In general terms, neurodiversity describes individuals who see and experience the world in multiple different ways. It is an umbrella term that refers to the diversity of all people; however, is typically used to describe individuals who can be described as having cognitive function that is considered not ‘typical’. According to Cambridge University Hospital, 1 in 7 people in the UK have some kind of neuro-difference.
As a result, there is an abundance of neurodivergent individuals who are overlooked during interview processes even though they may have the relevant skills that are needed within the workplace. Fostering neurodiversity in the workplace can have many benefits. The benefits are very similar to the traditional views of diversity, e.g., diverse backgrounds, with which we are more familiar, however the benefits are more direct. For instance, neurodivergent colleagues can bring intense focus, creativity, powerful expertise, innovation, and lateral thinking to teams.
According to the National Autistic Society report, there are at least 700,000 autistic adults in UK, of which only 15% are in employment. The British Dyslexia Association reports that the number of individuals with dyslexia in the UK is around 10%, with 4% of population at the severe end of the dyslexia continuum.
Recent research has shown that 50% of managers lack confidence in their ability to be able to manage an individual who has a neuro-difference.
Be aware of language.
Language is very important, particularly ensuring care is taken around chosen words. There should be encouragement to advocate for non-judgemental and inclusive words. Whilst some advocacy firms promote the use of person-first language (such as “a person with autism”), research has shown that much of the autistic community prefers identity-first language (such as “an autistic person”). Therefore, rather than assuming, it would be a good idea to communicate and ask the person directly of their preferred language.
According to Spring Health, “Harvard Medical School describes neurodiversity as “the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits”, and further explaining that:
”Neurodivergent refers to a person or group of people whose brain functioning differs from what is widely considered to be “normal” (neurotypical).
Neurotypical refers to people who are not neurodivergent.
Neurodiverse refers to a mixed group of both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals.”
How to create an inclusive environment
In order to build a workplace that is inclusive we must take time to understand, recognise and support neuro-differences. This can involve very simple adjustments or accommodations that might consider the following:
In many cases the adjustments are manageable, and the potential returns are excellent.
Benefits for neurodiversity in the workplace
In the current market, many businesses are under pressure to integrate a diverse workforce, encourage dynamic thinking to gain competitive advantages, as well as potentially dealing with a workers’ market.
Hiring and making workplace accommodations for neurodiverse thinkers could be a solution to these challenges. Not only could individuals help relieve labour shortages but also bring a wide range of different thoughts and ideas to firms which may be overlooked by neurotypical employees. There are many benefits to having a wide diverse range of thinkers in the workplace:
As organisations are challenged to rethink their employment strategies and ideas of what a successful team looks like, embracing and unleashing the untapped potential of the neurodivergent will become hugely useful. This has already started in the USA where more companies are now adjusting their hiring process and internal structure so that they are more inclusive of neurodivergent people. Given the benefits these individuals bring in relation to innovation and productivity, organisations must ensure they adapt so that they do not risk losing out to other more inclusive firms.
These adjustments not only benefit neurodivergent employees but can have spillover effects on the entire company. Typical considerations for neurodivergent employees may alter conventional HR practices but can inevitably make the workplace a better, safer, and more inclusive place for all.
Flesch Reading Ease 24.6 – Tool for determining the readability of English-language content. This score helps predicts how well the audience will comprehend your message and their user experience.
We have included some further reading below that may be of interest to increase our understanding of neurodiversity:
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently -Steve Silberman