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Neurodiversity Inclusion – 7 Steps for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Neurodiversity Inclusion - 7 Steps for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

  May 3 2022 | admin

About one-fourth of the world’s population is under the ambit of the neurodiversity spectrum, however, most are unaware of the issues related to neurodivergent people. It is also disheartening that society still considers it a taboo. Ignorance about neurodiversity is the biggest reason why most people within the spectrum remain unemployed. Even when people from the spectrum are gainfully employed, an ignorant and non-inclusive environment towards neurodiversity makes their life at work a painful struggle.

Organizations in their journey of inclusion often exclude neurodivergent candidates. The primary reason behind such exclusion is lack of knowledge about the neurodiversity spectrum and expertise in making the workplace inclusive for such diverse employees.
Case studies have shown that neurodivergent candidates are more productive in an inclusive environment. Moreover, if an organization is not inclusive and conducive to neurodivergent employees, it is eventually going to have an adverse impact on the productivity of the employee and business of the company.

As in the case of the inclusion of other diverse employees in the workplace, there is no custom formula for an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees. The process, policy, and inclusion steps differ from organization to organization. The inclusion process is ever-evolving, and organizations must keep in mind the needs of their employees. However, here are some points to make the workplace more inclusive for neurodivergent employees for an organization starting its inclusion journey.

  1. Learn and Unlearn: Bias flows from ignorance. Society is still ignorant about the issues concerning neurodivergent people. Most workplaces do not even talk about neurodiversity, considering the same taboo and a lack of knowledge about the spectrum. Neurodiversity is a canvas with many colors, and a person from the spectrum can have anything from social anxiety to ADHD to autism. Moreover, no two individuals from the spectrum are similar to each other. It is complex, yet empathy can simplify the problem. Organizations starting their journey towards an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees must first start with the sensitization process of their employees. Each individual’s needs and requirements in the spectrum are different from the other. The issues and brackets in the canvas also differ from each other. Knowledge about the issues faced by neurodivergent persons can not just defeat this bias but also help in understanding the individuals, which makes the workplace inclusive.
  2. Review the Interview Process: As the individuals from the spectrum deal with lots of issues that a person not coming from the neurodivergent spectrum seldom deals with, the organization’s screening process also needs a thorough review. For example, some individuals from the spectrum may find it uncomfortable meeting strangers in a new environment. Some individuals find it challenging to talk to new people. Considering these aspects, the organizations may change their screening process. Tools like multiple-day interviews to make the candidate feel at ease or giving them the interview questions beforehand are some of the techniques companies can use to screen neurodivergent people. Again, there are no rules, and organizations can introduce many more techniques and tools for such screening of neurodivergent candidates.
  3. Expand the roles: There is a misconception even within inclusive organizations that neurodivergent people are good at a specific job roles. Studies show that neurodivergent people have good analytical skills and excel in jobs that require analytics and data churning. When we reduce neurodivergent people to specific job roles, we stereotype them. Even if it is a positive stereotype, it hurts the talent pool. Companies which are aiming to be inclusive must avoid this kind of stereotyping and expand the job roles for neurodivergent people depending on their core skill sets. This will help create more job opportunities within the organization, which in turn helps the organization get more neurodivergent candidates from the talent pool.
  4. Mentoring: It is important to invest in the career path of neurodivergent persons, especially from the autism spectrum. They may not receive opportunities easily as they navigate social situations differently from other employees. It is essential to have a mentor for neurodivergent employees to assist them in learning key responsibility areas and preparing them for their career path. Moreover, organizations hiring neurodivergent employees should also focus on their training. It has to be different from the regular training and orientations. As the adaptation level of neurodivergent persons may differ from others, companies will have to customize these training programs taking into account the needs of each individual.
  5. The matrix of success: Every organization has a set of rules to determine a candidate’s success. These are the evaluation matrix used for promotion and employment increments—these matrices are defined at the start of every financial year or when a new employee joins the workforce. In the case of neurodivergent employees, such a predetermined matrix to evaluate success may prove counterproductive. The working style and output of neurodivergent persons may be different from other persons working on the same project. Therefore, any predetermined yardstick applicable for all may not accurately evaluate the success of a neurodivergent person. Hence, it is advised that organizations should avoid any such predetermined matrix for the evaluation of success of neurodivergent persons.
  6. Accommodate various requirements: The one trait which is common amongst most neurodivergent persons is difficulty in adapting to a new environment. Moreover, people from the spectrum may not feel comfortable searching for suitable accommodation. Transport to the office is also a huge matter of concern. Many neurodivergent employees may not be comfortable changing their routes and commuting to the office every day. Organizations on the journey of including neurodiversity in the workforce have to keep these factors in mind. A comfortable environment and set routine helps people from the neurodivergent spectrum to focus more on their job. On the other hand, a disturbance in routine or a sudden change may impact their mental health. These small steps at the outset may seem inconsequential but play a more significant impact in making the workplace neurodivergent inclusive.
  7. Be flexible: Flexible work policy is the key to making the workplace vibrant for neurodivergent employees. Giving them a head start before a meeting and allowing them a couple of minutes to settle down before a presentation are just a few examples of making employees from the neurodivergent spectrum feel comfortable. There are many such tiny steps organizations can implement at the workplace. Rather than becoming rigid about time and schedule, a little flexibility in schedule can help significantly. These steps help in a great way to make the working environment inclusive for neurodivergent employees.

 Neurodiversity Inclusion - 7 Steps for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

Besides the above, there are many ways to make the workplace neurodivergent inclusive. The scope of inclusion is vast and ever-evolving. Organizations committed to the goal can build and implement new policies to improve the workplace according to the individual’s needs. Unfortunately, when it comes to making the workplace inclusive, many organizations take shelter on the excuse of a lack of awareness. In this scenario, external consultants such as The Outcast Collective can creating the policy, infrastructure, sensitization, etc. required for an inclusive workplace.

The inclusion of neurodivergent employees in the workplace is also a need of a growing business. As stated earlier, a quarter of the population is under the spectrum of neurodiversity. Furthermore, organizations which are not inclusive are losing this talent pool to their competitors, which will undoubtedly impact the company’s business in the long run.

The advice here for companies is to not hesitate to take the first step. Then, with a touch of empathy and proper guidance from professional consultants, they can make the workplace inclusive for neurodivergent employees.