Diversity has become a crucial part of the employment landscape. Employers now realise the value diversity can bring to their organisation and its impact on performance, innovation and productivity.
However when we think of diversity, we immediately think of gender, ethnicity or LGBTQ+ policies. But there is also one area that the majority of employers are currently missing – neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity is defined as ‘individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population’. Neurodiversity as a term covers autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Tourettes syndrome and dysgraphia and is estimated to be around 15% of the population.
Despite such a high proportion of our population being neurodivergent, unemployment rates are as high as 80%. Neurodivergent people often struggle to find employment, despite 82% of individuals registering with us having an undergraduate degree or higher.
But how can you promote neurodiversity in your organisation and experience the benefits?
Embracing Neurodiversity in Your Workplace
Attract, recruit and retain a talent pool of neurodivergent employees
Neurodivergent people can be exceptionally talented. Research states that autistic employees are 40% times faster at problem solving then their neurotypical counterparts.
Adapting your recruitment methods will be essential to recruiting neurodivergent talent. The majority of recruitment methods have been created to suit ‘neurotypical’ ways of thinking and doing, with interviews focusing on how confident and good at communicating candidates are. This has led to perceptions that neurodivergent candidates should conform to the ‘normal’ way of doing things and ‘learn’ how to become good at interviews.
One way to adapt your recruitment methods is by accessing candidates based on how well they can do tasks required for the job. We would advise creating a task with a set of instructions, and encouraging candidates to complete it over a timed period. You can then access a candidates performance, as well as key traits such as ability to follow instructions and work independently.
Another really important element is creating accessible job descriptions. They should be clear, concise and structured. A good way to do this is to use bullet points and a table with ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ skills and experience separated. This helps neurodivergent job-seekers process the information and decide if they’re a fit much easier.
Create and manage a neurodiversity employee resource group
Employee resource groups are now fundamental in the workplace, as they connect likeminded individuals, create allies and can encourage positive change within the workplace.
They are easy to set up and groups typically meet every month to discuss matters relating to neurodiversity, usually with a senior manager in attendance. This can really help promote neurodiversity and push neurodiversity initiatives forward, as it can communicate matters to the board and help create new policies and processes.
Collect data and promote representation
Its likely that you already have neurodivergent colleagues working in your organisation but you may not know about it. Collecting neurodiversity as part of your wider diversity data collection efforts really is essential, to not only see how diverse your workplace is but promoting a culture of neurodiversity acceptance.
By collecting this data you can put accommodations in the workplace to support your neurodiverse colleagues and create a culture where people can be themselves and talk confidently about their neurodiversity.
Raise awareness and promote a neurodiverse workplace
Making sure your managers and employees have the knowledge and awareness of what neurodiversity is and how to support neurodiverse colleagues is essential, and can help to reduce the stigma. This can be done by delivering training to upskill your workforce so that neurodiversity is better understood. This can help encourage conversation and create positive dialogue about what neurodiversity is and the benefit it brings. We can deliver neurodiversity training so get in touch if you would like to know more.
Use positive and inclusive language at all times
Ensure your mission statement, communications and values represent a culture of inclusivity. This includes press releases, HR policies, procedures, your employee handbook and job descriptions show that you are strongly committed to inclusivity in the workplace. You could also benefit from creating a neurodiversity specific policy which connects to your wider D&I policy.
Tailor your workplace support
Its important for managers to foster an open and trusting relationship with employees. Managers should sit down and have confidential conversations with employees, and ask them what support they require. Although we categorise different types of neurodiversity, the reality is that no two neurodivergent people are the same. Neurodivergence can portray itself in lots of different ways so its essential that any support put in place is tailored towards the needs of each employee.
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 reasonable adjustments 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.
Be aware of your legal obligations
Neurodivergent employees are protected by the Equality Act 2010 and so employers have a legal obligation to ensure that they aren’t discriminated against, and make appropriate adjustments in the workplace. Employers are required by law to implement reasonable adjustments, but can also get funding support from Access To Work to put these in place.
Let Enna help
We can help you attract, recruit and integrate neurodivergent talent through our recruitment, training and consultancy services. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!