Many organizations are actively and consciously diversifying their workforce, and often the intent is to hire workers from different ethnicities, religions, ages, or gender identities. But also included are those who are neurodiverse. When you think of the term neurodiversity, what comes to mind? Perhaps you are uncertain of the term and what it encompasses. Neurodiverse individuals can include those on the autism spectrum (ASD), who have dyslexia, or ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). The term can identify those that are in the neurological minority. They are wired differently from neurotypical team members meaning organizations can benefit from their unique perspective and offer innovative insight into operating procedures.
The challenge in including neurodiverse individuals in the workplace is often a lack of awareness and inclusive infrastructure. James Townend, an ASD corporate trainer that lives the experience himself, recounts: “…neurotypicals like things in a box, or template, as it is easier to understand. When you go out of the box, that brings discomfort. I bring my diagnosis up as I want to be honest and because I am proud of who I am. But are others as accepting?”
According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, the employment rate for autistic adults is 14.3 percent, compared to 92.7 percent for the general population. Indicating that companies may be missing out on an important segment of the population. James has experienced the results of what appears to be a prevailing attitude: “To date, the best offers I have got are for minimum wage type jobs which are much lower than my capabilities and qualifications.”
How can including neurodiversity benefit organizations?
- Creating an atmosphere of understanding impacts inclusivity for all. When different abilities and backgrounds are viewed positively, it only creates more respect in the workplace and solidifies the team.
- Younger workers are more likely to define diversity as a mix of experiences, identities, ideas, and opinions, rather than a more traditional definition of diversity, such as underrepresented racial, ethnic and gender demographics. Gen Z workers are more apt to be attracted and engaged to an organization if it has more inclusive policies. (https://hiring.monster.com/resources/workforce-management/diversity-in-the-workplace/workforce-diversity-for-millennials)
- Being open to new perspectives and looking at problems from different angles means organizational innovation and can lead to positive change. Employees with different neurological profiles bring unique perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, which can lead to innovative solutions and improved decision-making.
- When all opinions are invited, the team is more likely to show courage in providing their own new, innovative ideas, which increases employee engagement.
- The skillsets of many neurodiverse employees can remarkable and add to the efficacy of your outcomes. Many neurodiverse people have an exceptional ability to concentrate, retain information, display technical skills, pattern recognition, creative or visual thinking, attention to detail, and mathematics. Those skills can give businesses a competitive advantage.
- Studies have shown that neurodiverse individuals are highly motivated and committed employees who can make a significant contribution to a company’s bottom line.
Examining the benefits to organizations is one thing, but integrating an understanding into the company culture is essential. As James states, “I choose to be honest about my diagnosis because I believe it is a special gift, however as I think more on it, others who don’t understand it might be scared off, or feel uncomfortable by it.”
How to create neuro-inclusivity in your workplace.
To begin, train the leaders on the benefits, which can help foster an atmosphere of respect and understanding. Look to other companies that have successfully created a diverse workforce and review your hiring process, as it may be riddled with conscious or unconscious bias.
Wanting to create a more diverse workforce is only one step. To be successful requires thought and planning. Here are some ways to implement the hiring, integration, and retention of neurodiverse employees:
- Talk to other organizations or talent agencies that actively recruit and employ people with neurodivergent conditions.
- Seek a talent recruiter who understands the challenges that typical interviews will hold and who has undergone sensitivity training.
- Avoid screening algorithms that are coded based on neurotypical data and will eliminate diverse groups.
- Use interview techniques that include more diverse personalities and skill sets—even allowing neurodivergent people to dictate how they can best outline their skills to recruiters.
- Once hired, implement a support or mentoring system.
- Offer noise-cancelling headsets, fidget toys and a relaxed dress code for employees with sensory sensitivity.
- Use a communication style that is straightforward and is not rife with subtleties that may be objective.
- Be clear about workplace etiquette and be understanding of the learning curve.
- Include both verbal and written instructions.
Ultimately, hiring a neurodiverse workforce can lead to a more innovative, productive, and inclusive workplace and is a smart investment for companies looking to stay competitive in today’s growing tech space and rapidly changing business landscape.
We appreciate the perspective of Mr. Townend in this article, who provides corporate training in ASD (autism spectrum disorder). His profile can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-townend-03735bb7/.
~Cherene Kambeitz, Marketing & Communications Director – Levvel inc. Reach out to Connect@levvel.ca
Business in Balance