Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Posted 09/09/2021 : By: Lucy Pakes

Many businesses are struggling with recruitment at the moment and with the current climate being as it is, employers should start thinking about attracting from the Neurodiverse talent pool that has been long overlooked because of the incorrect assumption that neurodiversity cannot be accommodated in the workplace. 

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term and helps to promote the view that neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation.  It is used to counteract negative social connotations that currently exist and to make it easier for people of all neurotypes to contribute to the world as they are.  It’s estimated that around 15% of the UK population are neurodivergent.

The term encompasses people with learning differences, who think and act differently from the majority, mainly because of their neurological make-up.  They may have conditions such as Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism spectrum, Tourette's Syndrome, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia as well as Development Language Disorders (DLD), these conditions are lifelong and can impact their day to day life. 

Positives of employing from the Neurodiverse pool

A poll taken at our recent HR/Employment law conference asked participants whether they knowingly employ someone who is neurodivergent, 85% of them did. 

There is real value in Neurodiverse employees.  Depending on their condition some people will have skills in logical/analytical thinking, problem-solving, multi-tasking, creativity, strong detail focus and they can be extremely loyal, honest and reliable.

As an example, a person with autism is more likely to conform to rules and follow systems, they think logically, are likely to pay attention to detail and keep to deadlines.  They will be very honest and will say things as they are rather than beating around the bush.   

So it’s worth taking some time to get an understanding of each condition and realise the skills that individuals can bring.

Recruiting for a Diverse and Inclusive workforce 

Neurotypical people are seen as the ‘norm’ in recruiting talent.  By including the neurodiverse talent pool in your recruitment search it will make you as the employer attractive to a larger pool of candidates.  As a diverse and inclusive employer, there needs to be an understanding of the needs of all individuals.

We asked participants at our HR/Employment Law Conference whether they are currently recruiting for neurodiverse people.  Interestingly, just 3% are actively recruiting, 3% are not at present but actively planning to in the next 6 months and 93% are not currently, but may consider in the future.

Some of the workplace challenges, including behaviours associated with neurodivergent employees, may arise partly as a result of them having to navigate a workplace set up solely with neurotypical people in mind.

So, when thinking about recruiting the first place to start would be writing the job description.  Think about the skills required for the job rather than whether they have qualifications and then match those skills with the candidates.  

There are other ways apart from advertising in words to advertise a role to attract individuals.  Try audio and visual advertising, examples could be radio advertising, a poster showing someone doing that job or a short reel on social media.  The advert needs to be communicated clearly, avoid jargon, generalisations and unrealistic requirements of the desired candidate.

When interviewing, an employer can ask the individual at the invitation whether there is anything during the recruitment process they may need a reasonable adjustment for. Remember that a formal interview may be stressful and difficult to navigate, so consider a more informal style of the interview or perhaps a work trial.  Avoid surprises on the day of the interview e.g. unannounced tests, fire alarm tests, any disruption outside the building e.g. roadworks – tell the person in advance so they know what to expect on the day and stick to that as far as is reasonable possible.

During the interview, avoid hypothetical questions and recognise that the person may take questions more literally than you intended. Another tip for during the interview is not to judge on things like body language, eye contact, talking too much / too little as some neurodiverse people struggle with social interaction.

Tips for Onboarding, Supporting and Understanding

Once the decision has been made to offer the job to a candidate, employers need to consider how they will on-board and continue to support the employee.  Here are some ideas:

  • Offer a visit before the first day, so it’s more familiar once they start
  • Make their workspace suitable and show them the workstation they’ll be working at
  • Have a ‘Buddy’ at work 
  • Consider allowing flexible hours to avoid additional stress e.g. rush hour
  • Provide structure e.g. a timetable for the first week or two with a clear description of what needs doing when
  • Plan any relevant adjustments to accommodate the person in the role
  • Avoid surprises e.g. spontaneous queries
  • Training – consider delivering neurodiversity training to your employees to increase awareness of different conditions.

Neurodivergent people are likely to be covered by the Equality Act. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to access premises and to ensure workstations have the right equipment and adaptations for the employee.  It’s always a good idea to speak to the individual to find out their needs and then consider whether the business is able to accommodate these reasonable adjustments especially if they are costly.  Some adaptations to consider are:

  • Specific desk – hot desking can be stressful to a neurodivergent person so consider a regular workspace
  • Lighting – is it right for the individual’s needs?
  • Noise levels – think about whether they need to concentrate and would benefit from a quiet area
  • Equipment – with modern tech available computers can be adapted with self-organisation apps, audio and visual assistance and other tools.

Employers should be doing all they can for every individual to be an inclusive workforce.  If you have any questions or want to find out more about recruiting for a diverse and inclusive workplace, please contact a member of our HR Consulting team who will be happy to help.

References/further reading:

• Supporting Autistic People in recruitment – A Guide for HR Professionals (CIPD)
• Neurodiversity at Work report (CID)
• National Autistic Society (autism.org.uk)
• Reasonable adjustments in the workplace - British Dyslexia Association (bdadyslexia.org.uk)
RADLD | Raising Awareness of Developmental Language Disorder
• NHS list ‘signs’ of autism:  NHS Autism
• DMA Talent: Autism Employer Guide.

How can we help you?

If you have an enquiry or you would like to find out more about our services, why not contact us?

Call Us On 0333 222 0989

Alternatively, make an enquiry or request a call back by filling out a form.