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Create a Thriving Workforce by Embracing Neurodiversity

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch September 25, 2023

Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in different ways. It has become an umbrella term often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and learning differences (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, etc). Neurodiversity is a neurological concept, and it has become a social movement. It has  emerged as one of the final frontiers in diversity debates. Despite most companies’ increasing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), neurodiversity has largely been overlooked in this realm until recently.  In the world of work, employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusivity in all areas.

A recent report from the tech training agency Sparta Global highlights the benefit that neurodiverse staff bring to the workplace. One key finding was that neurodiverse teams showed higher adaptability levels and were able to problem solve and address complex issues quickly and efficiently.  In 2022, Deloitte released an article noting that “organizations that make an extra effort to recruit, retain, and nurture neurodivergent workers can gain a competitive edge from increased diversity in skills, ways of thinking, and approaches to problem-solving.

There is a wide spectrum of neurodiverse individuals – from those who cannot live/work independently to those who have reached the highest professional ranks. Many employees feel a lot of trepidation about disclosing a diagnosis. This is a sensitive issue, but many have also experienced the first-hand benefits of revealing neurodiversity in the workplace as shared in this article from the Financial Times.  One contributor felt extremely burnt out by work and didn’t realize how much of this was due to sensory overload, social interactions, and the effort involved in masking autistic traits. The Sparta Global report notes that historically, most people do not disclose to anyone at work.

Improving the Workplace for Neurodiverse Employees

According to the Deloitte article, there are a few key moves that senior leaders and managers should make – focusing on recruitment, training/mentoring, and workplace accommodations.

Recruit with inclusivity in mind –

When hiring, examine the recruitment screening tools and interviews. It might be more beneficial to give applicants tasks and questions that match the job qualifications rather than abstract questions. Some hiring managers even consider it a best practice to outline the structure and expectation of the interview, even going so far as providing the questions ahead of the interview.

Provide support and mentoring –

Creating a supportive network is crucial for professional growth and well-being. Allowing for different behaviors and traits helps employees feel confident about disclosing their diagnosis. Some companies offer mentoring programs or support groups that provide a platform for sharing experiences and seeking advice from colleagues.

Accommodate individual needs –

Workplace adjustments can include noise-canceling headphones, reducing the brightness of office lighting, and supporting work from home and flexible work schedules. Recognizing and adapting to these needs allows employees to perform at their best while fostering a culture of inclusivity and success.

Tailoring jobs to meet an individuals’ skills and interests, mentoring programs, and allowing for different ways of working and communicating improves outcomes from both neurodivergent and neurotypical employee, ultimately positively impacting the organization as a whole.

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