How employers can support neurodiversity in the workplace
This year, psychological consultancy Lexxic have partnered with Neurodiversity Celebration Week (21-27 March 2022) to support the running of the worldwide campaign, which aims to raise awareness of and celebrate neurodiversity and challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions that still exist around neurological differences.
Medigold Health have worked closely with Lexxic for many years to provide diagnostic, screening and workplace needs assessments for our clients looking to offer better support to employees with neurodivergent conditions.
In honour of the week, we invited their founder, psychologist Nicola James, and CEO, Aidan Healy to guest on our blog, to give us a bit more insight into the campaign and why it’s crucial that employers start doing more to embrace neurodiversity and create a more neuroinclusive workplace culture.
What is neurodiversity and how common is it?
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways people’s brains process information, how they learn and think. It is often used as an umbrella term for people who have Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (DCD), Dyscalculia, Autism, ADHD and Tourettes. Approximately 1 in 7 people has a neurodifference – that’s 15% of the UK population, representing a significant proportion of existing employees and job applicants.
What is Neurodiversity Celebration Week and why is it important?
Neurodifferences are typically seen as a disorder or deficit, a problem to be overcome. Neurodiversity Celebration Week seeks to challenge this misconception and encourages us instead to view these differences as strengths and to focus on the many benefits and opportunities that they can bring, for individuals, employers and society as a whole. By improving people’s awareness and understanding of how we can support neurodivergent individuals to succeed and thrive, we can help to empower them and change the way they see themselves. That’s why the campaign is so important.
What are the benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce?
Neurodivergent people all have different strengths depending on the type of condition(s) they have, so having a neurodiverse workforce can deliver many benefits for your organisation. Because employees with neurodifferences process and interpret information in alternative ways, they are likely to see things from a fresh perspective, pick up on details that others might miss, and are often more creative and have a greater ability to think outside the box. They therefore tend to make great problem solvers and can help to avoid ‘groupthink’ and drive innovation within a company.
They also frequently display higher levels of focus, which can help to enhance the productivity of your teams. As well as giving you a competitive edge, recruiting and supporting neurodivergent employees demonstrates your commitment to creating a more inclusive workplace, and this can help to attract and retain talent.
How can employers support neurodiversity in the workplace?
There are a number of things that employers can do to support neurodiversity in the workplace:
Create a more inclusive culture and environment
Consider introducing a neurodiversity statement, create opportunities for people to share their experiences (for example, by setting up an employee resource group or forum) and establish clear processes to support people with neurodifferences. Involve neurodivergent employees in your decision-making when designing workspaces and defining your working practices to help you ensure that the working environment is set up to help them perform at their best.
By getting their feedback on any interventions you put in place, you’ll automatically start to challenge your unconscious bias and allow neuroinclusive practices to be embedded throughout your organisation.
Education and awareness
Provide awareness training for your management teams to help them develop their understanding of different types of neurodifferences and dispel any myths or any misbeliefs that they may have.
It’s also important to educate them on the common reasonable adjustments available to support people with neurodifferences and any specific support services or initiatives that your organisation offers. By opening up the conversation on neurodiversity and equipping your managers with the right knowledge and tools to be able to talk confidently about neurodifferences, you can help to relieve a lot of the stress and uncertainty that they and their employees may feel about raising issues and ensure neurodivergent individuals feel more comfortable coming forward to ask for support if they need it.
Introduce initiatives and technologies that can support all employees
One of the biggest shifts we have seen in recent years is clients making adjustments accessible to all employees, not just those who have disclosed a neurodifference. For example, assistive technology introduced to support people with dyslexia who face challenges with reading and writing could equally help other neurotypical employees who may still find it easier to process documents through speech/audio rather than text. Similarly, many employees, not only those with conditions such as ADHD, may benefit from having access to quiet rooms or zones or from using noise cancelling headphones at work to help them minimise distractions and allow them the ability to ‘hyperfocus’ when they need to concentrate on complex or important tasks.
By making adjustments available to everyone, organisations can take big steps in reducing the stigma that many people with neurodiverse conditions feel in reaching out for support, and this can lead to significant improvement in overall employee performance, wellbeing and retention.
Review your recruitment processes
Neurodiverse people can struggle with standard recruitment practices, such as psychometric testing and interviews, which tend to involve timed, comprehension-based tasks and focus on analysing the applicant’s personality, emotional intelligence and communication and relationship building skills to determine how their character fits with organisation. As a result, many are put off applying for certain roles even though they may have the exact skillset and expertise you are looking for and you may therefore be missing out on recruiting the perfect candidate.
It’s important to consider whether the tests you are using to assess someone’s suitability for a job reflect the nature of the actual work they will be doing and whether by making changes, you could make your recruitment process more inclusive and attract more neurodiverse talent.
Nearly 300 workplaces have already signed up to Neurodiversity Celebration Week and Lexxic hope that their partnership with founder and neurodiversity advocate, Siena Castellon, will help to ensure the sustainability and long-term future of the campaign. They will be running a number of events across the week, all of which are free to attend. For more information and to register, visit 2022 Events Schedule | Neurodiversity Week.
For more information on Lexxic’s services, visit Lexxic | Neurodiversity | Workplace Assessments | Dyslexia | Dyspraxia
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