As many as 20% of our general population are neurodivergent, or have a neurological disability or difference such as Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia, and research suggests that by 2050, that number is expected to double.
Following decades of stigma, the landscape at work is changing, with employers now recognising that neurodiversity makes an important contribution to diversity of thought amongst teams, which in turn, drives better performance, creativity and innovation.
Thank you for joining myself and Matt Meffman, Regional Sales Lead at Unmind, for a conversation around neurodiversity at work. Below are key insights and links to further readings to support your learning experience.
Wherever you are on your neuro-inclusion journey, it's a pleasure to join you.
Below, you'll find a short snippet of the hour long webinar presentation.
Scroll further to gain insights and practical strategies you can apply to the unique needs of your organisation.
How representative is your organisation?
Globally, neurodivergent individuals face high unemployment rates, which means organizations are missing out on valuable talent. Much of the data collected to date has focused on the impact on Autistic individuals and we are yet to uncover and utilise the pool of neurodiverse potential within our workforce.
More than a Movement
While many organisations are eager to build more diverse and inclusive teams and are welcoming recruitment efforts for neurodivergent staff, engaging and retaining neurodivergent people is a different story.
“... making a placement stick usually requires overcoming a good number of challenges. For neurodiverse job seekers, workplace etiquette norms as well as time management and personal hygiene can be significant challenges to getting established and comfortable in the workplace. Then there are the cognitive gaps. Even though many of our participants have postsecondary education, and some have college degrees, they may not easily master the specific job skills needed, especially skills related to executive functions…”
~ Eric Steward, the director of the Transformative Autism Program (TAP).
That’s because if you’ve met one neurodivergent person, you’ve met one neurodivergent person.
The presentation of differences and how they articulate in the workplace is wide and varied, and benefits from a deeply personal, curious and patient approach to workplace adjustment and support.
Within the neurodivergent community, individuals experience increased prevalence of -
- co-occuring mental health conditions, perpetuated by stigma and discrimination,
- increased vulnerability to physical health conditions and auto-immune difficulties,
- parent and carer stress (biological nature of neurodivergence) and increased vulnerability to burnout
- Imposter syndrome and inner critic, driven by masking of differences and negative feedback over a lifetime.
Support Starts with Awareness
Yet, many of your current and prospective people may not feel ready or comfortable to disclose their differences.
In research conducted by McDowall and colleagues (2023), the majority of respondents reported concerns around disclosing their neurodivergence at work, citing
- prior and current experience and worries of stigma and discrimination from management and peers (64%),
- lack of transparency around formal support and communication pathways,
- concerns regarding confidentiality and inability to identify neurodivergent knowledgeable staff supports.
Further, 18% reported lack of formal diagnosis as a barrier, while only 10% cited wanting to do their job without supports as their reason for not disclosing.
That suggests 9 out of 10 neurodivergent individuals desire your support, but may not know how to ask for it, or what response they will receive.
Encourage disclosure by signalling that in your workplace, it's safe to do so.
Unpacking each of these dimensions, you can consider what existing strengths and opportunities for change exist within your organisation.
Perceived Diversity Climate
The degree to which an organisation advocates fair HR policies and integrates underrepresented employees (McKay et al., 2008).
- Factors that signal diversity to an individual:
- Organization's demographic makeup
- Presence of diversity across structures
- Leaders' commitment to diversity
- Employees' personal experiences with diversity
Perceived Inclusion Climate
Characterized as a feeling or sense of belonging (Shore et al., 2009, 2011).
- Dimensions of an inclusive environment:
- Fairly implemented employment practices
- Integration of differences (level of comfort in being oneself at work)
- Inclusion in decision-making (amplifying neurodivergent voices)
Perceived Ethical Climate
Perceptions concerning the organization's rules, policies, values, and practices (Schwepker, 2001).
- Elements of an ethical climate: Establishing and maintaining an ethical code through organizational communication and policies related to instrumental, caring, independence, rules, and law (Martin & Cullen, 2006).
For a detailed exploration on the above, refer to Bruyère, S. M., & Colella, A. (2022). Neurodiversity in the Workplace: An Overview of Interests, Issues and Opportunities. Neurodiversity in the Workplace, 1-15.
A Word on Coaching
The biological and brain differences experienced by neurodivergent people respond favourably to neurodivergent affirming practices, that recognise our more sensitive nervous systems and unique executive functioning and processing brain differences.
While an inability to access a neurodivergent specialist shouldn’t prevent an organisation offering support, caution around placing neurotypical norms on coaching ‘outcomes’ is warranted, with client centred, humanistic approaches and practices encouraged.
Even without a formal diagnosis, it is possible to design workplace solutions for neuro-inclusive support by asking generative, solution oriented coaching questions. Here are some to get you started:
When it comes to offering support for neurodivergent individuals (and all individuals for that matter) it's important to note that words without action are often more detrimental and damaging than no words at all.
Communicate to your people that they matter by establishing a follow up plan off the back of your coaching conversations or workplace events and trainings. Name who will be responsible for following through on ensuring solutions are available, and which ones may need further exploration.
Mentors and workplace buddies assigned to assist with following up can be helpful
When it comes to performance for neurodivergent folk, the environment ALWAYS wins! Foster a neuro-inclusive workplace environment with
- Supportive and authentically inclusive leadership and culture
- Policies and procedures that provide a clear pathway for support options, performance review and if need be, management
- Clarity around expected outcomes, and flexible collaboration around how they’re delivered upon
- Workplace adjustments, utilising a variety of accessible people, tech and work design solutions, in and out of the ‘office’ setting. Remember, these are always best when prepared and provided by the neurodivergent person themselves
Looking for more support?
It would be a privilege to share my personal journey and professional insights about neurodiversity in a way that serves the unique needs of you and your people.
Enquire today about speaking and ADHD coaching services, tailored to your workplace by filling out the form below, or emailing [email protected] with a brief description of your goals and needs, and to arrange a time for a no-obligation discovery call.Book Mariane