neurodiversity can bring to the workforce. Perhaps all too often we tend to focus on the challenges rather than the benefits?

As always, raising awareness and sharing knowledge is key, ideally through some form of training and associated activities for line managers, directors, trustees, non execs, staff representatives and of course employees and workers.

Attracting in great candidates

Taking positive steps to engage and attract neurodiverse candidates at recruitment stage is a great way of sending a positive message to both existing staff and potential recruits that you are an inclusive employer.

According to Harvard Business, many people who are neurodivergent have higher-than-average abilities. Research shows that some conditions, can bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory or mathematics. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of these skills to give your business competitive advantage?

Yet those affected often struggle to fit the profiles sought by prospective employers. If you are recruiting for a role that requires a unique set of skills or qualities which may be creativity, lateral thinking and bringing a different perspective to the table, then consider how you can engage and reach out to those who are neurodivergent and who have so much to offer.

What are workplaces doing to better understand?

In one our previous HR Blasts on the subject of inclusivity, we cited a 2017 study by PwC which showed that 61% of women and 48% of men said that they would look at the diversity of a company’s leadership before deciding whether to accept an offer. This clearly shows that an employer’s attitude to diversity and inclusion has a direct correlation with being able to recruit great people. If someone checked your business diversity credentials out, what would your website, branding, reputation etc. say about you?

If this is something you need to work on, speak to us about our culture and diversity consultancy.

Inclusion

The fundamental, underpinning value here is around inclusivity, irrespective of someone’s gender, age, neurodiversity, social status, religion or beliefs and the list goes on! At the end of the day, we are all looking for that intrinsic need to feel valued, appreciated for who we are and be given a fair opportunity to thrive and contribute to the world of work.

Large corporations such as Microsoft, IBM and Proctor and Gamble are already recognising the benefits of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace as they have all reported success from launching neurodiversity Programmes in recent years.

Proctor and Gamble partnered with the National Autistic Society to recruit through a neurodiversity work experience programme. The programme provided opportunity for individuals to join an intern or apprenticeship scheme. P&G say that a workforce that includes both ‘neuro typical’ and neuro diverse’ thinking styles can drive innovation and result in better products.

IBM did something similar when they partnered in 2017 with Specialisterne to create a neurodiversity recruitment programme.

Top Tips for Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace!

1. Raise awareness and promote a diverse workforce

Make sure your employees and managers have the knowledge and breadth of understanding on what it means to create and empower a diverse team. Create a culture where individuals feel comfortable to disclose and talk openly about their neurodiversity. Upskill your workforce by providing D&I Training for all so that neurodiversity is better understood.

2. Attract and retain a talent pool of neurodiverse employees

If the role you are recruiting for requires someone with a special skill set such as good pattern recognition, creative thinking, data analytics etc… consider advertising in a way that reaches out to this group of candidates. Ensure you make adjustments during the recruitment process and identify ways to alleviate anxiety which is a common feeling during interview for candidates with neurodivergent qualities.

3. Use positive, inclusive language at all times

Ensure your mission statement and visions and values represent the culture of inclusivity and ensure all communications whether that be your HR policies, procedures, employee handbook, adverts, job descriptions etc demonstrate that you are serious about the culture of inclusivity. Consider whether you would benefit from a specific policy on Neurodiversity.

4. Support neurodiversity in the workplace

Managers might focus on fostering an open trusting relationship with the employee. Ask the employee what support they require, make them aware of where they can go if they need additional support and guidance and make sure other team members are aware of the specific needs each individual may require. Ensure you handle performance issues sensitively/appropriately and make allowances as required to support the individual. For example you might consider noise levels for those with auditory sensitivities or different fonts/colours for those who are dyslexic.

5. Be aware of your legal obligations

Some of your neurodivergent employees may be covered under the Equality Act 2010 and as such you have a legal obligation to ensure that they are not discriminated against and, as appropriate, to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. So ensure your managers are fully briefed on what they can and can’t say what they might need to do in terms of making reasonable adjustments.

6. Reward and recognition

Ensure that all employees are treated fairly when opportunities arise whether that be for promotion, training, development or flexible working. Recognise an employee with neurodivergence when they have done a good job, even if it is something that you would ordinarily expect from an employee.

Facing tricky HR issues? In tray too full of the jobs you don’t want to do? Large project looming that you need support with? Jaluch is here to help!

Here are some of the ways we support our valued clients:

  • Deliver Management and Leadership Development Training on a range of topics, including D&I and Unconscious Bias.
  • 1-1 coaching for managers and staff.
  • eLearning on topics such as unconscious bias, phishing, whaling, data breaches.
  • HR Audits and compliance checks to minimise risks.
  • Employee Handbook, Contracts and HR Policy Reviews, including Equal Opportunities Policy.
  • Benchmarking and benefit reviews to ensure you are competitive in the market.
  • Restructure programmes, including TUPE.
  • Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR).