Neurodiversity in Business Conference:
Organisations identify their key gaps to supporting neurodiversity at work
When it comes to driving neuro-inclusion, every organisation has different challenges.
We cannot overcome workplace equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) challenges if we don’t consider how deep they go and be honest about their impact.
We wanted to investigate the main challenges surrounding neurodiversity awareness, training and support across organisations.
Cue the Neurodiversity in Business (NiB) Annual Conference, one of the newest and largest face-to-face events during this year’s Neurodiversity Celebration Week calendar.
With 400 delegates, from neurodiverse individuals to corporate members of NiB, it was the perfect place to gather first-hand data.
Our CEO, Chris Quickfall, led a session on enabling diversity of thought as a competitive advantage, with over 70 participants in the interactive survey.
Here’s an overview of the key results:
- 62% of respondents said their organisation provides no neurodiversity training for managers.
Only 3% said they always provide neurodiversity manager training.
- 61% said their organisation only provided reactive support for neurodiverse employees.
- 64% said there was no neurodiversity training for colleagues.
- 47% said their organisation did not provide neuro-inclusive HR frameworks.
Another 33% said only informal frameworks were in place.
- 49% of organisations partially communicated neuro-inclusion.
25% have no neuro-inclusive communications.
A quick look at these results shows that many organisations still struggle to address and support neurodiversity within their ED&I goals.
So let’s take a closer look.
These statistics represent a larger story, and it’s one with real-world, harmful impacts on attracting and retaining diverse talent.
#1 Fear of discrimination prevents people from disclosing their neurodiversity
Research conducted by The Centre for Neurodiversity, also presented at the NiB Annual Conference, found that 65% of neurodiverse employees fear discrimination despite UK businesses promoting neurodiverse workplaces.
The reported barriers were fear of discrimination from management (65%), from their colleagues (55%) and a lack of knowledgeable staff to help (40%).
Unfortunately, discrimination often comes from a lack of understanding:
“Much litigation of this nature is arguably avoidable if an organisation’s managers and employees have had a good mutual understanding and dialogue about neurodivergent conditions and how they may affect workplace participation and practices.” (K. Baxter & T. Heys, 2019)
Given that most respondents to our survey said there is no training available to managers (62%) or colleagues (64%), it is no wonder that this leads to increased anxiety about discrimination and disclosing neurodiversity at work.
Neurodiversity training shouldn’t just be available to managers but whole teams so that neurodiverse individuals don’t feel the need to hide who they are from their colleagues and peers.
#2 Ad hoc training and support don’t build a sustainable culture of inclusion
Reactive support inevitably creates a lack of consistency and the potential for neurodiverse employees to reach a crisis point, which could result in losing valuable talent.
Relying only on one-off events and consultancy can leave gaps and doesn’t always create more sustainable cultural change. Neurodiversity Celebration Week is hugely influential in raising awareness, but it is not the only time to promote neurodiversity internally and externally.
With so few people saying their organisations have always-on support (6%) and structured communication around neuro-inclusion (22%), it’s clear that companies need to consider doing more.
We recommend building internal expertise through voluntary Neurodiversity Champions, who receive ongoing training and upskilling to act as internal change makers. They can help ensure employees know what support is available and that people have someone to talk to aside from their direct manager if needed. We encourage these positions to be filled by neurodiverse employees where possible to welcome and acknowledge the value of their lived experience.
But it’s also vital to ensure you’re effectively communicating neuro-inclusion throughout the whole employee lifecycle, including recruitment.
#3 A lack of flexibility and tailored reasonable adjustments can increase attrition and legal disputes
50% of employees are far less likely to leave with tailored adjustments, and career satisfaction is the decisive factor for predicting whether someone has seriously considered leaving (The Centre for Neurodiversity, 2023).
Reasonable adjustments play a pivotal role in equitable workplaces. These adjustments fall into three categories:
- provision, criterion or practice
- physical features
- auxiliary aids
The Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid putting a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled.
Not every neurodiverse employee will consider themselves disabled, but they are still protected under the Equality Act 2010.
What’s important to think about is that these adjustments should not sit outside existing policies and HR frameworks.
For example, it is common for psychologists to recommend a relaxation on triggers for disciplinary actions on Sickness Absence and Performance Management policies and procedures. Employers also need to handle potential misconduct sensitively, where a person’s differences could impact their behaviour.
Our survey shows that most people (47%) do not have these flexible frameworks, which can escalate issues.
“A common theme in such cases seems to be misunderstanding leading to deterioration of the employer-employee relationship and, in turn, outright conflict.” (K. Baxter & T. Heys, 2019)
HR and ED&I teams should be adequately trained and supported to adapt their frameworks by accessing established neuro-inclusive frameworks and networks similar to Cognassist’s HR Peer Community to share best practices.
Another area to consider is auditing and adapting your work environment to be more inclusive and potentially looking at hybrid or remote-working options for neurodiverse staff.
Alongside physical adaptations, you may need to look at assistive technology, whether assistive software, like speech-to-text or time management software, or a device or physical aid, like noise-cancelling headphones or a reading pen.
There are many free and low-cost options available. There is also Access to Work to help pay for more substantial practical support like job coaching and mental health support. However, Access to Work will not pay for reasonable adjustments, which is the employer’s legal duty, but can advise on what changes should be made as reasonable adjustments or through Access to Work.
“You are only required to make adjustments that are reasonable in all the circumstances. Factors such as the cost and practicability of making an adjustment and the resources available to you may be taken into account in deciding what is reasonable.” (Duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for their staff, 2016)
Organisations are still required to find workable solutions that are reasonable to the circumstances.
Often, these adaptations don’t just benefit neurodiverse staff but everyone. We are all different, and our needs change over time.
And organisations need to lead on change management. To develop alongside their people, maintain engagement and earn their loyalty.
Neurodiversity is fast becoming one of the most critical topics for the future of work.
Every year, we see more and more organisations thinking about the skills and advantages neurodiverse talent can bring.
The world of work is changing for the better. Are you?
Cognassist has more resources and advice to help you build this change. If these survey findings feel familiar to you and your organisation, we recommend reading our “How to support neurodiverse employees” handbook using the link below.
You can also get in touch with our team to learn more about our platform and training.
Here’s to creating workplaces that don’t just preach diversity but act to embrace it.
Download the handbook
Discover more to support neurodiversity through awareness, guidance and insights.
Science Communications Manager