Although the term neurodiversity isn’t new, its awareness has certainly increased in recent years. Promoting a diverse and inclusive culture is now more important than ever. However, many Diversity, Equality & Inclusion strategies only focus on gender, ethnicity and cultural background. With the current skills shortage and ‘The Great Resignation leaving some organisations struggling to recruit, is it time that your organisation’s DE&I strategy embraced neurodiversity and the benefits it can bring?
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways in which the brain works and interprets information and refers to the diversity of all people. According to ADHD Aware, it is thought that up to 15% of the population (around 1 in 7), are neurodiverse. The term is used to describe a range of conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, and some conditions are often referred to as a ‘hidden disability’ as they are not always obvious and can go undiagnosed.
Benefits of neurodivergent inclusion
Although they might be highly skilled, workers with conditions such as those referred to above are often underrepresented in the workplace. However, as these individuals think differently, they can bring new perspectives to an organisation, providing recruitment teams with access to a large, untapped pool of talent.
People with such conditions can often be highly creative and forward thinking. They can possess skills such as attention to detail, knowledge recall, pattern recognition and problem solving, which can bring significant benefits to any organisation. Indeed, a growing number of companies, including JP Morgan and Microsoft who have tapped into this talent pool, are seeing the benefits in terms of increased productivity and quality, which has boosted staff retention, employee engagement and loyalty.
Supporting neurodiversity in the workplace
It wouldn’t be appropriate to adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach as every individual is unique. There are however many ways in which you can appropriately manage and support neurodiversity in the workplace which will increase awareness and inclusion. Some of these include:
- Updating DE&I policies to ensure inclusivity.
- Updating recruitment policies and onboarding processes to include neurodiversity.
- Providing training for managers so they know what to expect.
- Providing guidance for employees to encourage empathy and awareness.
- Offering suitable adjustments for those with sensory conditions such as a seating arrangement with low lighting or headphones to block out loud noises.
- Provide clear and concise written communication for tasks as this can be processed more easily for some individuals.
- Provide reasonable advance notice of meetings and changes in practices as much as possible, to make it easier for those who may struggle with sudden changes.
- Completing a risk assessment if adopting new workplace equipment so reasonable adjustments can be made if necessary.
Neurodiversity and the law
Employers should be aware that failure to consider reasonable adjustments for workers with neurodivergent conditions could result in claims of discrimination and/or unfair dismissal. An employee who is neurodivergent could be deemed to behave a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Under this legislation a person has a disability if ‘they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.’ Government statutory guidance states: ‘A disability can arise from a wide range of impairments which can be developmental, such as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), dyslexia and dyspraxia.’
Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace has become a focus for many organisations who are seeking to tap into the talents and skills of creative and innovative workers, as well as enhance their profile as a progressive employer.