Neurodivergent people are estimated to make up one in seven of the UK population and, when given the opportunity, can bring innovative and fresh thinking to businesses. But many businesses simply aren’t properly supporting their neurodiverse workforce.
Our recent study, conducted with Do-IT Solutions, reveals that 40% of employees say most of their days at the workplace are impacted by their condition, yet only 23% of HR professionals have had specific training related to supporting neurodiverse employees in the last year. This is hindering neurodivergent employees’ satisfaction and success in their roles. In fact, 32% of our respondents feel they cannot disclose their condition in the workplace, either out of fear of discrimination or negative impact on their career prospects or because their workplaces are unwilling to offer the adjustments they need.
The problem is cyclical; lack of employer support for neurodivergent employees means more employees may not disclose or discuss conditions, and so employers do not realize adjustments that could be made and success for the individual and business is limited as a result.
So what can we do? Here are three ways employers can break the cycle and provide neurodivergent people with the support they need.
Retrain HR staff. Our research reveals 24% of neurodivergent respondents say their biggest challenges when applying for a job are face-to-face interviews and completing job applications. Yet, 53% of employers still haven’t adopted recruitment processes to accommodate neurodivergent traits.
Investing in HR training will put an organization in the best place to attract, retain and support neurodiverse talent as they can review whether their application and interview processes are neuro-inclusive. If not, employers can then take the steps to provide alternative ways for people to apply for jobs and approach the interview setting to ensure they aren’t limiting their applicant pool.
The right training will set HR teams up as a key point of contact for neurodivergent employees to access workplace support instead of putting the onus on individuals to request specific adjustments, which will in turn support a more empowered culture. Those HR professionals will thus be in the best position to make good on those needs.
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Create a mentoring program. We can’t underestimate the power of support and mentorship — we have all been in a position where we have benefitted from having a mentor who knows the company, industry and role inside and out and can give the guidance needed to take our careers to the next level. The same applies for neurodivergent individuals. Setting up a mentorship program that offers neurodivergent individuals direct support will give them clear steps to progress their careers and succeed in the workplace.
Raise workforce awareness. Real change happens beyond the recruitment process — when an entire business is brought on board to create a more inclusive environment. Despite our research finding that 41% of employers have adapted recruitment processes to accommodate neurodivergent traits, only a third of HR professionals and 29% of senior leaders said they have had any specific training in relation to neurodiversity.
While senior leadership may be responsible for leading the change, the entire workforce has a role to play in building a neuro-inclusive culture in which everyone can reach their full potential. Business leaders and HR teams must educate their workforce on the benefits that neurodivergent thinking and cognitive diversity can bring to an organization.
These steps are crucial to create an open and respectful workplace where neurodivergent people can feel valued and be themselves without fear of discrimination — and the business will be a better workplace for it.