How to champion neurodiversity in the workplace.
Championing neurodiversity in the workplace is not just a moral imperative, it’s a competitive advantage. The neurodiversity spectrum is broad, and includes a range of skill spikes, with individuals capable of everything from extreme long-term focus to elevated levels of creativity, and innovative problem solving. Leaders can attract and support this talent pool by adapting working styles, training managers, developing allies groups, and embedding it in their recruitment processes and culture.
Hiring managers play a crucial role; they are the initial connection between organisations and neurodivergent individuals, making it imperative for them to receive training on neurodivergent traits. For example, some individuals on the autism spectrum may face difficulty maintaining eye contact; uninformed hiring managers may misinterpret this as impoliteness or a lack of confidence. Similarly, traditional presentation-based assessments can pose challenges. To address this, offering alternative methods like recorded interviews or written exams can provide opportunities to evaluate capabilities fairly and identify potential talent that could be overlooked.
Training initiatives should also aim to foster a transformative mindset. It is common for employers to hold preconceived notions about individuals with ADHD, for example, assuming they are unsuitable for client-facing positions. However, the reality is society has become much more accepting, and the unique skills and strengths that individuals with ADHD bring to the table far outweigh the challenges they may encounter in certain roles.
Adjustments to management approaches are also necessary. For example, many neurodivergent individuals often require more structure from their managers. This may involve developing a daily breakdown of tasks, telling them exactly how much time to spend on individual projects, creating strict agendas for meetings, and even following up conversations with an email covering the discussion.
Within organisations, establishing networks for neurodivergent colleagues is of utmost importance for fostering inclusivity and cultivating a culture that embraces acceptance. These networks provide a place for neurodivergent colleagues to have their voices heard and creates an environment where they feel comfortable discussing work-related challenges.
The creation of ally groups is closely intertwined with this effort, as they play a pivotal role in raising awareness around neurodiversity and advocating positive change. Leaders can champion these from the top by openly addressing the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals and engaging in meaningful discussions around the topic.
Finally, it is essential to really highlight and champion neurodiverse positive practices on the company website and recruitment advertising, clearly demonstrating the measures taken to support neurodivergent individuals. It is the initial point of contact for individuals considering roles within the organisation. By featuring tangible detail about the organisation’s commitments to neurodiversity and the supportive environment it offers, potential candidates can feel encouraged to explore opportunities within the organisation.
Berwick Partners, and our sister companies, Odgers Berndtson and Odgers Interim have adjusted and implemented strategies to foster an environment where neurodiversity thrives and becomes a valued aspect of our workplace.
Our commitment to adaptability and recognising individual needs has been integral to this progress. Engaging in open conversations about necessary adjustments has not only made us more effective managers but has also had a remarkable impact on our neurodivergent colleagues, who continue to contribute to the work we do, and our culture. Witnessing their outstanding contributions has been truly awe-inspiring.
Odgers Berndtson is the largest executive search firm in the UK, conducting permanent and interim board, executive and senior management appointments.
Sue Johnson is the Managing Partner of Inclusion & Diversity Consulting at Odgers Berndtson. Having spent the first 15 years of her career in Operations and Sales, Sue has first-hand knowledge and experience of how and why Inclusion & Diversity, as an integral part of the organisation DNA, will step-change business performance.
If you would like more information on championing neurodiversity in your organsiation, please contact Sue Johnson on 07734 047261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org