Why do workplaces need to embrace Neurodiversity?
Why do workplaces need to embrace Neurodiversity?
The pressure to recruit and retain a diverse workforce in organizations is on the rise. Whether it’s another hyped trend or has a firm base, time will tell. Yet, the initiatives big businesses like Microsoft took up toward diversity and inclusion are worth noting. But why are companies opting for such measures? Here’s what we found out!
Neurodiversity in the workplace - examples and challenges
Many big players in the market are reforming their HR practices to encourage the recruitment of Neurodivergent people. And bring in their exclusive talent to their companies. Among these, SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Willis Towers Watson, and EY are a few names that are actively engaging in forming a diverse workforce and leveraging their skills. But why is there such a rush?
Every employee brings a unique perspective, or their USP, to a company. Their opinions, values, and abilities shape the businesses’ views on problems and projects. Also, the present market stage forces companies to constantly look for dynamic solutions that can generate good profits. The only way to make it possible is by looking at situations with a newer perspective, framing innovative solutions, and adapting to the changing market landscape. This is why the demand for embracing Neurodiversity in the workplace is at an all-time high. However, the trend and reports give confusing details–
First, the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce, has definitely increased, except it left neurodivergent people out of the conversation.
Second, despite the abilities and potential of Autistic people, the group sees the highest unemployment rates of all disabilities. It is estimated that around 50-75% of autistic people in the US alone are unemployed or underemployed.
Third, few companies are not ready to take measures to offer neurodivergent employees proper apparatus and opportunity for growth and ignore their excellent performances. Also, the neurotypical employees are not well acquainted with the idea of acceptance and may unknowingly harm their neurodivergent colleagues’ feelings with ableist words, jokes, and metaphors.
"It’s not enough for companies to say they welcome neurodiversity or people with disabilities. There needs to be more onus on business leaders to be transparent on how their hiring process—from application to interviews—in terms of how they create accessible facilities, and how they support and empower their employees every day."
These are a few common challenges that limit the workplaces from becoming neurodiverse. In addition, very few organizations understand the coherent meaning behind the term Neurodiversity, which is a common reason for discussions about holistic Inclusivity and acceptance in workplaces excluding neurodiverse people.
For organizations to capture the full potential of their neurodivergent employees, they need to look at their approach to DEI with a broader lens.
The scope of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy must include neurodiversity
Most debates about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion usually start with race, gender, color, sexual orientation, age, and visible disability. But it often only narrowly addresses the topic of Neurodiversity.
For example, due to a lack of awareness, managers and colleagues may not be able to comprehend the unique requirements of neurodivergent employees. Lack of acceptance and genuine Inclusivity can further stigmatize an already marginalized group. Therefore, it’s time workplaces get into action and incorporate neurodiversity into the DEI strategy if Inclusivity is going to be one of their core values. This is because Inclusivity benefits all employees and can give businesses a competitive edge over their competitors.
Advantages of hiring a neurodivergent workforce
“Great minds think alike” – ever heard of it? But, what if great minds ‘do not think alike’ – will that generalization be wrong?
No! The human world always has generalized ideas and perceptions, ignoring the fact that nature made no two people alike. Our physical and mental traits differ greatly; ignoring these would mean neglecting the potential of humankind.
We all have varied experiences and look at the world through our lenses. The same goes for neurodivergent people. So, when you bring a neurodiverse perspective to your company, you’re already touching heights to a great extent. These are a few benefits your company can expect with a neurodivergent workforce–
Workplaces that embrace Neurodiversity are better at solving problems
In an open letter in 2021, Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, stated explicitly that it’s time the business world incorporates a neurodiverse workforce to solve the big problems of our times. His statement signaled the problem-solving capabilities of a neurodivergent employee and why workplaces needed to embrace Neurodiversity.
Plus, substantial scientific evidence proves that people on the autistic spectrum majoritarily score higher on ‘The Embedded Figures Test. The scores are higher than average and significantly better than neurotypical counterparts, which suggests that autistic people are more attentive to details. This trait can be very valuable to companies.
"The world needs a neurodiverse workforce to help try and solve some of the big problems of our time. Many people on the autism spectrum excel in areas such as logic, technology skills, problem-solving, pattern recognition, precision, sustained concentration, analysis and other unique cognitive functions. Yet people on the autism spectrum are often overlooked for jobs that they might be brilliant at. It’s a staggering statistic that 85% of autistic adults are unemployed or under-employed."
Employee loyalty and stability are enhanced in workplaces that embrace Neurodiversity
A new issue has emerged in the last few years, commonly known as the ‘Great Resignation:' the Covid-19 pandemic has further heightened the crisis, with 38 million people resigning from their job in 2021 alone. Stability is crucial for employers; however, the trends are against their expectations.
Nevertheless, if we compare, an autistic employee is less likely to shift jobs within short periods. So, less headache for HR managers and employers looking for stability in their potential employee’s resumes. Moreover, the training industry states that employers who have welcomed a neurodiverse workforce in their companies grow at a much better pace with equally good employee retention rates.
A key point to remember is that loyalty and stability do not happen in isolation from a company's culture. It comes from a sense of authentic "belonging," which is key for neurodivergent employees."
“Neurodiversity is an opportunity for businesses to benefit from the unique talent of neurodivergent employees, as well as the broader benefits of inclusion, such as increased creativity, employee retention, and brand health, and incorporating neurodiverse talent can bring competitive advantages.”
Embracing Neurodiversity can boosts a company's culture
Microsoft's 2022 Work Trend Index rated a positive company culture as an essential aspect among employees looking for a job. Therefore, when you hire and include a neurodiverse workforce, your business is more likely to stand out in positive work environment aspects. But this often depends on the company increasing awareness of neurodiversity in order to create a more inclusive and understanding environment.
One way of doing this would be to create a specific neurodiversity policy to reaffirm a commitment to meeting employees' needs, which could be read in support of any existing equal opportunities policy.
However, there’s one misconception about autistic people being anti-social, which is far from the truth. To debunk this myth, you can refer to a study conducted by the Autistic Centre of Excellence (Australia) which clearly shows autistic kids consider social interaction as one of their favorite activities and can easily make friends.
The way forward towards authentic Inclusivity for neurodivergent employees
The above-mentioned points show that a company gains better outcomes with a neurodiverse approach, which, if for nothing else, is a compelling reason why workplaces need to embrace Neurodiversity.
But it is important to remember that a company has to do more than just hire a neurodivergent employee. They need to create and give their neurodivergent employees an accessible, supportive, and comfortable work environment where they feel accepted and prosper in their careers.
One way to do this is by celebrating the diversity of all employees– playing activities or games, spreading awareness, building a better communicative environment, etc. That means your employees can don a neurodivergent t-shirt, display autistic merchandise on their desks, or you can give your employees custom disability awareness merchandise and so on. It gives a holistic environment to everyone.
Acceptance and Inclusivity can upscale your business in today’s dynamic times. So, Embrace diversity and be inclusive!
Brendan McDonald is a Twitter geek and humanitarian who’s lived and worked in Kosovo, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Libya, Jordan and Iraq. He has peripheral neuropathy and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), amongst other conditions.