The Importance of Neurodiversity at workplaces

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Kelvin Shenje

Introduction 

Over the past years, the term diversity has become a buzzword. Organizations and researchers have been embracing diversity because of the perks that come from a diverse workforce. In psychology, people learn of individual differences. In management sciences, people realize that individual differences can benefit organizations if managers hone and utilize each employee’s uniqueness. 

People are different in various ways, and organizations need to be able to accommodate and make everyone feel included. With that said, a concept has also gained popularity called ‘neurodiversity.’ Firstly, this article will explain what neurodiversity is and then comment on how companies build neurodiversity workforces in their workplaces. 

What is Neurodiversity  

In short, neurodiversity is the diversity of the human brain and mind (Autistic UK, 2018). Human beings are different in how they think, and neurodiversity denotes that these natural variations in the human brain lead to differences in how people think and behave.   

Neurodiversity was first coined in the late 1990s by sociologist Judy Singer, who argued that neurological variations are differences in people, like gender, sexual orientation, race, and many others. 

To truly appreciate neurodiversity, people must understand how it came about. Research denotes that neurodiversity began as a neuro-minority human rights movement (Doyle, 2021).  

Neuro-minorities is a term that describes a group of people that differ from the majority of a population regarding brain functioning and behavioral traits due to conditions such as autism. 

Within disability rights, this social movement aimed to embrace neurological differences among people and increase the acceptance and inclusion of all people in society (MEd & MD, 2021). To this date, neurological awareness has increased, and research and education on this concept are increasingly becoming important regarding how society addresses these differences. 

Albeit the movement encompasses many different neurological variations, the movement is most substantial in the autistic community (Tougaw, 2020). However, other conditions include dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and many others. Some of these conditions range from mild to severe, for instance, autism (Resnick, 2021). 

According to research, if a person has autism, they may experience struggles with socializing with other people and social skills. However, on the positive side, people with autism can manifest behavioral traits that include; creativity, attention to detail, and visual learning abilities (Resnick, 2021). The autistic community, over these past years, has tried to shift how society perceives them so that their uniqueness can be valued and seen as valuable to life.  

Neurodiversity at Work 

At the workplace, these differences mean people work and learn differently. Organizations have been trying to embrace differences for the betterment and elevation of the deprived minority. However, this notion has been positive for companies since diversity can impact an organization’s bottom line.   

Research depicts that although awareness about neurodiversity has increased, organizations have not been able to keep pace with this trend. Research suggests that companies have employed only a few people with neurodiversity.   

A recent UK study found that only 16 percent of the autistic adult community were employed (Badenoch & Clark, 2021). Most dyslexic people were unemployed. The main reason for this slow growth in the employment of neurodiverse individuals is that companies have not included neurodiversity in their diversity and inclusion practices.   

However, the benefits of neurodiversity in organizations are becoming more apparent. Companies are incorporating neurodiversity in recruitment and diversity strategies (Bewley & George, 2016). Incorporating neurodiversity in strategies has created a competitive advantage for organizations due to neurodivergent traits such as creativity, having a different perspective, having specialized skills, and being highly consistent (Bewley & George, 2016).

Below are how companies have been building neurodiverse workforces :   

  1. Recruitment and Selection :  companies are increasingly employing people with neurodiverse conditions. In application processes, companies ask candidates to declare any neurological conditions that they may have and the type of accommodation they would require. Additionally, companies have been rethinking the recruitment process to attract neurological candidates by highlighting their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Thus, hiring managers have been making the job descriptions clear (Badenoch & Clark, 2021).  
  1. Creating neurodiverse teams :  companies have been creating neurodiversity – typical teams. Research has recorded 30 % higher productivity in these teams. (Autistic UK, 2018). Companies have found out that diverse thinking enhances innovation and creativity within teams.  
  1. Formulation of neurodiversity policies and practices :  to increase neurodiversity presence in organizations, HR departments also include neurological conditions in their diversity policies. They are ensuring these policies do not disadvantage people with these conditions.   
  1. Onboarding and training of new hires :  When it comes to onboarding, the standard of training is being adapted by companies also to suit the needs of individuals with neurological conditions. Companies are designing training materials that are accessible to individuals. 
  1. Performance management : Managers have been increasingly learning to give feedback to people with neurological conditions. Thus, being sensitive when giving feedback and building support structures that enhance motivation and self–esteem.   
  1. Retention :  Companies have been making employees with neurological conditions feel at home, thus making them appreciated. HRs are introducing support structures to aid the working experience for neurodiverse employees, for instance, the opportunity to speak out if there are any concerns or issues. Organizational cultures nowadays are being established as a safe space where employees with neurological conditions can feel comfortable and flourish. Central to this has been the psychological safety in these organizations. 

How can Companies make their Workplaces more Neurodiversity–friendly?  

To make workplaces neurodiversity-friendly, there is a range of practices that companies can put in place. Such practices include, but are not limited to: 

  • Adjusting employees’ workspaces to accommodate sensory needs such as sound sensitivity, for example, offering sound cancelling headphones  
  • Using a clear and direct communication style that is concise and easily understandable
  • Conduct workshops for awareness so that other employees can be more understanding and sensitive to diversity differences
  • Being kind and patient
Conclusion  

Diversity is an essential aspect of modern organizations. This report has briefly explained the concept of neurodiversity. It is, however, necessary for organizations to fully embrace people with neurological conditions, as it reflects on the organization’s bottom line.

The neurodiversity community has been for the past decades advocating for their rights. The employment rate of neurodiverse individuals remains low. However, organizations are incorporating neurodiversity as part of their workforces. It remains the job of managers and PeopleOps practitioners to be able to utilize all the different types of diversity that manifest in their organizations

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