Building a Neurodiversity-friendly Workplace Culture
Neurodiverse Celebration Week (13th - 19th March 2023) is a good opportunity for organisations to look at neuro-inclusion as part of their wider diversity and inclusion in the workplace, while celebrating the benefits of a neurodiversity-friendly workplace culture for all people.
Neurodiversity is a term that refers to the ‘diversity of human brains and minds’ of all people - https://www.autisticuk.org/neurodiversity
Associated with that, ‘Neurodivergent’ (ND) is a term used by some people to describe a neurological difference from that which is considered to be ‘neurotypical’. ND identities include, but are not limited to, autism, ADHD (Attention, Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder), Dyscalculia, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
While neurodivergent people might struggle with the same barriers or excel in similar ways, it is important not to stereotype, and to remember that neurodivergent people are just as diverse and individual as every person.
Hence the phrase:
‘If you’ve met one Autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.’ generally attributed to Dr Stephen Mark Shore
Another important note is that not all neurodivergent people identify in the same way. Some people consider themselves to be disabled and others do not.
Legally speaking, however, neurodivergent people are considered as being disabled and so are protected under the Equality Act 2010. Within the workplace they are provided with rights to reasonable adjustments, and protections against discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.
Despite these protections, neurodivergent people still have an extremely difficult time finding employment. Those who hold neurodivergent identities often face barriers to gaining and remaining employed. For example, in 2021 the Office for National Statistics found that only 22% of autistic adults are in any kind of employment.
‘This is evidence of just how concerned the Government should be about getting more autistic people into work.’ - Autism.org
To remove barriers facing neurodivergent people at recruitment stage and take proactive steps towards their duty of care, here are some areas organisations may wish to consider:
Job Adverts & Websites:
Replace website stock images with images of actual employees
Consider video tours and interviews with current staff to describe roles in a fair and unvarnished way
Simplify adverts and make hours, salary and essential criteria unambiguous
Reduce ‘wish list’ person specifications focusing on essential criteria
Interview process and assessments:
Provide candidates with detailed and clear interview instructions
Consider providing videos from the POV of a candidate arriving and moving through the building
Consider providing questions in advance
Ensure all assessments reflect the role
Reduce gamification / quiz / multiple choice elements that don’t reflect the role
Remove time pressures that don’t reflect the role
When it comes to the interview day itself, it’s useful to look at the entire process from start to finish through sensory, communication and processing lenses. Adaptation areas to consider might include:
Sensory input - what is the environment like? Are there harsh lights, loud noises, and are these experienced in the role?
Body language expectations - are candidates assessed on social cues such as eye contact, or maybe even sitting still and not ‘fiddling’?
Communication expectations - are candidates allowed diversity of response or are they rigidly assessed interview answer techniques?
Processing speed - are candidates allowed their own time to think and process before responding?
The key to this behaviour change is adaptability and driving change from the leadership level. There’s never a one size fits all solution, and what is good for one person, may not be good for all.
Neurodiversity-friendly workplace cultures benefit all people. These organisations are often highly dynamic, innovative, flexible, resilient, and able to attract and retain a wider variety of talented employees.
Once inclusive leadership is given priority and steps are taken to remove barriers for neurodivergent people, organisations can make use of the many advantages that neurodivergent people bring to the workplace.
These may include:
High level pattern recognition
Critical and objective thinking
Customer journey analysis
Innovative ‘out of the box’ creative thinking
Pioneering approaches to process, structures and income generation
Desire to create an inclusive workplace culture that can be adapted to individual needs, rather than expecting people to adapt to ridged working conditions, is the first step towards a truly neurodiversity-friendly workplace culture.
Get in touch with The Garnett Foundation to find out how they can assist with building a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture.