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Neurodiversity in recruitment and in the workplace - what is it and why does it matter?

Blog created by our partners from The Neurodiversity Practice

What is neurodiversity?

 

Neurodiversity is a word that represents the wide spectrum of and differences in, human brains. Just like differences in race, gender or sexual orientation, neurodiversity acknowledges the variation and difference in the way our brains work and how we behave as a result. This is all a natural part of human diversity.

 

The word neurodiversity acknowledges and celebrates the variation in thinking styles, ways of processing information, engaging and interacting with the world that is part of humanity and explains our individual strengths, skills and difficulties.


The neurodiversity umbrella



Being neurotypical means that someone processes information, communicates and engages with the world in a typical way to what you might expect as part of the social norm.

 

Being neurodivergent means that someone’s brain works differently to this. You may have heard of diagnoses associated with neurodivergence including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia, tics and Tourettes, intellectual giftedness or disability and acquired neurodivergence (e.g. brain injury).

 

It might help to think about the difference of being left handed and right handed - this describes a neutral fact in how someone is different, just like someone being autistic or ADHD does.

 

What does neurodiversity mean in the workplace?

 

Your workplace is already neurodiverse! Did you know that around 20% of the population are neurodivergent? This means that everyone has different requirements to support them to thrive in the workplace. Employees are beginning to recognise what this means for them and they are seeking out employers who are neuroinclusive.

 

Unfortunately, often workplace environments and processes such as recruitment or internal policies are set up to work for the majority, but not the remaining (up to) 20% of employees. For example, 92% of businesses report having an EDI policy but only 42% that this includes disability and only 22% include a focus on neurodivergence¹.

 

This means that unless organisations are working towards being neuroinclusive they could potentially be missing out on attracting, retaining and unlocking the potential of up to 20% of their workforce.

 

What is a neuroinclusive workplace?


A neuroinclusive workplace is:

  • One that understands that people’s brains work differently and that’s ok!

  • It is somewhere that adjustments are made to value everyone’s unique way of communicating, connecting with others, thinking, processing information, understanding and sensing the world.

  • One that attracts and retains a diverse range of employees.

  • Where neurodivergent people feel safe to be open about their identity.

  • It means promoting a proactive and flexible work culture rather than one which is reactive, critical and discriminatory.  It actively addresses barriers for a pool of talented people who may be at risk of leaving the workforce.

  • It is where neurodivergent people are in leadership roles.

 

Why is being neuroinclusive important?

 

 1. Promotes inclusivity and equality

Neuroinclusivity in the workplace is a crucial concept. By embracing neurodiversity, organisations create and promote an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome, valued and respected. A neuroinclusive organisation recognises that diversity extends beyond visible or declared traits to include invisible differences like thinking style, abilities, skills and approach to work.   Neuroinclusion sits alongside and aligns with broader diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, promoting belonging, psychological safety and enables all employees to thrive.

 

2. Unlocks and maximises talent

Many neurodivergent individuals have unique talents and skills.  For example some autistic people have exceptional ability to focus and identify crucial information.  Many ADHDer’s (a person with ADHD) may encourage positive risk-taking and innovation. Other neurodivergent employees may be quicker to make connections between key concepts and bring original ideas to their teams or networks.  By recognising and embracing neurodiversity, organisations can tap into and maximise these talents, resulting in better innovation, problem solving, motivation and satisfaction across the organisation.

 

3. Attracts talent 

Organisations with a strong and clear policy of neuroinclusion, foster interest and engagement from the best talent.  Messages about the welcome, interest and value offered to neurodivergent employees, opportunities and flexibility to accommodate preferences for working practice, can support a positive connection and enhance the reputation of the business across the workforce. Strong and clear messages about diversity and inclusion are often a key value for the next generation of talent and are highly important for young, female and global majority employees.

 

 

4. Improves employee engagement & retention

Inclusive workplaces that celebrate and acknowledge neurodivergent employees often see higher levels of engagement and retention. When employees feel welcomed, understood and valued, they are more likely to feel happier, more connected and aligned to the values of the organisation.  They are also more likely to stay with the business for longer and contribute their best work. Working in an inclusive and positive environment for neurodivergent talent also reduces workplace stress, promotes psychological safety and overall wellbeing for all.

 

5. Enhances creativity and skills

A neurodiverse workforce brings a broader range of perspectives and problem-solving approaches. This diversity fosters creativity and innovation, brings different viewpoints, encourages others to ‘think outside the box’ and can lead to new solutions. Teams with neurodiverse members are often more adaptable and better equipped to handle complex challenges, particularly in today’s world of work where flexibility and adaptability are key. 

 
6. Fosters a positive culture

Policies promoting neuroinclusion demonstrate commitment to fostering a positive work culture, a strong interest in compassionate leadership and prioritising employee wellbeing, which subsequently can improve employee morale, satisfaction and reduce stress. Providing a work environment where employees are welcomed, accepted and encouraged to ‘show-up’ as themselves, enables both current and potential employees to feel valued for their identity and unique contribution. Embracing neurodiversity sends a clear message about company values and workplace culture, creating a positive and supportive environment for everyone.


How do I make sure my organisation is neuroinclusive?

So, you know your organisation is neurodiverse, you know that fostering a neuroinclusive workplace is important, but it is hard to know what to do next. How do you as an organisation know what changes to make to ensure you are maximising your whole pool of talent?

 

Neuroinclusion in recruitment

Policies and practice which supports a warm welcome and allows potential employees to be their ‘best selves’ can influence the interest in and reputation of your organisation. Clear pathways to interview success with opportunities to shine within your business will attract the best neurodivergent talent.

 

Education and awareness

Raise awareness and build knowledge about neurodiversity in your teams and across your organisation. Education helps reduce stigma and misunderstandings, supports a proactive and compassionate approach to dilemmas. Awareness and knowledge of neurodivergence encourages open discussions about needs, strategies and accommodations.


Provide reasonable adjustments

There are a number of low cost, simple adaptations and changes that can address barriers and enhance engagement for your neurodivergent employees. A flexible approach which celebrates individual strengths can make a considerable difference to engagement, focus and wellbeing. 


Establish employee networks

Create staff networks and employee resource groups (ERGs) for neurodivergent employees and allies. These groups provide a supportive community where individuals can share experiences and advocate for their needs.

 

Communication and feedback

Create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their needs and seeking accommodations. Encourage open communication between neurodivergent employees, their colleagues, and management to ensure everyone understands and supports one another.

 

Evaluate impact

Ensure neuroinclusion is not just a tick box exercise. Evaluate the impact of neuroinclusive initiatives and address barriers within your business. Share findings with your neurodivergent employees and allies to plan next steps.

 

At The Neurodiversity Practice we are passionate about supporting businesses to be neuroinclusive at every stage....

 

As clinical psychologists and experts in neurodivergence we offer:


  • Trustworthy, science backed, authentic, practical strategies to help your business to be neuroinclusive.

  • Expertise in  adaptation and adjustments which support employee wellbeing and engagement.

  •  A whole system model of change. Whether you are right at the beginning  or further along in your journey, we match our recommendations to meet your needs. 

  • Support to evaluate impact which can sit alongside other DEI initiatives.

  • Download our brochure for more information about what we can offer to your organisation.

 

Final thoughts 

Neurodiversity in the workplace is not just a trend; it's a fundamental shift in how we view and celebrate human difference. By embracing neurodiversity, organisations can create more inclusive, innovative, and productive work environments. The benefits are clear: a diverse range of talents, enhanced creativity, improved employee recruitment, retention and engagement, as well as enhancing a positive work culture. As more companies recognize the value of neurodiversity, the workplace becomes a more vibrant and inclusive place for everyone.

 

Click here to arrange a complimentary 20-minute video call to discuss how The Neurodiversity Practice can support neuroinclusion in your organisation. Harness the power of your workforce and spark success through inclusion.


Our brochure


The Neurodiversity Practice for Business
.pdf
Download PDF • 3.95MB

 

References

Neurodiversity at Work: Demand, Supply and a Gap Analysis. McDowall, A., Doyle, N., Kiseleva, M. (2023). Birkbeck University.

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