Neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversityin the workplace: what HR managers need to know

Table of contents

We all think in different ways. In the workplace, a wide range of talents is advantageous. People with different experiences bring different viewpoints to their roles, and they approach tasks differently. The best businesses are driven by their diversity.

Neurodiversity refers to the concept that human brains vary in the way they process the world. People have different talents, as well as the things that they struggle with. When an individual is neurodivergent, they may find that their abilities and struggles affect their everyday lives more than others. ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and Tourette Syndrome, for example, are all examples of neurodivergent conditions.

Our awareness of neurodiversity in everyday lives is increasing. It’s estimated that around 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent. Chances are, therefore, that a large portion of your workforce thinks and works differently.

Despite this, around 80% of neurodivergent people are unemployed. Neurodivergent individuals continue to face challenges in the world of work. The key is to support neurodiverse employees during their workday, and help them flourish within your organisation. There is a vast amount of untapped potential, as the average workplace doesn’t cater for neurodiversity. It’s important to consider what changes you can make to help accommodate neurodiversity in the workplace.

Understand individual skills

Each one of us has different skills. This has always been true. Neurodiverse employees also have talents, and things that they find more challenging. This might make them particularly strong in one area of their role, but lacking in another.

That’s why it’s critical to understand each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Discuss where they need help, and what you can do to support them.

 

Assign tasks that suit their individuality. For instance, those with ADHD might find it difficult to deal with a series of repetitive tasks. Around 1.5 million adults have ADHD in the UK, so it’s important to understand the needs of this disorder. For example, you could ensure that the employee’s tasks are varied throughout the day or week.

The employee will still be able to complete the same quantity and quality of work, they just require a more varied schedule. You might want to invest in task management software, to help them understand their workload, and allow them to approach their work as flexibly as possible.

In HR, it’s key to cater for the workplace changes they need as an individual, to allow them to excel. Rather than simply identifying their differences, try to understand them and provide the employees with opportunities to overcome them.

abstract image of brain and neuro connections

Provide opportunities

As mentioned before, it’s estimated that around 80% of neurodivergent people are unemployed. Compared to other disabilities, people with autism have some of the highest rates of unemployment. Despite the fact that autism is considered an invisible disability, many individuals with autism are still singled out in work environments.

 

For many people, the primary goal of life is to progress and grow. This goal translates into many areas of our lives, including our careers. Neurodiverse employees are no different. Every person within an organisation should have the same chances of progression and promotion. With any role, hard work and motivation are the two primary factors in career progression.

 

As long as you are providing the right support throughout their work experience, neurodiverse employees should have the same opportunities for progression as any other employee. It’s important to have a variety of talents at every level in the business. Those with different skillsets bring creativity and help the business to be more adaptable in the future.

Assess your recruitment

Despite best intentions, your recruitment process can sometimes be subject to unconscious biases. Even if your business is looking to make its workforce more diverse, new recruits may be falling at the first hurdle.

Your recruitment process should be fair and equal for every candidate, at every step. Recruitment starts with the job description. Ensure that your job description enforces your support for neurodiversity in the workplace, and highlights your supportive work environment. It’s important to avoid disqualifying neurodiverse candidates at the first step.

Next, assess your interview process. Do interviewers have the appropriate training on neurodiversity in the workplace? All interviews should be fair and consistent. To show your understanding of the challenges of neurodiversity, ensure that candidates feel as comfortable as possible. Your evaluation of interviewees should have the same level of objectivity as your interviews.

Finally, beyond the offer stage, it’s important that your onboarding process caters to the needs of the neurodivergent individual. New starts are nerve-wracking for everyone. Adapt the onboarding process to the individual, and strive to understand how best to make them feel welcome.

two colleagues at desktop computer in office one team member supporting the other

Equipment and accessibility

To help improve the experience of neurodiversity in the workplace, make sure you understand that everyone experiences work environments differently. What works for one employee, won’t work for the entire workforce. Take the time to get feedback from employees, and better understand what they need to carry out their role efficiently.

Most office workspaces are built with neurotypical individuals in mind. That’s why you should give employees the opportunity to adapt their workspace as much as possible. The office can be a busy place, and all employees need to feel comfortable.

Some practical recommendations include providing adaptable lighting, dividers, standing desks, or other aids to reduce overstimulation. Allow employees to make their space their own. Ultimately, this results in a more efficient and productive employee for the business.

Provide employees with all the equipment necessary for carrying out their role with comfort, to get the most out of their abilities.

Patience and communication

Communication is always vital in the workplace. A business cannot grow without consistent and continuous feedback from employees. Ultimately, comfortable and happy employees are more productive employees.

When managing neurodiversity in the workplace, it’s even more important to provide open channels of communication. Without singling out neurodiverse employees, make sure you encourage staff to discuss their specific needs. You might wish to schedule one-to-one check-ins, or team sessions, to discuss the company’s approach to neurodiversity and inclusion.

It’s equally important to ensure that the entire workforce understands neurodiversity. Your neurodivergent staff don’t just communicate with managers. All communications within the workplace should be as inclusive as possible.

Consider implementing a neurodiversity training programme. Not every member of staff has experience with neurodiversity, so it’s important to support all employees to become more inclusive individuals and better managers. Overall, a workforce that’s more aware improves the workplace culture for all.

At BAD, we understand that the best workplaces are where everyone can feel comfortable. Happy employees are motivated to do their best for the business. We build custom training experiences and HR tools to change employee behaviour for the better, and improve workplace culture for all employees. Get in touch with us today to discuss your behavioural change needs.

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