How do you make your workplace more welcoming to neurodiverse employees, and ensure their talent is nurtured? In a recent interview with the BBC, David Joseph, CEO of Universal Music UK talked about diversity, especially a hidden diversity that never really gets a look in on any conversation about difference – neurodivergence.

Neurodivergence – also known as neurodiversity – is a term many people may not be familiar with. It refers to the community of people who have dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, are on the autism spectrum, or have other neurological functions.

According to to the conciliation service ACAS, “these are ‘spectrum’ conditions, with a wide range of characteristics, but which nevertheless share some common features in terms of how people learn and process information“.

An estimated one in seven people are neurodivergent in the UK but this isn’t something that is routinely acknowledged in the workplace.

I need to reinforce that this is interwoven with all the other issues around diversity. It’s not like we’re picking this one over and above all the others,” says David.

This isn’t about being nice and just giving people jobs.

There is an unconscious bias towards hiring people you think you’ll get on with, share similar views, and dare I say it, might not be rebellious or cause dissent. I am a big fan of respectful outliers,” says David.

After carrying out a fair amount of research, David and his HR team have produced a “Creative Different” guidebook that more than 100 companies have expressed an interest in.

It is cream coloured, to make it easier to read for people with dyslexia (the advice is to use dark coloured text on a light – not white – background, and sufficient contrast levels between background and text). It’s full of simple graphics and isn’t too wordy.

The message is to stop focusing on things that neurodiverse people can’t do and start celebrating what they are exceptional at.

It is something that insurance company Direct Line, which actively recruits neurodivergent individuals, has been working on for some time.

There are so many different strengths that we hold, and I think it’s easy to focus on the negatives but you get so much more when you focus on the positives,” says Yvonne Akinwande.

The 31-year-old marketing consultant with dyslexia says her employer recognises the need to ensure the working environment is suited to neurodiverse employees.

The company has given her specific software to help with recording and writing up meeting notes. And even simple things, from the colour of her notepads to situating her desk in a quieter part of the office, has helped create a comfortable environment.

More importantly, she feels that the more creative marketing role that she now holds suits her skill set more than the one she held previously.

Yvonne is co-lead of a neurodiversity strand that has been created within the business.

And increasingly more businesses are realising the benefits of employing neurodiverse individuals.

Change your processes

Some examples of workplace adjustments can include:

  • Mind mapping software
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Voice to text/Text to voice software
  • On-screen reading rulers

Some examples of typical adjustments at interview:

  • Taking notes and mind maps into interview
  • Having extra time to compensate for slower processing speed
  • Not being asked multiple questions at the same time
  • Using a whiteboard or flipchart to “car park” questions to return to later

The Office For National Statistics doesn’t break down unemployment by neurodiversity, so there are no specific statistics on unemployment among neurodivergent people. But according to the National Autistic Society, only an estimated 16% of autistic people are in full-time employment.

Inexpensive reasonable adjustments
Neurodiversity is protected under the UK Equality Act 2010, and according to the Department of Work and Pensions, an employer should make “reasonable changes” if someone discloses their neurodiversity.

Making those changes doesn’t have to be costly. A UK government’s Access to Work Scheme allows employers to access money for any “extra disability related costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments people have when starting work or maintaining employment”.

Source & Copyright: BBC / Chi CHi Izundu – Abridged Version – Image: Pexels