Supporting neurodiverse trainees and employees in the workplace

Supporting neurodiverse trainees and employees in the workplace

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Louise Karwowski shares in-depth knowledge on how employers and training organisations can create a supportive work environment for neurodiverse individuals.

26th Apr 2022
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In recent years, increasing neurodiversity in the workplace has been a priority on many organisations’ agendas, and for good reason.

Increased neurodiversity in the workplace can provide a wealth of benefits for organisations. With the rates of diagnosis rising, there’s a huge pool of talent employers could be missing out on. 

Why is neurodiverse inclusivity important in organisations?

There is a lot to be gained for organisations that encourage neurodiverse inclusivity. Of course, there is a moral obligation to hire diverse candidates and to foster a working environment where all employees and staff feel that they can fulfil their potential and grow in their careers. 

However, there are also more material benefits to organisations that prioritise diversity in their spaces.

First of all, neurodiverse individuals have unique perspectives which can be especially advantageous when problem-solving. For example, individuals with dyslexia can be better at ‘out of the box’ thinking, have strong spatial reasoning, and brilliant narrative skills, while those of us with ADHD might display impressive focus on tasks and thrive in creative roles.

Neurodiverse individuals have unique perspectives which can be especially advantageous when problem-solving.

These various advantages are hugely beneficial in a number of industries such as engineering or design, sales, education, media, and writing.

When it comes to finding innovative and unique solutions, building teams of people from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and cognitive abilities has repeatedly been known to be the key.

After all, our ideas are informed by our experiences. In fact, research by PwC found that according to the 78% of CEOs surveyed, D&I boosted their ability to innovate.

This was attributed to increased opportunities for change and progress brought about by cognitively diverse teams, and their ability to be more open-minded and embrace various perspectives.

As well as facilitating innovation, fostering neurodiverse inclusivity in your organisation is beneficial in that it can help with employee and staff retention, as well as providing more tangible rewards.

78% of CEOs surveyed revealed that D&I boosted their ability to innovate.

For example, McKinsey shared that companies in the top 25% for D&I, experienced an average profitability increase of 36%, a result achieved by the further unified environment from increased inclusivity.

In our quest to build more diverse workplaces, it’s important to remember that neurodiversity can manifest differently depending on the individual, because each of our brains are unique. In fact, whether neurodiverse or neurotypical, we’re all cognitively unique.

Practical ways organisations can support neurodiverse individuals

Cognitive Assessments

Technology is one of the most important ways in which we can support neurodiverse staff and employees in the workplace. One particularly helpful tool is cognitive assessment, which helps to map brain profiles and identify learning strengths and challenges.

By using these assessments for all employees from the beginning of the onboarding process, organisations can empower their people with a stronger understanding of how they best think and learn.

This information can also be used by managers to delegate more suitably and organise optimal teams so that skill strengths and weaknesses are well balanced.

Something to be aware of is that not every individual with a learning difference is aware of their learning need or has received a diagnosis; this emphasises the need for assessments to be taken on a company-wide level and can help to reduce alienation felt by neurodiverse employees.

Implementing Reasonable Adjustments

To further support neurodiverse individuals in the workplace, appropriate reasonable adjustments can be made. These adjustments are often low-cost to implement and can actually benefit all employees.

For example, in the case of dyslexia, making a conscious effort to use concise and unambiguous language in internal communications such as emails and presentations, can be extremely helpful – lengthy and unnecessary written information can overload employees.

Thinking holistically, this should also be considered when it comes to the job application (i.e., job descriptions), onboarding and training processes, which typically feature large volumes of written information.

Adjustments aimed at supporting neurodiverse employees are often low-cost to implement and can actually benefit everyone.

Additionally, in cases of dyspraxia, reasonable adjustments can range from being as simple as providing employees with a desk tray or time management, planning, and organisational aid tools.

For those with hypersensitivity to the environment (e.g., sound and light), using low intensity or dimmable lights in the office or providing noise cancelling headphones may be helpful, while repeating or rephrasing information to provide context would be beneficial to employees that struggle with verbal information processing.

Another simple way managers can help all employees is by sharing slides and other written content in advance of meetings or presentations, especially if there is a substantial amount of information involved. This gives colleagues the necessary time for processing new information to be able to provide a considered response in the meeting.

Something to remember…

Neurodiverse people are unique, even within their forms of neurodiversity. No two are the same, so a one-size-fits-all approach to reasonable adjustments won’t be effective; some may prefer structured schedules while others may struggle with routine.

It is important to integrate discussions around what each employee finds useful into their reviews and regular conversations. Encouraging conversations on what does and doesn’t work can help to demystify and normalise neurodiversity in the workplace.

In your efforts to provide support, be vigilant and avoid micromanaging or using condescending language – neurodiverse employees are more than capable employees, they may just need some extra support navigating a world that hasn’t fully adapted to them.

As employers, managers, and training providers, we can do our part to create an environment that gives everyone an equal shot at success.

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