Neurodiversity is a term used to describe variations in the way the human brain processes events and information. People with neurological and developmental disorders such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia are known as being neurodivergent, which means their brain function and behavioural traits are different from what is considered typical.
The concept of neurodiversity takes the stance that the differences between our brains are normal. It reminds us that while neurodivergent people experience and interact with the world in unique ways, this is not a negative thing. It reduces stigma around neurological and developmental disorders and highlights the value of diversity.
It’s important for everyone to be more understanding of neurodiversity, but it’s particularly important for employers to understand it and appreciate why a neurodiverse workforce is a positive thing for their business. Here are three reasons why.
1. Neurodivergent people have unique strengths
Neurodivergent people often face challenges due to the unique ways their brains process information, but they also have great strengths. For example, people with ADHD tend to be very talkative which makes them great conversationalists with high levels of social intelligence and empathy.
In the workplace, someone with ADHD may need additional support in organising their workload and meeting deadlines, but their natural ability to connect with people and socialise is incredibly valuable, particularly in customer-facing roles. Instead of overlooking neurodivergent candidates due to perceived challenges, employers ought to focus on discovering their unique strengths which could bring immense value to the workforce.
2. Neurodivergent people need extra support to thrive in the workplace
Neurological and developmental disorders are often covered by disability rights legislation, so it’s important for employers to consider neurodiversity to ensure they’re not discriminating against neurodivergent candidates or employees. Here in Canada, the Employment Equity Act outlines the need to provide equal treatment to people with physical, mental and learning disabilities. It also states that special measures and accommodations must be put in place to support people with disabilities in the workplace.
These special measures could also include changing the way you communicate with your staff. There are lots of different ways we can communicate within the workplace, and some methods will be easier for neurodiverse employees to engage with than others. Often, it can be useful to reinforce any verbal communication with diagrams or written descriptions, which will typically help these employees to better understand your instructions.
When employers improve their understanding of neurodiversity, they can make sure they’re putting adequate special measures in place to help neurodivergent people overcome challenges that would otherwise act as barriers to entry into the workforce.
3. Neurodiversity can give businesses a competitive advantage
Due to the unique strengths and skills that neurodivergent employees can bring, businesses can give themselves a competitive advantage when they put measures in place to promote neurodiversity in their workforce.
SAP, a multinational software business, has an Autism at Work program which is designed to support the needs of autistic employees. By increasing neurodiversity in their workforce, the organisation has access to the unique perspectives and talents of neurodivergent team members.
Plus, they have a 90% employee retention rate amongst those on the autism spectrum. Cutting down on staff turnover while boosting innovation gives the business a highly competitive edge, and it all started with catering to the needs and strengths of neurodivergent people.
When employees understand neurodiversity and work on creating a more neurodiverse workforce, they create benefits not only for their employees but also for their organisation as a whole.
Jennifer Swage is a business advisor with nine years’ experience helping businesses embrace flexible or remote working. She has worked in a number of industries, including technology, legal, and finance. Jennifer is passionate about helping businesses grow and believes that embracing flexible or remote working can be the key to unlocking their potential. 6xdegree | Creative Media Strategy & Communications (thesixthdegree.media)