How Can Neurodiversity Benefit My Company?

Over the past 12 months, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across many industries, necessitating a rethink of business strategies. Research and Development (R&D), Operations, Marketing, Customer Service, and Human Resources are all areas where innovative solutions may be found. Progressive organisations are placing increasing importance on diversifying their HR departments.

The benefits of having a more diverse workforce are manifold and we at Works can attest to this; our commitment to diversity has been a key factor in our growth and success. Far from being merely a token gesture, this is an approach that can bring tangible rewards.

It is essential to understand that this concept is not limited to racial and sexual orientation, in order to promote greater diversity. Neurodiversity is a phrase used to describe those with conditions such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD, and hiring individuals whose brains work differently to the majority is a good example of this.

Neurologically diverse individuals have often been overlooked for certain positions due to their differing methods of working. Despite this, it is important to recognise that they can be highly intelligent, talented and committed employees. Companies that are willing to adapt their standards and procedures may benefit greatly from the insight and creativity of neurodiverse employees.

A Definition of Neurodiversity.

Communicating, interacting socially and tolerating sensory inputs such as light and sound can be difficult for those living with neurodiverse conditions. Here is a summary of a few neurodiversity disorders and the associated challenges they bring:

  • Autism

    the way one perceives the environment and interprets social signals is modified
  • Conditions Like ADD and ADHD (both Names for Inattentiveness) (ADHD)

    The capacity to focus and control one’s impulses is negatively impacted.
  • Dyslexia

    the consequences of which include a disruption in the ability to understand both written and spoken language
  • Dyspraxia

    Impairs one’s ability to maintain mental and physical equilibrium
  • Having Tourette’s

    triggers involuntary actions or speech in a person

It is possible that discrepancies in a candidate’s profile may lead to them being rejected by potential employers as being a “poor fit”. However, if employers look beyond these traits, they may discover that neurodiverse people may excel in areas such as attention to detail, organizational abilities, and problem solving. In order to provide these applicants a fair chance, businesses may need to modify their recruitment practices.

Great Advantages

Historically, neurodiveristy has been under-represented in the workforce, however employing individuals within this cohort can provide significant gains. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are renowned for having a team that is primarily staffed by individuals on the autism spectrum, as they have a tendency to identify patterns in data which may go unnoticed by others. Great Place to Work, a non-profit organisation, has highlighted some additional advantages.

  • Better access to a larger pool of potential employees.

    If you’re open to hiring individuals with neurodiversity, you’ll have a wider pool of candidates from which to choose.
  • Maximized efficiency.

    Research has demonstrated that teams comprising individuals with a variety of neurological backgrounds are more effective than those with only neurotypical members. Additionally, those with neurodiversity are more likely to maintain a reliable attendance record at work.
  • In other words, more originality.

    In fields where products and services have become standardised, the unique insights and perspectives offered by those with neurodiversity are becoming increasingly valued.
  • Decreased anxiety.

    Individuals with neurological differences may possess a natural ability to filter out distractions and maintain focus on important tasks, even when the situation is of great importance.
  • Management enhancement.

    Managers that take the time to understand and support their staff’s neurodiversity often wind up being more effective leaders across the board.

Advice on Succeeding

Headstart, a supplier of diverse employment solutions, has highlighted that many companies and workplaces are structured to benefit the neurotypical majority, leaving those with neurodiversity at a disadvantage. What encourages success for the majority may be a barrier for those with neurodiversity.

It is important to note that more than superficial changes may be necessary to effect this transformation. This could involve a restructuring of internal operations within your organization. The following are some potential avenues to take towards achieving your goals.

  • Instruct workers on the topic of neurodiversity.

    Do you have knowledge of neurodiversity as part of your existing diversity training? If not, it would be beneficial to incorporate this into the curriculum. If you have not already done so, it would be advisable to provide diversity training.
  • Accept neurodiverse people.

    It is important to consider that some of your current employees may have a neurodiverse disorder. They may be hesitant to disclose this information due to potential stigma or discrimination. To ensure an inclusive working environment, ensure that your diversity programme includes a statement that encourages individuals with a neurodiverse disorder to feel comfortable in disclosing this information.
  • Construct anchors.

    It is essential that neurodivergent individuals have access to programmes tailored to their needs. For instance, some team members may require more frequent breaks but may be willing to commit more time elsewhere. It is important to refrain from making assumptions about the requirements of these workers and instead seek their input.
  • Put an end to bias in the workplace.

    Unknowingly, you could be inhibiting neurodiversity in the workplace before you have even recruited any employees. If a job listing emphasizes atypical qualities such as emotional intelligence, this could discourage those with neurodiversity from applying.

    The traditional job interview, which requires things like frequent eye contact to be considered successful, is another area to look at. Consider alternative assessment methods such as skills testing or an employment trial period. Examine your current hiring practices to uncover and remove additional biases.
  • Talk to people in the area.

    Organizations looking to recruit neurodiverse candidates may benefit from the variety of resources available to them. Services for people with disabilities are readily available from organizations, government offices, universities and vocational rehabilitation facilities. Great Place to Work has highlighted that these organizations may provide invaluable guidance, resources and training to aid in the recruitment process.
  • Make good use of information.

    It is recommended that organisations keep track of factors such as productivity, safety measures and employee attendance to monitor the effect of neurodiversity initiatives. Regularly measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to the sector should be done from the outset of such a programme.

Recruiting a more diverse staff has the potential to bring many advantages, but it can involve focus, risk, and most of all, patience. If an approach does not succeed, it is important to use it as an opportunity to learn, and to try something different. A diversity consultant may be able to help with this process, and is worth considering.

Consider Changing Your Point of View

If businesses wish to use the challenges of the last year to cultivate growth, diversity should be taken into account. However, organizations should not limit their idea of diversity to gender and race; opportunities to benefit from embracing neurodiversity should also be explored. Neurodiverse individuals may not always display the expected behavior, but this does not mean they are not capable of fulfilling the role to an excellent standard.

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