Diversity has become a crucial component of a successful hiring strategy for all companies. Not only does a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace attract a wider range of talented professionals, but it can also deliver many other benefits, from improved creativity to new perspectives on problem-solving and enhanced results.

When most people think of diversity in the workplace, they automatically focus on concepts like race, gender, and age. However, diversity can also be seen in people’s thoughts and cognitive processes. Neurodiversity is typically used to refer to people whose brains uniquely process information.

It’s thought that anywhere up to 20% of the population is currently neurodiverse, meaning employers in the HR industry need to understand how to accommodate and support these candidates if they want access to the broadest talent pool.

Today, we’ll be exploring what neurodiversity means in the workplace and how you can create an inclusive environment for everyone, regardless of their mode of thought.

 

Understanding Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodiversity is a broad term that describes how people’s brains can develop and work in ways other than the accepted norm. A “neurodivergent” person’s brain processes information, learns, and behaves differently.

Examples of neurodiversity can include conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, and autism. In some circles, those with conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome and dyscalculia also fall into this category. While there’s no known “cure” for neurodiversity, it’s also worth remembering that with its challenges; neurodiversity can also deliver a host of opportunities.

Neurodivergence isn’t considered a disability; it simply refers to a difference in how the brain works. While some people can struggle with issues like clumsiness, problems with social settings, and issues with reading and writing, many neurodivergent individuals have amazing skills.

In the HR workplace, neurodivergent individuals can face various challenges but can also showcase amazing pattern recognition skills, fantastic analytical abilities, deep focus, and enhanced sensory awareness.

Adapting the workplace to accommodate and support neurodivergent staff members allows business leaders to access new perspectives, thought processes, and forms of creativity that can help organisations grow and thrive.

 

Creating a Neurodiverse-Friendly Workplace

Creating a neurodiverse-friendly workplace in the HR space benefits business leaders. Having neurodivergent people in the workplace enables diversity in thinking and cognition. Because the brains of neurodivergent people work in different ways, they can bring unique perspectives to teams when facing challenges and problems.

Moreover, a neurodiverse-friendly workspace makes companies more appealing to today’s top talent. Studies show that 80% of employees want their workplaces to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in the modern world. Tailoring the workplace to the needs of neurodivergent staff members allows business leaders to attract a wider variety of staff members while also improving the impact of their employer brand.

With the right strategy, you can demonstrate your commitment to creating an empathetic, collaborative working environment where everyone feels empowered and supported. What’s more, you may find your talent pool is a lot broader, as many neurodivergent individuals are still overlooked in the current hiring landscape.

 

Workplace Accommodations for Neurodiverse Employees

Neurodivergent employees often require a modified work environment to ensure they can reach their full potential. Many individuals in this group struggle with sensory processing difficulties and hypersensitivity to various forms of stimuli, which can make the average workplace overwhelming.

Fortunately, simple accommodations can make a huge difference, such as:

  • Providing useful tools: Neurodivergent individuals may benefit from using specific tools in the workplace. For instance, noise-cancelling headphones can help easily distracted or overwhelmed employees stay focused.
  • Concise instructions: Reducing uncertainty in the workplace can empower many neurodiverse individuals to complete their work more effectively. Company leaders can provide written instructions and clear guidance to direct their employees.
  • Focus time: Many individuals with ADHD and autism struggle to shift focus to different tasks and concentrate on the project. A quiet, uninterrupted space can help individuals to perform more productively and efficiently.
  • Flexible schedules: Tight schedules can be stressful for neurodiverse individuals. Many need regular breaks to handle sensory overload. Providing teams with a more flexible schedule and even the option to work remotely could benefit all companies.

 

The Importance of Training, Education, and Awareness

One of the most important steps a company can take to ensure their workplace is friendly to neurodivergent staff is raising awareness. While many people are beginning to learn more about neurodivergence, the broad concept can be difficult to understand.

Implementing awareness training programs, which guide leaders and individual employees through the process of understanding neurodivergent thought processes and behaviours, can help to promote inclusion and collaboration in the workplace. Neurodiversity training helps companies avoid workplace disputes and shows a commitment to employee empowerment.

Neurodiversity training can also benefit neurodivergent employees by demonstrating a company’s empathy and commitment to assisting them with their struggles. Some companies even offer wellness programs which teach coping strategies for neurodivergent individuals.

 

How to Support Neurodiverse Employees

Adapting the workplace and raising awareness are two core components of creating a neurodiverse-friendly workplace in the modern HR landscape. However, companies can implement other vital steps to improve their chances of success.

For instance:

 

1.     Enhancing communications

Clear and simple communication is crucial for many neurodivergent employees and everyday staff members. Paving the way for consistent and clear communication between team members can help strengthen staff bonds and minimise the risk of misunderstandings.

Companies should aim to remove jargon from communications, to ensure complex terms don’t lead to confusion. Additionally, they should train team members to use positive, inclusive, and non-discriminatory language when connecting with colleagues.

Each staff member should feel comfortable supporting neurodivergent individuals without being condescending or intrusive.

 

2.     Creating an inclusive company culture

Diversity and inclusion are crucial in any workplace, but these concepts are particularly important to businesses looking to welcome neurodivergent candidates. Managers should learn the specific needs and requirements of neurodivergent teams so they know how to adapt their leadership style to the preferences of each individual.

Additionally, to create a truly inclusive culture, business leaders should ensure every team member feels comfortable and confident sharing ideas and feedback in the workplace. Input from every staff member should be celebrated and rewarded, and no employee should ever be criticised for exploring different ideas or perspectives.

 

3.     Being agile and adaptable

Since neurodivergence can come in various forms, business leaders need to be open to learning about the needs of their staff members over time. Ensuring employees can come to a manager and share their concerns about the HR workspace, their specific needs, or even their schedule requirements will be crucial.

Companies must remain agile and adaptable and be willing to work collaboratively with each team member to ensure they can work as productively as possible in the right environment. This could mean offering flexible work schedules, access to specific tools, or providing extra accommodations to those with neurodivergence.

 

The Importance of Supporting Neurodiverse Employees

Embracing neurodivergence in the workplace is important in creating a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive company. Used correctly, the strategies above can help to empower and support teams, drive productivity, and enhance the performance of your business.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that you may need to adjust your hiring strategy to ensure you can appeal to the right variety of talent. Connecting with neurodivergent candidates could mean rethinking your ideas of what makes an individual stand out in job interviews and screening sessions.

Working with an expert HR recruitment team can help ensure you take an inclusive approach to the recruitment journey, ideal for neurodivergent staff.

 

Tom Mornement

Managing Director

At Purple House Recruitment, we have been helping businesses with their talent acquisition and HR professionals find their ideal roles for over 21 years.  During that time we’ve placed over two and half thousand candidates and counting;

Get in touch to find out how we can help, call us at 0117 957 4100 or email us here.