Ultimately, neurodiversity means everyone relates to, experiences, and sees the world differently. We all learn, think, and behave in different ways - therefore, we are all neurodiverse in one way or another.
The term can describe neurological conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Tourette’s.
A diverse workforce is a rich one. It's one in which employees approach tasks differently - with original creativity, analytical thinking, or meticulous attention to detail. Despite this, people can pay too much attention to the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding neurological conditions and treat neurodivergent individuals differently.
As an employer, you must embrace neurodiversity within your workplace and support each individual throughout their journey with you. Here are my top tips to help you cultivate a workplace environment that celebrates neurodiversity.
1. Check your unconscious bias during the hiring process.
It’s important to remember that neurodiverse employees may behave differently to other candidates during an interview - for instance, perhaps you may notice someone fidgeting in their seat, unable to keep still, or showing a physical or verbal tic.
You may not consciously decide to discriminate against potential employees for these reasons, but it’s important to spot any unconscious biases you may be applying. If you find yourself setting their application aside, think again about why this might be - is it due to their lack of qualifications or insufficient skill set, or because they’re behaving differently than you might’ve expected?
You can combat these unconscious biases by adjusting your hiring processes to be more neurodiversity-friendly and reviewing your interview questions. The traditional markers of a strong candidate - eye contact, a typically ‘confident’ physical presence, or a firm handshake - are somewhat outdated and may exclude neurodiverse employees.
2. Train yourself and your employees.
A vital part of cultivating a workplace where everyone fully understands the nuances of neurodiversity - and how to support their neurodiverse colleagues - is training. This discussion will encourage staff to be more accommodating to different peoples’ needs, talk about their neurodiversity respectfully, and the challenges people might face.
It will also show your neurodivergent employees that you care about them and are committed to investing in their well-being at work. They’ll likely feel more loyalty towards you as an employer, which could reduce your staff turnover rate and increase productivity.
3. Create a workplace environment where neurodiverse employees can thrive.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how educated you and your staff are on neurodiversity. If your workplace itself is an unpleasant place to be, your employees won’t want to come to work.
Neurodivergent employees often have a higher sensitivity to sound and light, which is a crucial consideration when structuring the space in which they work. You should be open to new ideas about what works for these employees and willing to change the things that don’t.
4. Create a neurodiversity policy - or review your existing one
Neurodiversity should be part of your equality and diversity policy. Alternatively, you can opt to have a standalone policy just for this. It should be comprehensive, outlining:
What neurodiversity is
What happens if an employee needs time off work
Your commitment to creating a neurodiverse workplace
Things neurodivergent employees are encouraged (but not expected) to do, e.g. disclosing their condition and discussing how it may affect their work so that you can better support them.
Signposts to additional support.
As an experienced HR and employment lawyer, I can help you to embrace neurodiversity in your workplace.
Whether you need assistance drafting new policies or reviewing existing ones, training tips, guidance around the hiring process - or anything else! Feel free to book a call with me to discuss your needs.