Managing Neurodiversity in the Workplace

What is neurodiversity?

‘Neurodiversity’ refers to the diversity of the human brain and neurocognitive functioning. As such, neurodiversity encompasses individuals who are ‘neurotypical’ and ‘neurodivergent’. Neurodivergent people have one or more of the following (and possibly other) neurological conditions:

  • Attention Deficit Disorders
  • Autism
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia

It is estimated that 1 in 10 people in the UK are neurodivergent however it is a challenging figure to evidence given the wide variety of conditions and lack of diagnosis for many adults. Up to 6% of people have moderate to severe dyspraxia according to the Dyspraxia Foundation, and around 10% of children are diagnosed with ADHD however 70% of these will not continue into adulthood.

Man and Woman sat in private business area looking at a laptop

What do employers need to know?

The important figures for employers demonstrate the disconnect with those with neurodiverse conditions. According to the National Autistic Society, only 16% of adults with autism in the UK are in full time work, and in the words of Dr Doyle who appeared on the BBC programme ‘Employable Me’-

‘What you are missing are people who are going to solve a problem that you have been struggling with for years’

Of course employees with neurodivergent conditions will be as diverse and unique as the rest of your employees. However research shows that you will see an increased level of skill in your organisation in the following areas:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Intuitive
  • Complex problem solving
  • Logic and reasoning

In our extensive experience, working with organisation large and small, we have yet to identify an organisation that does not have a skills gap in these areas. It is predicted that as automation replaces people in process driven activities, the next generation of jobs is expected to require more innovation and creativity than ever before.

What do employers need to do?

The first key step is to create an environment in which all candidates and employees feel confident in being honest about who they are and the range of skills they bring, as well as their individual needs to be as productive as possible. Developing an authentic inclusive culture is not easy but it is achievable.

Having a clear inclusion strategy and plan, that is implemented and communicated reassures employees that they are valued as individuals. Reviewing all people practices to remove barriers to diverse talent and those with neurodiverse conditions, and training managers in managing inclusively – including how to support those with neurodiverse conditions – is essential.

The Clear Company provide software that allows employers to ask confidentially but in detail, the needs of candidates during the recruitment process and also at work – around neurodiversity, disability and all other aspects of being a human being. From a disability perspective, organisations have seen disclosure rates increase from 1-2% up to double digits, enabling them to manage adjustments and provide a working environment that supports all employees to bring themselves to work.

What are the barriers that those with neurodiverse conditions face in the workplace?

It is important to remember that everyone is unique and therefore the following are examples of typical barriers that maybe faced by employees with neurodiverse conditions. It is imperative that employers and managers discuss individual needs and plan adjustments on a case by case basis.

Ensuring you have accessible application processes, including fully accessible websites and alternative application methods will ensure that all candidates can apply. A clear statement about being an inclusive employer and welcoming applicants to share any information that will assist in their application, will encourage candidates with neurodiverse conditions to apply.

Assessment process need to take into consideration the needs of neurodiverse candidates – allowing extra time in an interview, being clear about the assessment process and what will be required, providing information in different fonts – all can help.

In the workplace, those with neurodivergent conditions may require more time to adapt to changes – whether that be a new line manager, changes to operating procedures or a different location.

‘It takes me a while to ‘rewire’ my brain to accept the changes that life brings’ #actuallyautistic

Setting performance objectives that are realistic and achievable – avowing generic objectives that may disadvantage those with neurodiverse conditions. Supporting employees in preparing for an appraisal and watching out for processes that value generalists over and above specialists who can make an equally valuable contribution.

Consider how you communicate with team members and adapting your communication methods to individuals – team meetings maybe challenging for some, written communications maybe difficult for others – but it is very important that all employees receive the information they need.  

Where can you get further support?

The Clear Company have been working to bring about positive change for 16 years and are recognised as global leaders of inclusive talent management, training, insight and technology.

We have supported a large number of organisations in reviewing recruitment and people processes to ensure barriers to employing diverse talent are removed – and helping employers to maximise opportunities to attract those with the valuable skills that neurodiversity offers. Alongside implementing inclusive people practices, the Clear Company offer learning interventions to upskill employers in managing neurodivergent employees.

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