Neurodiversity, Diversity of Thought & Michelle Ridsdale

October 15, 2019

Recently we interviewed neurodiversity advisor Michelle Ridsdale from Australia, about her experience of working to change attitudes towards neurodiversity. She champions the positive outcomes that having a neurodivergent workforce creates, such as ‘diversity of thought'.

Firstly, a bit about Michelle. She's had a variety of HR positions over the years, working on a range of projects that involved bridging diversity in gender, sexual orientation, disability and ethnicity in both corporate as well as educational organisations. She is now the Chief People Officer for Envato and just over 3 years ago she founded Shifting Mindsets which does incredible work to create inspiring futures for people with autism.

Read on to learn more about the work Michelle is creating change in businesses so more people understand this often misunderstood topic.

What is Neurodiversity?

Michelle says "Neurodiversity can be described as neurological differences that can be translated into a different way of thinking. Neurodiversity is often associated with Autism. Although it is an umbrella term for multiple different ways of thinking. These include the Autistic Spectrum, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Tourette Syndrome, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and others."

What can neurodiversity bring to the workplace?

“Diversity ultimately impacts the culture and the bottom line of a company. Having different ways of thinking in the team is so useful to bring different perspectives on how to solve problems. Not only that, neurodiversity can bring great skills such as strong attention to detail and creativity" explained Michelle.

Michelle uses the phrase ‘diversity of thought' to explain the different types of thinking processes that people have. She goes on to say:

"Diversity of thought brings different ways of thinking to a team. It means we will have a richer discussion about how we solve problems and potential a more innovative approach to how we work together.”

How can businesses help during the recruitment process?

Neurodivergent people can be triggered by the more traditional working environments, and face anxieties in a job role or interview processes because of these. Michelle has seen the value that online skills assessments can bring to the recruitment process. At Readify she implemented non-bias screening using ShowTech online technical skills assessments.

For neurodivergent candidates, Michelle believes that online assessments are helpful:

“The interview process can be stressful for these candidates because getting to the interview can cause unnecessary stress from triggers such as busy transport links. This can then have a knock-on effect on their performance at the interview. Testing the candidates at home in the initial stages can help their skills to shine through and build their confidence, knowing that they are being judged on their skills and performance, rather than interview skills.”

"This works particularly well for testing tech skills, as this can be implemented in the initial stages to identify the candidates with skills you're looking for. This helps with all forms of diversity, not just neurodiversity as it removes unconscious bias from the screening process and focuses on candidate ability. The problem is how can we implement similar testing for roles that aren't tech and get the same level of insight into skillsets.”

You can read more of Michelle's insights into the way the recruitment process can leave neurodivergent candidates at a disadvantage here.

How can businesses make changes in the workplace?

Businesses can accommodate for neurodiversity by asking all staff if they need any reasonable adjustments. Michelle told us about some common adjustments that can easily be made:

“Later start times are good for employees who can feel flustered by travelling in rush hour. Allowances for appointments and remote working, if necessary, can also help employee productivity and help to promote a good work-life balance."

“When it comes to performance issues, it’s good to have measures in place to deal with these as they arise and try to make an effort to solve them before they become a pattern and intervention is required."

Solving performance issues could be something as simple as allowing an employee to wear noise-cancelling headphones to improve their concentration.

What's Shifting Mindsets?

In 2016, Michelle founded Shifting Mindsets, which is doing amazing work by advising businesses and helping them to realise the potential of neurodivergent candidates.

Michelle says "Our mission is to create inspiring futures for people with autism. We work with individuals and organisations to create work opportunities for those with neurodiversity. Our dream is to create hope for people beyond the educational environment."

If you’re particularly interested in learning more about autism, Michelle highly recommends the book Uniquely Human. This book promotes the understanding of Autism, not as a disability, but as a unique way of being human.

We'd like to thank Michelle for sharing her insights with us in this interview which we hope you've found useful.

If you'd like to know more about how our online tech assessments can help you to create a screening process free from bias to support diversity in the workplace, then say hello (we're a friendly bunch).

NeurodiversityDiversityInclusionOnline Skills AssessmentsTech AssessmentsCheif People OfficerShifting Mindsets