Equality and diversity are key priorities for businesses in recent years and rightly so. But something which often doesn’t receive as much spotlight as other diversity issues is neurodiversity. Read on to learn more about the importance of neurodiversity and how a neurodiverse workforce could benefit your business.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the different ways in which our brains work and interpret information. Understanding neurodiversity is a crucial but often overlooked contributor to supporting overall diversity in the workplace. It is also essential to utilising the unique skills and attributes of employees with neurodivergence, whilst supporting their overarching mental wellbeing. The key to understanding neurodiversity is to acknowledge that differences in the brain are normal – not deficits!
Neurodivergence: The Hidden Diversity
Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace involves recognising that employees may be neurotypical or neurodivergent.
· Neurotypical – Employee’s brain function operates in line with societal norms
· Neurodivergent – Employee’s brain function operates differently to societal norms
The important word here is ‘differently’ – that is what diversity is all about and as with all things in life, different is not synonymous with negativity.
Examples of neurodivergent conditions include Autism, Attention Deficit Disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Tourette’s Syndrome. Given the nature of neurodivergent conditions, they are often referred to as the hidden diversity because they cannot be seen.
Though each of these conditions is different from the next, something they all have in common is that they all effect thinking skills. Understanding and embracing neurodiversity means recognising and respecting these brain differences – as well as acknowledging their potential benefits rather than drawbacks in the workplace.
Does Your Business Nurture Neurodiverse Talent?
Research has shown that a large percentage of adults with brain differences are being overlooked in world of work. A study published in 2017 found that just 16% of autistic adults in the UK were in full-time employment, despite 77% being qualified for and actively seeking work.
It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent (that’s 15% of us) and so neglecting to nurture neurodiverse employees drastically reduces your potential talent pool – a great shame, considering the apparent shortage of suitable candidates which often presents during recruitment.
How Can Neurodiversity Benefit Business?
A neurodiverse workplace is not just beneficial for the neurodivergent population but is also potentially good for business. Ingraining neurodiversity in the heart of your business goes beyond benefiting the individual and can even improve your organisations performance. Here’s how…
· Strengthen Your Equality & Diversity Ethos
Continue to ensure that you are a proactively inclusive employer and educate your workforce about matters of diversity that are less well known than others. Embed neurodiversity in your recruitment process in all stages from advert to recruitment.
· Educate Neurotypical Employees to Support Neurodivergent Co-workers
Around 15% of the UK population is estimated to be neurodivergent, but general understanding of specific conditions remains poor. By starting a positive conversation about neurodiversity you can help to reduce the stigma surrounding neurodivergent conditions and promote awareness.
· Improve Health & Wellbeing Across Your Organisation
Recognising people’s strengths and weaknesses can help you to tailor the business to accommodate the needs of neurodivergent employees. This will make your business a welcoming and safe space, for example providing noise-cancelling headphones or quiet rooms for those who react badly to busy, noisy environments. Being a flexible and responsive employer will be recognised throughout the workforce as a positive approach that can be highly motivating.
· Utilise Neurodivergent Strengths & Advantages
Gain unique ideas and perspectives and utilise the advantages of a different brain such as improved enhanced creativity, greater capacity for innovation, superior statistical analysis and lateral thinking. Encouraging the personal and professional growth of neurodivergent individuals can be incredibly rewarding from a leadership point of view.
· Increase Business Performance
With lower levels of full-time employment in neurodivergent populations compared with neurotypical individuals, you can utilise an untapped talent pool to fill any skills gaps within your business. Employing neurodiverse employees is not just great for workplace culture but could also drive progress with key performance indicators.
Becoming a Neurodiverse Organisation
At BeMeta our mission is to make mental health a positive conversation, a motto which we think can also be applied to identifying and embracing neurodiversity in the workplace.
Making your business an environment where a neurodiverse workforce can thrive will require everyone to think differently, but by ensuring employees with differing needs and abilities are catered for you can benefit from a whole spectrum of employee strengths that tackle talent shortages head-on.
Becoming a neurodiverse employer starts with education and knowledge, which many organisations and charities have created specific training programmes to help with. It ends with an inclusive, welcoming, knowledgeable and excelling workforce that’s happy, healthy and working in synergy to meet your overarching business goals.