Everything you didn’t know about neurodiversity

What connects entrepreneur and island-hopper Richard Branson with everyone’s favourite man-fish hybrid, Michael Phelps? Or Heston Blumenthal’s gastro-mischief with the five-films-a-year work ethic of Will Smith?

 

No, it’s not just their success, but perhaps also what’s partly fuelled it: their neurodiversity. 

 

What is neurodiversity?

 

Neurodiversity encompasses a whole range of conditions, including autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

 

Coined back in the ‘90s by the Autism Rights Movement, the term’s designed to move the conversation on from connotations of disability, or weakness. Instead, it showcases the unique strengths that neurodiverse people can offer. And now, it’s time for employers to embrace those strengths. 

 

Neurodiversity at work

 

Let’s firstly look at some (frankly worrying) stats. A 2018 CIPD poll suggests that nearly three quarters of HR professionals haven’t considered neurodiversity as part of their policies. That’s despite 15% of the UK population being neurodiverse in some way.

 

So, 15% of people today aren’t set up to fulfil their potential at work. But it’s not just a problem for those people – it’s a problem for businesses too. Because there are plenty of benefits on offer for those who recognise, and harness, the strengths of neurodiversity. 

 

ACAS research shows that neurodiverse employees are often highly creative, organised lateral thinkers. It’s a view supported by author Steve Silberman, who argues that neurodiverse employees can bring new, unique perspectives to typical workplace problems. This chimes with what we know about cognitive diversity – or the different ways people think. Teams with higher cognitive diversity are better at innovating and finding solutions, meaning neurodiverse individuals can directly contribute to faster innovation and stronger business performance.

 

Reasonable adjustments

 

There’s a big misconception around reasonable adjustments for neurodiverse employees. Just like those with physical disabilities, many leaders expect accommodations to be costly. 

 

But, in fact, it often only takes small, inexpensive tweaks to support this group’s unique ways of thinking and working. This might mean a simple change of lighting, as the CIPD suggests here, or allowing neurodiverse individuals to work with headphones on. 

 

Some solutions do go further – especially in the hiring process. IT giant SAP, for example, has introduced gamified interviews to better suit autistic candidates. This involves them building a robot, to assess problem-solving skills.

 

This may not be within every employer’s capability. But perhaps the easiest, most reasonable adjustment is education. Making sure leaders know how to support neurodiverse people will help organisations get the most from their unique abilities. 

 

Neurodiversity & behaviour-based assessments

 

So how do behaviour-based assessments like ours empower leaders to embrace neurodiversity?

 

Research shows that interactive, ‘gamified’ elements can create a better experience for neurodiverse candidates (when compared to traditional self-report measures). The benefits include:

 

  • Higher motivation & engagement
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Increased self-efficacy (their belief that they can complete the task)

 

One study shows how these elements can translate into better performance for neurodiverse candidates, by allowing them to showcase their full potential.

 

Our approach to neurodiversity

 

Our assessment celebrates differences and gives every candidate a fair shot. But, that said, we’re especially committed to supporting neurodiverse candidates. We do that in two key ways: 

 

Research

 

Our Psychometrics team regularly partners with leading universities to gain a deeper understanding of neurodiverse people. We’ve got two main goals here:

 

  1. To gauge how fair they perceive our assessment to be, to influence our development process.
  2. To deepen our understanding of how neurodiverse people respond differently to the tasks in our assessment.

 

Feedback

 

Every candidate who completes our assessment receives an instant feedback report. By outlining the strengths (and development areas) they showcased during our assessment, this helps provide them with a positive, rewarding experience. This has been identified by the British Psychological Society as a key way to keep neurodiverse candidates engaged in your process.

 

Neurodiversity on equal footing

 

So we’ve seen how neurodiversity can boost your teams’ ability to innovate and solve problems. And we’ve also seen that it often takes only the simplest adjustments to make neurodiverse employees feel valued and included. 

 

It’s been great to see so many leaders genuinely committing to the fight for workplace fairness, equality and diversity this year. Now, it’s time that fight extended to neurodiversity too. 

 

There’s never been a better time to create a diverse, inclusive and accepting workplace. Discover more about D&I at work in our latest whitepaper here.

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