What is Neurodiversity and why does it matter in the workplace?

July 17, 2020

Neurodiversity is quickly becoming a hot topic of discussion as more and more companies are seeing the benefits of adapting their workplace environment, practices, policies and hiring processes to become more inclusive.

Neurodivergence relates to the different variations of how the human brain processes information. Given how common it is, employers have started to recognize the importance of deepening their understanding of and are figuring out ways that they can take positive steps to make neurodivergent staff feel supported and valued.

Neurodivergent employees includes those with ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia or those who are autistic. The way we process information ranges on a spectrum and is unique to the individual.

Most people are “neurotypical”, meaning that their brain functions and processes information in the way that society expects. However, promoting a neurodiverse workplace removes the stigma that alternative methods of interpreting information are deficits and highlights the vast positive benefits.

What are the benefits of having a neurodiverse workplace?

  • It can unlock an entire pool of talent that may otherwise have been overlooked
  • Help to emphasize an employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Reduce the stigma around neurodivergence
  • Enable staff to feel safe and empowered to open up about a neurodivergence
  • Ensure that fair and equal treatment is undertaken by managers and colleagues
  • Help retain skilled staff
  • Allow for a more varied, innovative workplace encouraging different ways of thinking and different ways of working.

Ultra Testing, a software & data quality assurance company founded in 2013 by two MIT engineers has proven that neurodiversity, including autism can be a competitive advantage in business. By adapting their hiring process for example and undertaking non-traditional interview processes but opting for a reflexive approach; Ultra’s team is fully remote with colleagues in 19 states across the US. 75% Ultra employees are on the autism spectrum and with clients including Fortune500 enterprises, Ultra Testing is a prime example of a company taking it’s neurodiversity seriously and reaping the rewards.

In the UK, it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people) are neurodivergent. Yet in a study conducted by The National Autistic Society with 2000 autistic adults 77% who are unemployed say they want to work but 4 in ten stated that they had never worked.

Are we ignorantly discriminating against neurodiverse individuals who could have a lot to offer? What practices and/or policies does your company have in place to support neurodivergent employees, sometimes referred to those with hidden disabilities?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Share your thoughts! chelsea@theagency.ky