Approximately one in seven people are neurodivergent, so not only is a neurodiversity strategy essential for a truly inclusive workplace but it is a huge opportunity to gain competitive advantage. In addition, neurodivergent people have some of the lowest employment rates so there is a huge opportunity to tap into this talent pool. For example, only 22% of autistic adults in the UK are in employment despite a much higher percentage wanting to be in work.
Getting started with neurodiversity in the workplace, however, can feel really overwhelming. It’s a complex topic. It encompasses many neurological differences and every neurodivergent person is different. It's certainly a marathon not a sprint, and it's important to recognise that embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is not a one off exercise. It takes a shift in your ways of working and requires a change in mindset of everyone in your organisation.
However, there are some simple steps you can follow to kick start your journey. Here are our 6 top tips to begin your neurodiversity in the workplace strategy.
1. Assess your current neurodiversity maturity level
Look at what exists right now in your organisation, if anything. Benchmarking where you are at before you start will allow you to prioritise efforts and measure progress. Do you know how many neurodivergent people are currently in the organisation, and in senior leadership positions? Are there any advocacy efforts currently in place?
2. Review and adjust your hiring processes
Are your current hiring processes accessible for neurodivergent people? Or more importantly, are they enabling neurodivergent people to showcase themselves at their best? Have you gathered feedback on your processes from neurodivergent people? Some changes could be as simple as making the job description accessible, avoiding application forms, relinquishing superficial norms such as strong handshakes and eye contact being necessary for success.
3. Target awareness for all staff
For all neurodivergent people to feel truly safe at work, and to enable them to perform at their best, every single member of staff in an organisation should have a basic understanding of neurodiversity. Could you add an awareness video to your onboarding process? Or run some lunch and learn sessions to ensure everyone has the same level of understanding?
4. Provide specific training for line managers
A supportive line manager is crucial for a neurodivergent person to thrive at work. Helping line managers to get the best out of their neurodivergent team members will also benefit all team members. Line management training sessions are a great place to start for maximum impact in a short period of time.
5. Be ready and willing to accommodate
Once you understand what accommodations neurodivergent people need, be ready and willing to make these changes. Driving awareness will only get an organisation so far in embracing neurodiversity, making changes to the workplace environment, processes and ways of working are the means to really accelerate the beneficial impact on neurodivergent people.
6. Find and listen to neurodivergent people
Most importantly, it is vital that you listen to neurodivergent people. Find them either in or outside your organisation and listen to their voices. Their experiences, stories and ideas are what can truly transform an organisation and help it become a truly safe place for neurodivergent people to find work, stay in work and to thrive at work.