August 19, 2019
Following our interview with Theo Smith, leading expert on neurodiversity in the workplace, we’ve used the insights to shine a light on the challenges he believes neurodivergent people face in unlocking their potential in the world of work.
What makes you different makes you unique. So why are so many neurodivergent people hiding their ‘disability’ rather than showing off the things they can do with it? Well, first things first, from here on out we will not be referring to neurodiversity as a so-called disability. Here’s a quick refresher from our previous blog post, explaining what neurodiversity is.
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for variations in the human brain or put more simply different ways of thinking. Historically, these different ways of thinking were seen as ‘debilitating’ and these people were cast aside in the workforce. Well what a load of nonsense that was. The past made neurodiversity a disability, now it’s time to correct that and create a world where neurodivergent individuals can unlock their potential.
There is a common catch 22 in the world of work whereby people are reluctant to tell employers about their neurodiversity in fear of discrimination, both during the recruitment process and when they are employed. By default, employers then don’t know how to provide the individual with the optimum recruitment or working conditions, and this can limit their performance in both instances.
Theo said studies show neurodivergent individuals can often possess qualities such as hyperfocus and outstanding problem-solving skills. These are some of the skills that make them excellent for a variety of businesses and job roles, particularly in the technology industry.
Take the film The Imitation Game for example. The main character, Alan Turing, faced discrimination when he showed his neurodivergent tendencies, even though his code-breaking skills were remarkable. Theo goes onto say “we have made neurodiversity a disability which is really sad and quite distressing”. Now, we need to embrace neurodiversity as an opportunity.
So, if people felt more comfortable to be open about their neurodiversity and employers were accommodating for them, there’s likely to be an increase in performance, satisfaction and productivity. It really is a win, win situation.
During the recruitment process, employers should ensure that all candidates feel comfortable to share personal information without the fear of being discriminated against. If a candidate does reveal they are neurodivergent, employers should open up a dialogue around the subject asking how they can support them and if there’s any adjustments they need to make to optimise the recruitment process.
Managers should also have similar conversations, about optimum working conditions, with their employees who share that they are neurodivergent. If this includes that they have triggers, managers should look at ways to remove these for the individual. Opening this dialogue is key to facilitate and support their performance. Even better, this isn’t just the case for neurodivergent employees. If employers embed this dialogue into their work practices, they’re likely to see an increase in productivity from everyone, as everyone has preferred ways of working. And if we want to get the best results from our employees, wouldn’t it be good to know what their preferred working conditions are?
Check out our blog post for top tips on how to accommodate for neurodiversity in the recruitment process.