In an earlier post, we introduced neurodiversity – the possibilities that come with a full range of brain types found in humans, like that of people with Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or even Dyslexia. The benefits of having neurodiversity in the workforce have far surpassed the imagination of leaders. Yet, unemployment amongst this group is lofty.
Why? There are two reasons:
- Traditional hiring practices use a standardized approach. The result: we capture people on top of the bell-curve, and miss out those on the edges – the place where neurodiversity sits. The usual interview style isn’t a fit either, because neurodiverse people may not make eye contact, are prone to conversational tangents, and have confidence issues. Thus, we miss out again.
- Emphasis on conforming to structures and standard systems. Think about it – be it management styles, team work norms, infrastructure or performance evaluations, employees are expected to comply. And this is exactly where neurodiverse people need room to deviate. They need some degree of customization, by sheer virtue of how their minds work.
But, you can change this trend.
Companies that have implemented neurodiversity programs, report not only exceptional business gains, but also gains to their culture and experience of humanity. Here’s how you can contribute to this movement:
- Seek expert help. Over 70% of leaders report not knowing how to work with the needs of neurodiverse individuals. Here’s where we invite you to seek expertise. Partner with organizations like EXPANDability and EnAbleIndia, that are committed to empowerment of differently abled people. Such groups suggest candidates from lists of differently abled people seeking employment, assist in interviews, help administer training, and provide the support needed to ensure success of such employees.
- Setup support systems. To be productive, neurodiverse employees may not only need help navigating their work load and culture, but also their personal lives. That’s why, SAP offers two support circles—one for work, and another personal one. These include a team manager, a life skills coach, a work mentor, a buddy from the same team, family members, and even psychologists. HPE places neurodiverse employees in ‘pods’ of 15 people, where they work and grow alongside other colleagues in a 4:1 ratio, while two managers and a consultant address neurodiversity-related issues.
- Train your staff. What to expect when you have neurodiversity in your workplace? Build awareness and set expectations with your team members about the differences, before you hire neurodiverse individuals. Train them to work with the needs of this group. Help your managers assess talents/ limitations of your neurodiverse employees, so they can design careers that are unique to needs of each employee.
Embracing neurodiversity might feel like extra work! Yet, consider this – people are like asymmetrical puzzle pieces, who have been shaped to shed their irregularities in the interest of fitting in. Somewhere we’ve lost the talent and perspective unique to each of us. How would our workplaces be, if we learnt to celebrate this asymmetry?