Top tips for raising neurodiversity awareness at work
The term “neurodiversity” was first coined by the Australian sociologist Judy Singer in 1998. In the same year, Harvey Blume’s article in The Atlantic brought neurodiversity in popular geek culture to the fore. In one year, a social movement and sense of identity was born.
In his article, Blume stated:
“Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.”
And we couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Since the late 1990s, the neurodiversity movement has gained steady momentum.
Neurodiversity isn’t about defining deficits, difficulties, or disorders. It’s quite the opposite. Neurodiversity is about embracing our neurological differences and ensuring everyone feels included.
Neurodiversity is deep-rooted in the social model of disability, which states that people are not disabled by their visible or invisible differences but by the barriers created by society. At work specifically, breaking down those barriers is essential to enable everyone to thrive and drive success in every organisation.
Let’s look at the benefits of raising neurodiversity awareness at work and tips to help your organisation overcome some of the hurdles.
Benefits of a neurodiverse workforce
Diversity is everywhere. Over half of the UK population uses an iPhone but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice. For example, other branded smartphones have functions that an iPhone lacks or carries out differently. What we mean is, not all smartphones are the same. They don’t all work or function in the same way.
It’s the same for us. We are all human, but the way we individually think, work and learn differs. It’s what makes us unique, bringing a wider breadth of skills to the working environment.
Neuro-inclusive organisations are reaping the benefits of attracting a wide range of talented employees with diverse perspectives. Some of the most widely recognised organisations in the world have already implemented neurodiversity-at-work schemes.
One of the pioneering organisations, JPMorgan, the American multinational investment bank, has publicly reported that “After three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up” (CIPD, 2018).
JPMorgan Chase also claims that employees in its Autism at Work scheme are 90% to 140% more productive than its neurotypical employees. But that’s not all. Promoting neurodiversity in the workplace also has profound benefits for:
- Accuracy and precision: Neurodiversity often brings with it great diligence and hyperfocus.
- Processing information: Research shows that people with autism have a greater than average capacity for processing information and have a better capability for detecting ‘critical’ information.
- High retention rates: In the US, the largest autism hiring programs, SAP, JPMorgan, Chase, Microsoft and EY, all have higher than average retention rates in their industries (all over 90%).
Top tips for raising neurodiversity awareness
The differences between human brains are wide-ranging but they are differences that should be celebrated. Just like we wouldn’t want to change our genetic makeup, we wouldn’t want to change our cognitive individuality, because it helps define us as individuals.
Here are some top tips to help raise neurodiversity awareness in your organisation.
Break the stigma
When it comes to neurodiversity, it isn’t what we can’t do that matters but what we can do that should take precedence. You can help to break down the barriers by talking about neurodiversity at work to help it become part of everyday conversations.
Normalising the conversation, in just the same way that many now feel more empowered to talk about their mental health, is a proactive way to raise awareness about neurodiversity in your workplace. Talking is contagious and not only helps to improve our understanding but also creates an inclusive environment where everyone feels confident and safe to disclose a difference or diagnosis.
Delivering neurodiversity training to all employees regardless of their seniority or role is vital to enable everyone to understand their own needs as well as those of their colleagues. Your organisation can empower its employees, educate them at work and help to collectively build a more accepting and neuro-inclusive culture.
Suitable and relevant training can help everyone feel more comfortable talking about neurodiversity and individual invisible differences and needs. It will also foster good relationships amongst teams, build empathy, and allow employees to plan an appropriate and sensitive response to someone who may disclose a neurodiverse diagnosis.
Managers need to receive neurodiversity training too, so they can develop a core understanding of what neurodiversity is and how they can correctly support their employees.
Although we encourage everyone to actively engage in conversations about neurodiversity, it’s important to remember that words matter. Language is dynamic, so what may have been acceptable in the past may not be now.
It’s okay to make mistakes if you learn from them. If you are unsure of what may or may not be appropriate to say to someone, ask them their preference or what they feel most comfortable with.
Don’t preach – act
Here at Cognassist, we are committed to driving greater public understanding of our differences and giving every individual an equal opportunity to succeed. And we can help your business do the same with our Cognitive Diversity Solution, consisting of a cognitive assessment, report and dedicated training.
Our neuro-inclusion platform is used by organisations to ensure they have a cognitively diverse workforce and to demonstrate they are proactively strengthening their equality, diversity, and inclusion strategy.
So, what does it do?
Our cognitive assessment and personalised report are designed to give everyone a unique insight into how their brain processes information, clearly demonstrating how we each think, learn and collaborate at work and beyond.
But it doesn’t end there. Once you and your employees or colleagues have learned what cognitively makes you tick, our platform provides useful training resources and skills modules to ensure the entire workforce understands the importance of neurodiversity, cognitive diversity and the factors that underpin them.
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.