Neurodiversity in the workplace describes the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits in employees. This includes neurological conditions such as autism, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is important to realise that employees can be neurodiverse even without a formal diagnosis.
Neurodiversity is recognised as a spectrum, therefore employers should avoid a ‘one size fits all approach’. Support for neurodiverse employees should be be tailored to individual needs. Neurodiverse employees may also be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010, triggering the employer’s legal duty to make reasonable adjustments. Employers could consider setting up a taskforce to help design a work environmental that is inclusive for neurodiverse employees.
A neurodiversity policy helps encourage employees to speak to appropriate individuals about their condition. Reassurance is provided that the condition will be treated sensitively and they will be fully supported. Without such a policy employees are likely to be more reluctant to raise this initially.
Workplace benefits including innovation, creative thinking, efficiency and loyalty are associated with neurodiversity. Neurodiverse employees can have a unique way of solving problems, but often the typical work environment doesn’t accommodate their unique perspectives. Neurodiverse employees can make efficiency gains as they address inefficiencies that their neurotypical colleagues just hadn’t seen or had become used to. They also tend to be loyal to their employers. Reduced staff turnover maintains productivity, and avoids the costs of recruiting new staff.
Encouraging them into your Workplace
Employers need to be informed and need to learn about neurodiversity. Too often employers look for candidates who are a ‘cultural fit’ rather than a cultural enhancement.
Your job description needs to be neurodiverse-friendly. You need to portray an environment that will attract this talent. Are you actually listing the skills that your company needs or are you listing the typical requirements for that type of role? Traditional interviews focus on communication skills, team-players and relationship building. Have you thought about the benefits that a shy person who is highly analytical and doesn’t cause a fuss could bring to your organisation? People in scientific or engineering roles are more likely to have autistic traits according to a study by Cambridge University.
Getting the best from a Neurodiverse Employee
Employers need to be understanding and provide specific and concise instructions to a neurodiverse employee. Expectations should be clarified at the start, and regular training and monitoring should be provided. The company culture needs to provide a well structured work environment. Managers need to provide reassurance particularly in stressful situations and should review performance regularly. Feedback should be direct, but sensitive. Neurodiverse employees can offer skills that other employees can’t and it is important that employers and colleagues are support of their neurodiverse colleagues.
If you need HR support please get in touch. Whether you need help managing a neurodiverse employee or advice in another area, I’m here to help, whether you are in Kent, London or the wider UK.