How organisations can support neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity in the workplace


We all experience and interact with the world in different ways. In fact, you may have come across people in your workplace that seem different.

It could be a colleague who doesn’t talk much but is a deep, analytical thinker. It could even be someone who has trouble focusing on a specific task but is remarkably creative with seemingly unlimited energy. You may even identify with some of these characteristics yourself.

Qualities similar to this are often associated with neurodiverse people and aren’t as rare as you may think. From Steve Jobs and Nicola Tesla to Michelangelo and Emily Dickinson, history is filled with neurodiverse innovators and personalities whose different neurocognitive abilities have made a mark on the world as we know it.

Today, these different neurocognitive abilities are being recognised around the world as an estimated 15%-20% of the global population exhibits some type of neurodiversity.

What is neurodiversity?

In short, neurodiversity is the concept that people experience and interact with the world in a multitude of ways and that there’s a whole spectrum of ‘normality’ when it comes to how the human brain operates.

Everyone has different neurocognitive abilities and talents as well as things that challenge them. For neurodiverse people, the variation between each of these can be more prominent and can either cause extraordinary talent or significant struggle.

When it comes to the workplace, it’s widely accepted that diversity of thought is one of the biggest drivers of success—and neurodiverse employees are the leaders of thinking differently.

So let’s take a closer look at how companies can support neurodiversity in the workplace.

Adjust your hiring practices

For decades there have been many superficial norms that have driven the hiring process—making eye contact and demonstrating a strong handshake perhaps leading the charge.

However, since neurodiverse people find it difficult to perform these norms, hiring managers need to reframe their definition of what makes a ‘good candidate’.

Employers also need to ask the right questions if they are to learn about the individual’s skills and capabilities.

It’s also important not to rely on the resume since it rarely tells the entire story of the candidate. So many neurodiverse individuals continue to struggle to find work that complements their abilities since they’re often self-taught or possess transferable skills.

Be patient

Building a pipeline of neurodiverse candidates isn’t easy and usually takes time.

When you are building a pool of candidates, consider hiring people as team members rather than as individuals. Give your candidates a variety of opportunities to showcase their strengths.

For instance, focus on virtual exercises and assessments during the first round of interviews and give them the opportunity to complete mini-tasks online. The following week you can have team-based work simulations and interpersonal skills development sessions.

This gives candidates who are neurodiverse the opportunity to highlight their abilities in various scenarios giving you the ability to place them in the position that best fits their capabilities.

Once you have selected your candidates you can start the onboarding and training process. It's important to have managers who are formally trained in working with neurodiverse individuals leading the process.

Be ready and willing to accommodate

Different individuals respond to environmental stimulation differently. Consider individuals who are autistic. They are extremely sensitive to things like sound, temperature, and lighting.

When building neurodiversity in the workplace it’s important to be accommodating to people who may have different requirements such as private rooms, noise-cancelling headphones, and flexible work schedules.

If an employee has a problem staying still for long periods, encourage them to take a walk and return. Rather than forcing them to conform to your existing working conditions, create a safe space where they can be productive without feeling pressured.

Final thoughts on neurodiversity in the workplace from Kinhub

Having a strong program on neurodiversity in the workplace should be able to convey your message both internally and externally—making it a more normal part of the employment process.

Companies that provide the necessary considerations for neurodivergent professionals can reshape traditional HR practices and can inevitably make the workplace a safer, more inclusive environment for everyone.

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