Modern workplaces are working hard to champion diversity. This has seen a rise in talent to businesses from a wide range of backgrounds. While diversity and inclusion have been an increasingly important priority for companies and organisations, this focus has not always included neurodiversity. And neurodiverse people have faced discrimination and barriers to employment.
Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace helps bring a range of skills and talents to workforces that can make a big impact. Outlined below are some of the ways your workplace can embrace neurodiversity and bring positive change to your organisation.
What is neurodiversity?
Individuals view and experience the world in different ways. While neurodiversity is an umbrella term for conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), ADHD, learning disabilities, dyslexia and others.
Do not see neurodiversity as a disorder or a negative. Some of your neurodiverse employees will absolutely blow your mind with their incredible pattern recognition and multi tasking capabilities.
Perhaps up until recently, neurodiversity was discussed in educational settings. Perhaps associated with children and boys mainly. Increasingly more people are seeking a diagnosis these days as information is more available to us.
People who have been told they had manic depression or obsessive compulsive disorders may have been misdiagnosed. Autism and ADHD respectively.
Neurodiverse individuals face stigma and discrimination, which in the past has made working life difficult. Individuals can feel misunderstood or face problems in their working environment, leaving many unemployed. The unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is 30-40%, which is 3x the rate of those with disabilities and 8x the rate of those without a disability.
In recent years, more research has been conducted in order to provide a better understanding of neurodivergent conditions. By increasing knowledge and awareness of neurodivergent conditions, employers can make a positive impact whilst increasing their competitive advantage.
Strategies to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace
Create a strategy
If you’re serious about supporting neurodiversity in the workplace, then you should include it in your people strategies. Creating a strategy provides an opportunity to research and understand neurodiversity, helping to direct the changes and policies you’ll implement to make your workplace more inclusive.
You can invite guest speakers and thought leaders who themselves are neurodivergent individuals. Therefore best placed to inspire leadership teams to put measures in place to manage a thriving neurodiverse workforce.
Having a public-facing strategy or statement can also help you build some awareness around your business and organisation, highlighting your commitment to diversity and showing neurodivergent people that they are welcome in your workplace.
Consult with existing employees
While improving diversity in the workplace can help welcome new talent, it’s important to recognise there may be existing employees who are neurodivergent. You should consult with your employees and ask them if there are any adjustments that can be made to help them thrive at work. This could include supporting their basic needs, such as helping them work in noisy environments, to having information communicated in different ways.
The bottom line for your business is that everyone is supported and encouraged to be who they are. The support your business can provide can make a significant difference to someone’s working life, and usually, it begins with a conversation.
Ensure your HR representatives are up-to-date on neurodiversity practices, or seek external guidance to bring your business up to speed. There are a lot of guidance documents and workplace toolkits available to help you with the resources you need.
Provide training for your employees
Many of the barriers faced by neurodivergent people can be overcome with some behaviour changes and improved communication. As many neurodivergent conditions have had negative perceptions in the past, it’s important to educate your teams on neurodiversity and how working practices can be adapted to help others find success at work.
Managers could also benefit from more specialist training to ensure they can provide the right support for their teams and take different needs into consideration when working through different processes and projects.
Adjust your recruitment and onboarding processes
Recruitment is another significant barrier to those with neurodivergent conditions finding employment. This is because they may express themselves differently in a typical interview scenario, and may be more successful in an alternative selection process.
When advertising positions, you can make it clear that all candidates are welcome to apply, offering communication and support to help you ensure a more inclusive recruitment process.
Make your workplace a more inclusive work environment
From flexible work to creating quiet spaces, there are lots of ways to support your neurodiverse workforce.
Providing support to neurodivergent employees will undoubtedly impact their mental health. Case studies show that neurodiverse women are more vulnerable to mental health and more likely to commit suicide than their male counterparts. From planning social activities and meetings that take neurodivergent needs into account to mentoring schemes and development programmes, there are many changes you can bring to your workplace that will make it a more inclusive work environment for all.
If you’re unsure of what steps you can take to make your work environment more inclusive, you may want to consult with specialists and neurodiversity experts who can provide you with support and guidance.
Use inclusive and respectful language
All employers should aim to use inclusive and respectful language in the workplace. But this is something that many employers can struggle to get right, especially when it comes to neurodiversity. This is because there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach. Every individual will have different preferences on how they want their condition to be referred to.
Some people will be entirely ok to be referred to as autistic people, some will prefer people with autism.
As this is a sensitive area, a conversation with employees can help. Ensuring open communication to help ensure the best outcome for all.
Be prepared for this to be an ongoing process. Individuals have different needs, and you’ll need to be flexible in the language you use. This will help ensure that each individual is supported in the right way.
Creating a workplace culture that supports and nurtures neurodiversity can help elevate your business in different ways. From helping you bring valuable talent to your business, to providing a more welcoming and inclusive environment. You can help your business become a more diverse and welcoming place that champions its employees and appeals to prospective workers. Start making changes now to help your workplace neurodiversity and make changes for the better.