Reaping the rewards of a diverse workforce

Written by Louise McQuillan, Workplace Solutions Manager, Texthelp

Finding, recruiting and retaining top tier talent has been a long-term challenge for organisations of all sizes, with in-demand staff becoming more aware of their bargaining power as unemployment rates remain low. This shifting dynamic is driving employers to reassess how they can tap into the skill-set of an increasingly diverse workforce, in particular those with neurodiverse traits.

In the modern workforce, most organisations pride themselves on having a diverse and inclusive workplace when it comes to age, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. But the idea of a neurodiverse workplace is still relatively new.

Neurodiversity

Nearly 6.3 million people (around 10% of the UK population) have dyslexia, and people with dyslexia often have other conditions, including dyscalculia (difficulties with numbers), ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). These types of hidden disabilities are now more understood and organisations are growing acutely aware of the importance of ensuring work environments are welcoming to neurodiverse staff.

Employers are beginning to learn that they need the benefits that diversity can bring. For example,neurodiverse individuals may not flourish in a traditional interview format, but they still have lots to bring to the table, including the ability to approach problems from a different angle and consider innovative solutions to business challenges.

Similarly, people on the dyslexia spectrum may be a good fit for careers in creative industries, due to their unique strengths in interpreting and visualising designs. Autistic people, too, are usually disproportionately skilled in data analysis and IT-related tasks, compared to their neurotypical counterparts.

Many high-profile businesspeople, politicians and celebrities have spoken openly about their neurodiversity, such as Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, HP co-founder William Hewlett and filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Prominent examples of neurodiverse individuals making their mark on the C-suite and, in part, crediting their rise to the benefits oftheir neurodiversity, clearly shows how alternative thinking styles can make a real impact in business.

Barriers

However, the full potential of neurodiverse people isn’t being realised as a result of both structural and informal workplace barriers, starting at the recruitment stage. If you think of how organisations recruit staff, it can be an unnecessarily complex process for neurodiverse job seekers. If you go onto the vast majority of job websites they ask for a cover letter and CV, which means a lot of writing and literacy skills will be required in this process.

When I speak to organisations on how to better reach out to the large number of talented neurodiverse job seekers, I always ask them,Do you want a member of staff who is good at interviews or one that is good at doing the job? For task-oriented jobs, like coding, it’s better to have a practical interview, where applicants are given a task to perform – demonstrating how they will actually do the work itself, rather than how they can answer questions.

Once a neurodiverse candidate has been hired there can be issues around managers not fully understanding what exactly Autism or Aspergers is and how to best support staff who are neurodiverse. Reasonableworkplace adjustments, such as providing a screen reader or noise cancelling headphones can drastically change the work environment for neurodiverse people. Software, too, can be a key enabler.

I’ve spoken to many people who, because of their neurodiversity, have had the glass ceiling imposed on them when starting a new job but once they begin using the right software and tools, they start to climb the corporate ladder. It’s a small piece of software that turns their career into a success story.

Diversity and inclusion are rapidly moving up the C-suite agenda, and what I would say to organisations is, don’t be afraid of recruiting someone from a neurodiverse background. They can bring a great strength and a real depth to your business that you’ve never had before; this can enable your organisation to be more productive, more creative and experience more success in the future.

Interested in learning more? Get Texthelp’s comprehensive Unlocking Neurodiversity Guide for HR and Diversity and Inclusion Professionals here.


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