We have discussed the benefits of a skills-based approach to hiring on our blog before and the advantages this can bring to both neurotypical and neurodiverse individuals. When we start from the beginning and make our businesses more accessible, it opens up a world of opportunity. However, we should also be prioritising support for neurodiversity in the workplace. 

This means that even when each new recruit has passed the interview stage and you’re welcoming them to the team – there should be systems and processes in place to ensure they have the same opportunities and ability to grow in the company as everyone else. 

Just as we would cater for diversity and disability – this falls under the same umbrella. But seeing as this topic isn’t discussed often, it can get overlooked by business owners, HR and other employees unless it directly affects them. It is time to start getting reasonable adjustments in place and making sure you are creating an accessible environment for over 15% of the country’s population that often gets forgotten. To help, we have put together a little guide as to how you can do so. 

What Does Neurodiverse Mean?

Firstly, let’s discuss the type of people that may fall into this 15% of the UK’s population. 

The term ‘neurodiverse’ is a rather broad one, describing a number of different ways an individual’s brain may work. This is usually in regards to learning, socialising, attention, mood and other functions neurotypical people don’t tend to think about. 

Common examples of conditions considered to fit under this term are ADHD, autism, dyslexia, Tourettes and dyspraxia.

However, it is important to remember when implementing support for neurodiversity in the workplace that this viewpoint highlights these differences as being normal, rather than drawbacks or weaknesses.

While certain behaviours or tendencies displayed are often seen as abnormal or extreme by others, it is simply that person’s way of coping and working that offers support or comfort. Much as you may prefer to work with headphones in as it helps you concentrate, people with neurodiverse minds may stimulate their brain in different ways or find certain behaviours helpful. 

Implementing Support For Neurodiversity In The Workplace

With this in mind, it is about time business owners and employees alike begin to think about what changes can be made at work to cater for every recruit that passes through. Taking an initiative like this can benefit your company’s ability to innovate and problem solve too. 

Not only that, but this more accommodating approach to hiring and your work environment will help draw in a much more diverse talent pool. So what accommodations can be made on your side to improve the business environment? 

Facilitate Continuity

Change can be difficult for many of us. So starting a new job certainly poses some new stresses and challenges. Continuity is often very important for people who identify as neurodiverse as it allows them to build a comfort zone and remain focused. Common practises such as ‘hot seating’ can cause a feeling of uncertainty and make it difficult for people to concentrate on their roles because they do not have a safe space to go to and familiarise themselves with every day. 

Because of this, dedicated desks and drawer spaces are a great way to ensure everyone knows where they belong and has the opportunity to settle more quickly. This does not mean, however, that you have to get rid of the idea entirely. Having the option of areas to move around in could help get the creative ideas flowing on their own terms.

Support For Neurodiversity In The Workplace

Moreover, managers should ensure regular meetings are set up at times to suit both parties. While this should be a priority in any business – it can offer a great amount of support and reassurance to those that need it. It serves as a time to catch up on progress and bring up any uncertainties each person may have. However, making sudden changes to this kind of arrangement without warning or ample notice should be avoided where possible. 

While it would be unrealistic to expect meetings to be set in stone at all times, employees should try to keep their schedules that involve neurodiverse colleagues as regimented as they can. This may mean meeting on the same day each week at the same time, or making a point to communicate with each other to find a time that suits them both before anything is put on the calendar. 

Provide Regular Diversity Training

A great way to start implementing support for neurodiversity in the workplace is to ensure the entire team is aware of it. For people that do not have contact with conditions such as autism or dyspraxia – it can be hard to understand why these people might need certain accommodations at work. Providing professional training intertwined with other learning and development will give them all the opportunity to make their own adjustments and accept new team members more readily. 

Many individuals on the spectrum have had negative experiences in the business world. This includes the hiring process and their ability to settle into long-term employment. Much of this struggle comes from the people they work with not accepting them or providing the support that they need to excel in their role. This training will play a key part in adopting a culture of acceptance within your business. Everyone will understand the part they play in helping new employees and will usually become more patient as well as creative when it comes to tackling challenges.

Although, it’s not just important to share the message of neurodiversity within your company. Pushing it externally to customers, partners and competition will help display you as a diverse and accepting brand. When we make this information more accessible, people will naturally become more aware and understanding of it in general life.  

Playing such a part in the community can help people that struggle to have a wider range of opportunities and also find companies like you where they can feel welcome and comfortable to share their skills. This advantage should be recognised and taken on board by other businesses that support the work you do. 

Soft-Skills Refresh

Another common struggle of neurodiverse people is having the confidence and ability to apply soft skills such as verbal communication, empathy and time management. While this can often be a deal-breaker for employers – it leaves highly qualified candidates at a disadvantage. In reality, there are plenty of roles that can build upon these skills and actually offer the person an opportunity to improve upon them.

Pairing this with their extensive knowledge of the role and industry puts both them and you at a great advantage. You have the chance to shape an employee and help them grow within the company. Providing regular training can tackle the issue of gaps in their skills and allow the entire team to keep up to date with what we would call ‘basic’ knowledge. 

Moreover, encouraging professional development in these areas will help other team members further understand the ways in which their neurodiverse colleagues think and work, while working together to find ways to help each other and share ideas. These soft skills are no longer barriers to a well-performing, effective team. They can be overcome and employers will start to use their staff in ways that reflect their best qualities. 

Work On Your Own Communication

While we talk about developing employees’ skills and bettering themselves, it is important to remember that it is also up to you to accommodate the ways in which certain individuals may communicate best. After all, it is much easier for a neurotypical person to adapt their ways in order to help others than it is the other way around. We should take advantage of this ability and begin realising how we can communicate to ensure the best results. 

For example, using clear and concise instructions when training or onboarding provides the best opportunity for that person to understand and follow them to the best of their ability. When we start over-complicating things or throwing too much at them at once, information can become overwhelming or entangled with other things. Instead, break things down into bite-sized chunks so that any employee could follow and understand. This also helps us to retain information and retrain people in the future!

Moreover, managers and leaders can find out the ways in which employees learn best. Some perform better by watching someone else while others prefer to take part in the task themselves. Communicating with your staff will ensure they are getting the most out of their training. This will help them feel most confident and able to carry out a task in the future. Not everybody works in the same way, so make a point with any employee to see how they would like to learn. 

It’s Time To Introduce Support For Neurodiversity In The Workplace

Hopefully, you are more aware of why this topic is so important. With a huge percentage of the talent pool being involved – you could be missing out on some star employees by not doing this. 

Accommodations are expected for the physically disabled. So we should broaden that possibility to those who may need extra support when learning or tackling a huge change such as a new job role. With more awareness, we hope that the business world becomes a much more accepting and accessible place to belong. 

We want to help you get there. So if you’re looking for more advice or training on the matter, get your team involved and let’s set up the opportunity. Speak to one of our dedicated Azimuth experts today and implement your own, tailored approach. You can reach us at enquiries@azimuth.eu.com or call 01483 24 33 81. 

We will be more than happy to discuss how we can help you and with over 20 years of experience across a range of industries, we have the innovative, proven tools that can help you unlock the true potential of yourself – and your business. What are you waiting for?

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