5 Ways to Support Neurodivergent Employees

5 Ways to Support Neurodivergent Employees

When we discuss building an inclusive and accessible workplace, HR often overlooks one key demographic: neurodivergent employees.

According to the Austistic Self Advocacy Network, “Neurodiversity refers to variation in neurocognitive functioning. It is an umbrella term that encompasses neurocognitive differences such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, intellectual disability and schizophrenia, as well as ‘normal’ neurocognitive functioning, or neurotypicality. Neurodivergent individuals are those whose brain functions differ from those who are neurologically typical, or neurotypical.”

Neurodiversity, like all forms of diversity, is a hugely positive addition to any workplace. Diverse workforces are more creative, innovative, inclusive, and productive. In fact, the cash flows of diverse companies are 2.3x higher, and those companies are also 70 percent more likely to capture new markets. 

Neurodiverse employees, in particular, can bring new perspectives and skills to your company and can help teams look at problems in unique ways. Yet, only 10 percent of HR professionals say consideration of neurodiversity is included in their organization's people management practices.

This needs to change. Here are just a few of the many ways that HR can support neurodivergence in the workforce:

1. Promote Accessibility

To support neurodivergent employees, first, find out what they believe will help them. Everyone has unique needs, and HR should try to tailor the working environment to each individual. 

Some examples would be providing physical aids (blue lights, overlays), building spaces for those who have spatial sensitivities, offering noise-canceling headphones to those with sensory sensitivities, or giving out stipends to purchase other supportive technology, like text-to-speech software or Trello

Lastly, consider flexible work schedules or asynchronous work. This can allow employees to accommodate for peak performance hours, take breaks when needed, and find the schedule that works best for them.

2. Raise Awareness

As it stands, the level of awareness and understanding about neurodiversity is still really low in most workplaces. HR teams should consider delivering neurodiversity awareness education to all employees. Remember, don’t rely on your assumptions or media representation. Consider bringing in an outside consultant or company to provide this education. 

Since research shows that people perform better when they can be themselves at work, providing open education and discussion about neurodiversity will help employees bring their full selves.

3. Reconsider Hiring Practices

Building a diverse and inclusive set of hiring practices could easily be its own guide, but we’ll touch on a few baseline initiatives HR should consider. 

According to IEDP, “​​As a group, individuals with neurodiverse traits are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed or mal-employed, than the wider population.” HR and recruitment professionals need to ensure that their processes do not put neurodiverse candidates at a disadvantage.

Some ideas for neurodiverse hiring practices include:

  • Getting rid of rigid timed tests and interviews
  • Writing inclusive job descriptions 
  • Ditching long application forms
  • Using diverse hiring panels to avoid unconscious bias
  • Hiring for potential 
  • Thinking “culture add” rather than “culture fit”
  • Sending reminders for meetings and interviews 
  • Expanding your campus candidate pools to include schools that cater to neurodivergent individuals

4. Give Time & Options

“Allow for more time to digest and record information. Don’t insist on this being done in a certain way; let people draw, write or record if it helps them. Repetition is key. Allow space and time for employees to re-read and repeat tasks.” - IEDP

5. Recognize & Embrace Differences

Resist imposing strict policies, and don’t generalize. Everyone is different, and organizations need to be flexible when responding to individual needs. When HR and leadership work with employees to build out solutions, they are significantly more likely to be successful.

These are just a few examples of ways that organizations and HR teams can support neurodiverse employees. But remember, this is just a starting point, and there are tons of resources available to help you dive in more deeply. 

Here are a few:

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