Neurodiverse employees make a key part of diversity and inclusion strategy in an organisation. It will bring a new way of thinking to a business and bring unique skill sets and higher levels of productivity.
Like our lives outside, a workplace is a hugely diverse environment.
We’re all unique in our own element because of our life experiences and personal references. Our personal experiences and preferences shape our individuality and influence the way we work and get things done.
Although HR leaders and managers are now more than aware of the benefits of hiring a workforce with diverse educational, racial, gender, and cultural backgrounds; however, hiring a neurodiverse workforce – the range of differences in behaviour and thinking – is less understood.
Though neurodiversity can bolster an organisation’s ability to innovate and problem-solving, people with neurodevelopmental differences face less than ideal experience in the workplace.
An untapped pool of potential
Finding a job suited best to the skillset of those with neurodevelopmental disorders is challenging.
51% of the employees on the spectrum have skills higher than what the job description says.
Research shows that fewer than one in six employees with autism has a full-time job.
Companies often lack understanding of either recruiting a neurodivergent candidate or supporting the group of neurodiverse people altogether.
Such misunderstandings often lead to underemployment and even unemployment for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Managing disabilities in a workplace means creating a diverse workforce.
Not only is embracing neurodiversity the ‘right’ thing to do, but it is also excellent for businesses since people with neurodiverse conditions think differently and can strengthen the success of tasks and projects.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that encompasses neurocognitive differences, such as ADHD, dyslexia, intellectual disability, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, autism, Tourette’s syndrome, and neurotypicality.
The brains of neurodivergent individuals function differently from those who are neurotypical or neurologically typical.
There is a growing understanding that neurodiverse individuals aren’t disabled per se; rather, they are differently-abled.
They tend to struggle with social skills though they have above-average abilities to analyse, pattern recognition, and information processing.
Benefits of neurodiversity in the workplace
Neurodiversity is a major part of diversity and inclusion strategy in the workplace.
Neurodiverse individuals possess the skills that are specifically required for businesses that are adopting more advanced technology.
Those who have neurocognitive disabilities have distinct perspectives, talents, and skills that are distinctively advantageous in a work environment.
Hiring a neurodiverse workforce provides the organisations with a competitive advantage that brings measurable benefits in terms of finance and workplace culture.
A neurodiverse workplace isn’t just beneficial for the employees who are on the spectrum; it also forms and creates better managers who cater to individual needs.
It is also helpful for company-wide communication because managers can now avoid abstract language and provide more specific instructions – clarity that will benefit everyone.
Research shows that a program that connects managers and employers with a neurodiverse workforce has a better advantage of creating a positive workplace culture and morale.
With a neurodiverse workforce, employees have increased productivity and focus.
Building a neurodiverse workplace
Building a neurodiverse workplace is no rocket science; here are six ways to create a neurodiverse workplace –
Get buy-in from all levels
It is important that key stakeholders in the organisation engage with their employees and have conversations about what it means to have neurodiverse employees in the workplace.
These conversations must be open and transparent. Managers must create a safe space for neurotypical employees to ask questions and neurodiverse employees to come forward and speak for themselves.
Engage with the local community
Community groups can help a great deal to attract neurodiverse talent. The community groups can take any form, such as non-profits, vocational rehab centres, educational institutions, or government agencies.
In addition to recruitment, these community groups also provide crucial advice and resources required for training.
Be ready and willing to accommodate.
Neurodiverse employees will have unique needs; in such cases, managers and employers must be flexible enough to ensure that employees are the most productive in the workplace.
Organise expert-driven, two-way training
It is critical that soft skill training is provided to the employees to build a neurodiverse workforce.
An experienced trainer must conduct these training sessions.
These sessions are not solely for neurodiverse employees but for all employees and leaders who need to be trained about what it’s like to be on the spectrum and how to work together.
Amplifying the message
Individuals who are on the spectrum often have negative experiences in the world.
While they may feel understood and accepted at their workplace, they may not feel as safe outside the workplace.
When companies build a strong neurodiversity program, they should make sure to broadcast their message externally and internally, making it a general part of their recruitment process.
Adjusting hiring practices
HR managers and leaders must reframe their definition of a good candidate. To draw out the best in the candidates, managers need to ask the right questions.
Also, managers must make it a point that the candidate’s resumes don’t tell the full story because neurodiverse employees may have struggled to find work that matches their abilities.
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Supporting neurodivergent employees in the workplace
Here are six easy ways to support a neurodivergent workforce –
Remove jargon from communications
From job ads to HR policies, documents, and internal communications can be loaded with jargon that is difficult for employees to understand with neurodiverse profiles.
To ensure that there is no jargon or confusing language in policies and documents, call in someone new to identify a jargon and be as clear and concise as possible.
The use of simple language is a great business tool to help the managers and employers lead and helps to build consumer confidence in the brand.
Include language around neurodiversity in policies
A simple modification of the policy documents will make a huge difference in an organisation.
When companies are willing to provide reasonable support, it implies that a company is ready to accommodate neurodiverse employees. It will bring a certain level of understanding to their personal needs.
Avoid using personality tests as part of the recruitment
Online personality tests are increasingly popular for recruitment.
Personality tests help employers understand the potential candidate’s character and give them insights into what it will be like to work with the candidate.
While a neurotypical individual might be able to answer questions that would produce a better result; however, neurodiverse individuals may find these tasks difficult to navigate.
Look for ‘culture-add’ instead of ‘culture fit’
Recruiters must look for culture-add and look for what unique, diverse perspectives the candidate can bring to the team.
It is extremely important to keep an open mind in how they are discovering and uncovering new and unique talent.
When we hire candidates from diverse backgrounds, we will discover unique working styles and insights that will help to break roadblocks within the business.
Be conscious of comorbidities
Comorbidities are additional conditions that are triggered because of a primary condition.
Employers and managers must be aware of these sensitivities and look for suitable adjustments for them.
It is better to create a flexible, hybrid, and remote working arrangement that will enable the neurodiverse employees to work from home in their comfortable environment.
Tailoring support to individuals
When managers and leaders ought to support employees, they should not limit themselves to employees’ roles and their work; however, they should focus on a wider range of situations, such as training.
Employees with spectrum conditions and their characteristics will vary from person to person; managers should help them cope with the associated characteristics of their conditions over time.
The potential benefits of the neurodiverse workforce cannot be overlooked. Positive attributes associated with these group include creativity, bringing uniqueness to the table, lateral thinking, consistency in tasks, and development of highly specialised skills.
To yield the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce requires time and intention. It is not just the neurodiverse employees who miss out on the golden opportunity to work, but managers and employers also miss out on a largely untapped pool of potential.
Having a continuous and systematic way of collecting and gathering feedback around employee experience provides the insights and data that are required to create a roadmap for affecting positive change.
Implementing simple changes to recruitment and selection strategies will ensure neurodiverse employees will be embraced by the business and help them to work to the best of their abilities.
About the Author
Varnika Bajaj is a member of the marketing team at PagarBook. She loves to play with words and form sentences that can engage, entertain, and educate the readers.