Why is Neurodiversity in the Workplace So Important?
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity; what is it? Is the concept as overwhelming as the term sounds?
- a state of nature to be respected
- an analytical tool for examining social issues
- an argument for the conservation and facilitation of human diversity”
Coined by Judy Singer in the late 90’s, neurodiversity in the workplace refers to the concept of inclusivity regarding neurological differences. The term is used to describe differences in the human brain and cognition. A neurodiverse workplace supports all types of ways in which people think, learn, and work.
It is estimated that one in eight of us have neurodiverse characteristics. That’s a big number, and so embracing neurodiversity at work has never been more important, especially now the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace is so hot.
Just a few examples of neurodiverse conditions and characteristics include ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and dyspraxia. A neurodiverse workplace means creating an environment where these conditions are embraced and supported and where staff with these conditions can work to the best of their ability without discomfort.
Why is neurodiversity at work important?
Building neurodiversity in the workplace is just another way of promoting an inclusive environment at work. If these conditions are overlooked, we show the subtle message that these differences aren’t valued.
Diversity and inclusion are key attributes to any workforce; many studies have shown that inclusivity and diversity are the basis of success within a business. So, embracing neurodiverse conditions and supporting them in ways other employees may not need is really important in today’s workplaces.
There are a whole host of advantages to having a neurodiverse workforce, including increased creativity, a new angle of lateral thinking, and greater expertise in particular topics and subjects. Let’s take a deeper look into how hiring neurodiverse candidates can be advantageous to you and your business.
Advantages of neurodiversity in the workplace
Creativity and innovation
Neurodivergent employees bring alternative experiences and thought processes which diversify outlooks within the workplace and ultimately lead to a higher level of creativity and innovation within a company. If embraced rather than shunned, this creativity can give your business a real edge over competitors, leading to higher levels of performance, productivity, and, as a result, in some cases even revenue.
Autism is often related to a strong sense of pattern recognition, which when channelled correctly can encourage hugely creative ideas, concepts, and thoughts.
Many neurodivergent individuals bring intense expertise to a job. This can often materialise in being an expert within a particular topic, a particular field, possessing strong problem-solving abilities due to more visual thinking, or being incredibly upskilled, all of which can be beneficial for teams and the wider company as a whole.
In fact, 51% of workers on the autistic spectrum have skills higher than what their job requires. This is a huge pool of potential.
Many neurodiverse employees bring lateral thinking to their role. Lateral thinking is a key way in which assumptions are challenged, alternative ways to solving problems are found, and creative thinking is introduced. This brings us back to the idea of diversifying thoughts within a company to come up with new, exciting opportunities.
Increased business performance
In 2020, McKinsey published a report that found a significant statistical correlation between diversity and business performance, which included seeing higher profitability and productivity.
More diverse management teams also see 19% higher revenues due to innovation, which we’ve already established as a key characteristics a neurodiverse workforce can bring!
What’s more, having a neurodiverse and inclusive culture at work is incredibly enriching, bringing higher retention and attraction rates.
So, we’ve explored how the importance of embracing neurodiversity is significant. But how can we go about doing so, and creating a neurodiverse environment at work?
How to build and support a neurodiverse workforce
Get buy-in from all levels
In order to onboard almost any new workplace program, you’ll need buy-in and support from senior leadership. In the case of working towards building a neurodiverse workforce, senior leaders are key in influencing other leaders, speaking to teams, and spearheading change that will lead to building this culture of neurodiversity.
Engage with community
Knowing where and how to connect with individuals is crucial in building neurodiversity. Use the community to help you acquire your neurodiverse talent; this may come by reaching out to organizations such as government agencies, offices for disabilities, and educational institutions.
Adjust hiring practices
Many of the ‘norms’ of hiring and recruitment processes can actually be difficult for neurodiverse applicants, like handshakes, 1-to-1 interviews, surprise interview questions, and noisy spaces.
Think about neuro-inclusivity; look at adjusting your hiring practices for neurodiverse individuals and think about your interview techniques in order to get the best skills and capabilities out of your applicant.
Other ways of adjusting your hiring practices to become neuro-inclusive could be making sure job descriptions are simple, clear, transparent, and inclusive, and providing preparation time and resources to applicants.
Think about investing in coaching for your company. It is really important that leaders, managers, and employees understand neurodiversity, how to support neurodiverse employees, what makes a diverse workforce, and how to create an inclusive culture.
This is something that a diversity and inclusion coach can support with, building awareness, opening up transparent conversations, reducing unconscious bias, and helping your workforce embrace a level playing field.
Be ready to accommodate
Some neurodiverse employees may need a little extra support, or need support in different ways than you are accustomed. Be ready to accommodate in order to allow all of your employees to perform as their best and most productive selves, without discomfort or distractions.