Neurodiversity in the Workplace
How Organisations Should Embrace Neurodiversity and Support Neurodivergent Employees
“Neurodiversity is the concept that all humans vary in terms of our neurocognitive ability. Everyone has both talents and things they struggle with.”
“Neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage when the individuals are in the right environment, making use of their strengths, instead of constantly trying to overcome challenges.”
This month’s issue of the Atrium HR Voice (global e-newsletter) will be focusing on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI), but more specifically, neurodiversity, which is often overlooked by employers and organisations. Being aware of what neurodiversity can bring to the workplace can only positively support and nurture
, those who are considered as neurodivergent employees; it also strengthens the workplace culture for everyone.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Fern Ngai, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Specialist; Board Director (KELY Support Group, AIDS Concern, Beyond Vision International)
Fern is a seasoned leader and changemaker with solid experience in both the non-profit and private sectors in Asia. Over her career, Fern has successfully led major change initiatives, and built expertise in responsible and strategic leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), talent development and cultural change.
How do you perceive neurodiversity in the workplace?
In the workplace, neurodiversity recognises that each of us experiences, interacts with, and interprets the world in our unique ways. Some examples of neurodiverse conditions are ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and Asperger’s syndrome. Rather than viewing these as disabilities, we should perceive them as normal variations in how our brains work. In the workplace, we can tap into these differences as sources of strength and not weakness.
According to Deloitte, 10-20% of the world’s population is estimated to be neurodivergent, and workplaces with neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be 30% more productive. Neurodivergent people represent a well of untapped talent for companies.
How do you see neurodiversity positively influencing workplace culture?
I believe that it is another aspect of diversity that companies should embrace if they are committed to having a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace culture. What companies do to foster an inclusive environment for their neurodivergent employees will benefit their wider workforce, making the workplace a safer, more inclusive place for all and one in which every employee has a sense of belonging.
What do you currently have in place, or do you feel should be in place, to promote awareness of neurodiversity and to better nurture neurodivergent employees?
Promoting awareness of neurodiversity is important, as well as addressing any stigma that neurodiverse employees may face. Neurodiversity should be included in a company’s broader DEI program, so that all employees are aware of what it means, how it will benefit the business, what to expect when working with neurodiverse colleagues, and what they can do to be welcoming and inclusive.
- Line managers would benefit from training on how to manage and nurture neurodivergent employees, as well as how to create a positive and inclusive team environment for all.
- From a career development perspective, employers need to consider how to tailor ongoing assessment and development to address the circumstances of neurodiverse talent.
- It is worth being reminded that neurodivergent employees are not one-dimensional and their neurodiversity shouldn’t define them. Just like everyone else, they want to have meaningful work, they want to learn and grow, and they want to be respected and valued.
What do you think is the most important factor in creating an environment that is supportive of neurodiversity?
It’s important to create a work environment that is supportive and welcoming for neurodivergent employees, so that they can perform at their best. A ‘one-size-fits all’ approach would not likely work for all neurodivergent workers, so a good place to start is by asking them individually what their specific needs might be. Some may be sensitive to stimuli such as bright lights, temperature changes, fragrance, and noise, and physical adjustments can usually be easily made. Other accommodations include flexible working arrangements, assigning a workplace ‘buddy’, providing a coach or mentor, and access to mental health support. Line managers should find out how their neurodivergent colleague works best and what they need to understand their work assignments and adapt accordingly.
Should you hire neurodivergent employees?
Yes, definitely, for the reasons listed below.
However, you will need to assess your organisation’s hiring process and practices if you want to attract neurodivergent candidates.
- People with neurodiverse conditions may struggle in a traditional hiring process and, also, to fit a profile that emphasises social skills such as communication, emotional intelligence, and being a team player.
- Job descriptions should be written using inclusive and plain language and make clear that the company values neurodiversity. It’s also important that job descriptions distinguish essential job requirements from what is ‘nice to have’.
- Interviewers should be trained on how to conduct interviews with neurodivergent candidates to reduce biases that may disadvantage them.
- Candidate screening and assessment
–– the company
- Onboarding and training can be customised to support the needs of neurodivergent hires. For example, SAP, a pioneer in the neurodiverse employment, provides soft skills training to help new hires who have never worked in a professional setting to become familiar with the norms of such an environment.
How do you find neurodivergent candidates?
By partnering with NGO’s who specialise in helping neurodivergent individuals find employment and educational institutions which have programs supporting neurodivergent students.
What would be the top 5 benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce?
Having a neurodiverse workforce could be a source of competitive advantage. These are some of the benefits:
- Broadens your talent pool.
- Guards against groupthink and contributes to diversity of perspectives.
- Enhances problem-solving capabilities.
- Fosters creativity and innovation
- Improves productivity and quality on complex, repetitive tasks that require pattern recognition or
,memory high focus, e.g., software testing.
We value your insights and experiences; contact our Director, Pauline Mei-Ling Williams for a chat about pressing issues and/or how to best support talents in this ever-changing working landscape at firstname.lastname@example.org