Neuro-inclusive workplaces by Lexxic
Neurodiversity refers to different ways our brains are wired and process information. It is used to describe alternative thinking styles such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Autism, and ADHD. Approximately 15-20% of the population has a neurological difference. The neurodiversity movement proposes that neurological differences should be recognised and respected in the same way as other human variations. Instead of labelling people with ‘deficits’ or ‘disorders’, it takes a balanced view of an individual’s unique strengths and challenges.
The value of neurodiversity and neuro-inclusion to your organisation
A neuro-inclusive organisation values neurodiversity, creates a sense of belonging for all employees and removes barriers which prevent equal outcomes. To be neuro-inclusive means acknowledging, proactively supporting and empowering neurodiversity at every point of the employee life cycle and customer journey.
There is a strong business case for neuro-inclusion. In a world where the competition for talent is fierce, creating a culture where all employees are understood, valued for their talents and treated equitably can increase talent acquisition, engagement, retention, and loyalty.
According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that embrace neurodiversity can also gain a competitive advantage. This is because neurodivergent individuals often possess strengths which are critical to our future economy. These can include:
- Creativity, innovation and big-picture thinking
- Entrepreneurialism and leadership skills
- Energy and hyperfocus
- Attention to detail, logic, problem-solving
- New perspectives, honesty, and integrity
Neuro-inclusive organisations, which empower individuals to maximise these strengths and remove barriers to their success, can increase productivity, revenue, and reputation. Leading organisations such as EY, Microsoft, GCHQ, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase are recognising these benefits. For example:
“Compared to peers, the Autism at Work employees were 48% faster and as much as 92% more productive.”JPMorgan Chase
“Neurodiversity is key to keeping Britain safe. At GCHQ, some of our most talented and creative people have a neurodiverse profile.”GCHQ
SAP’s neurodiversity programme has resulted in “productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities, and broad increases in employee engagement.”SAP
Employers should also be aware that whilst neurodivergent individuals may not choose to identify as disabled, many will meet the disability definition under the Equality Act (2010).
Neuro-inclusive: What about reasonable adjustments?
Employers are therefore required to provide reasonable adjustments to support them at work. Adjustments are changes to the working environment or working arrangements that enable an individual to do their job as well as possible. They are typically inexpensive and easy to implement, and can frequently be incorporated into wider working practices (e.g. flexible hours, working from home).
Adjustments are important, but it is leadership, culture and systemic change that will enable your organisation to become truly neuro-inclusive. So what does this mean in practice? We work with organisations to take action across the eight areas set out in our Neurodiversity Smart model:
Here are some of our top tips for increasing neuro-inclusion across each of these areas:
Leadership and Culture:
- Senior leaders should be committed to, and accountable for, neuro-inclusivity. They can provide a platform for people to share stories and role model neuro-inclusive practice.
- Develop a neurodiversity strategy, and ensure consideration of neurodiversity is embedded in other workplace policies.
- Raise awareness of neurodiversity across the organisation, through training and guidance.
- Focus on ensuring that individuals feel psychologically safe to share experiences and access support.
- Listen to the views of neurodivergent individuals, e.g. via an Employee Resource Group, and ensure these are taken into account. Gather data to understand and address any barriers they may experience, e.g. to progression.
- Job descriptions should be unambiguous and focused on the specific skills required for the role. Including specific statements around neuro-inclusion can encourage applications from neurodivergent candidates.
- Application forms and processes should minimise adverse impacts for neurodivergent candidates. You could use work samples or work trials which give candidates the opportunity to showcase their skills in practice.
- Candidates should be offered information about adjustments proactively.
- Recruiting managers should be trained in how to get the best from neurodivergent candidates, e.g. how to structure interview questions and minimise unconscious bias.
- Make a range of adjustments and assistive technology available to support neurodivergent individuals – everyone is different.
- Have a clear process for requesting and accessing relevant adjustments promptly.
- Be ready to adapt ways of working to meet the needs of neurodivergent individuals, for example, identifying where shift patterns might be problematic).
- Support individuals to understand adjustments that might be useful (e.g. funding workplace requires assessments with an expert psychologist).
- Understand the impact the environment can have on concentration, attention and sensory overload.
- Adopt universal design principles, so that neuro-accessibility is incorporated into the design of workspaces.
- If needed, adapt the environment to suit neurodivergent individuals, e.g. providing quiet spaces or fixed desks.
- Support the development of neurodivergent employees with a strengths-based approach.
- Minimise barriers and enable neurodivergent employees to thrive in areas they are best at.
- Ensure performance management systems don’t discriminate against neurodivergent employees.
- Ensure communications are accessible (e.g. concise, unambiguous, plain English, neurodiversity friendly formatting, compatible with assistive technology)
- Share messages internally and externally in a range of formats (e.g. video, verbal, written)
- Use neuro-inclusive language
Products and customer services
- Ensure products and services are accessible and, where possible, delivered in a variety of formats.
- Ensure customer environments are neuro-inclusive.
Supply chain and procurement
- Ensure products or services that you procure (e.g. training, websites, facilities management) are neuro-inclusive.
- In procurement exercises, check that supplier values are aligned to your own neuro-inclusive values.
We can support you on every step of your journey to neuro-inclusion, from assessment and coaching services for neurodivergent individuals, through to training and education for teams, and consultancy services that enable organisational change.
For more information about neurodiversity in the workplace and training opportunities, visit our neurodiversity asssessments and training page.
Written by Lexxic.