4 crucial steps to support and manage neurodiverse employees
The future of the workplace is diverse.
Without diversity, the workplace is a static environment embodied by a collective of similar personalities, viewpoints and skillsets. A neuro-inclusive workforce, on the other hand, embraces difference and welcomes diverse perspectives but is also willing to support anyone who may have or is seeking a neurodiverse diagnosis.
Neurodiversity explains the concept that everyone experiences and interacts with the world around them in different ways. It’s often synonymously used with diagnoses including autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, to name a few.
Despite their skills, a large proportion of neurodiverse individuals are unemployed. According to the latest figures, just 22 percent of adults with autism are in any type of employment. One reason that could explain this is:
“A lack of awareness and understanding has led to hiring processes, management practices and workspaces being designed only with neurotypicals in mind.” (CIPD, 2018)
However, this viewpoint is changing, and neurodiversity is creeping up the organisational agenda. To be truly inclusive, employers simply cannot afford to exclude neurodiversity from their equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) policies. To do so could not only have legal implications but also means businesses are missing out on hiring talented individuals, limiting their productivity and restricting their creative output.
Understanding the benefits neurodiverse individuals can offer to the workforce is one thing, but how can you support and manage neurodiverse employees at work to ensure they thrive and reach their untapped potential?
#1 Awareness, training & culture-building
Like Rome, building a fully neuro-inclusive culture won’t be completed in a day but ensuring neurodiversity awareness training is available throughout your organisation is important. Awareness training can inform employees about neurodiversity; what it is, how it can present and management strategies.
Promoting suitable and effective awareness training will help to build a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable discussing invisible differences. Manager training is also key to ensuring managers understand what’s required of them to fully support and manage their neurodiverse employees, identifying strategies to help team members disclose a diagnosis and to assist with identified development areas.
#2 Implementation of organisation-wide neuro-inclusive practices
Many factors that make up a typical working environment can be barriers to some individuals, including neurodiverse employees. Implementing neuro-inclusive practices across the organisation is beneficial for everyone, not just someone with a diagnosis.
Those practices should start from the very beginning of the employee lifecycle, so ensuring job adverts and interviews can accommodate everyone to reflect their strengths and skills. Other neuro-inclusive practices can include flexible working, implementing project management tools and promoting a culture where asking for help is the norm.
#3 Implementation of reasonable adjustments & support
There is an untapped talent pool full of people who can bring many benefits to a workforce and plug the ever-growing skills gap. For example, 40% of UK jobseekers are dyslexic, equating to over 1 million people who are often good manual workers, have excellent problem-solving skills and are innovative (Beetham & Okhai, 2017).
Embracing and maximising the talents of individuals who think differently is key to breaking down the barriers that may prevent them from entering the workplace. An easy way to do this is to provide reasonable adjustments or workplace flexibilities. These are flexibilities an organisation should put in place to ensure that no one is at a disadvantage because of disability or difference. Workplace adjustments should be discussed on an individual basis to ensure they meet the employee’s needs, but some examples include:
- Offering flexible working practices
- Providing headphones or earplugs if a work area is too noisy
- Providing specific software to help an individual complete their job such as speech-to-text, spellcheckers, mind mapping tools and project management tools
- Keeping company-wide communication consistent
#4 Identification of individual needs using cognitive assessments
The first step in supporting and managing neurodiverse employees is recognising that we all think, learn and work in different ways. It’s this uniqueness that sets us apart from each other but also helps to build flourishing and cognitively complementary teams.
A great way to proactively manage and support all employees, including anyone with a neurodiverse diagnosis, is to offer them a unique insight into their cognition using a cognitive assessment. Enabling every employee to understand their cognitive profile and identify their strengths and development areas, is a powerful growth tool.
At Cognassist, our cognitive assessment and report are designed to be used by all employees to help them gain a greater understanding of themselves. We also provide company-wide neurodiversity training tools to help you build a neuro-inclusive workplace culture and provide a starting point for discussions around neurodiversity in the workplace.
If an employee chooses to disclose their report with their manager, this can be used to help explore workplace flexibility options to ensure they are getting the support they need to complete their job to the best of their ability. It also provides managers with valuable insights to help them build teams with diverse viewpoints and thought processes to drive innovation and productivity.
Remember, the future of the workforce is diverse, so get ready to join the cognitive revolution!
Take our free Neurodiversity in the Workplace Masterclass
To discover more about neurodiversity and breaking down barriers in the workplace, sign up to our free, on-demand masterclass to help you increase neuro-inclusivity in your workplace.