More than 50% do not feel equipped enough to support people who may be neurodivergent

Published on: Mon 20 March 2023 by Emma Baldwin

Despite an increase in neurodiversity awareness in recent years, 55% felt they were not equipped enough to support people who may be neurodivergent in the workplace.

There’s no doubt that more people use language associated to the term ‘neurodiversity’ now, however some of these conversations tend to focus on the barriers that impact neurodivergent people and their colleagues, rather than the unique skill-sets that can be provided in the workplace.

So, what exactly is neurodiversity?

Well, in short, it’s the recognition that not all brains think or feel in the same way and that we all naturally have variations how our brains function.

And with different ways of thinking also comes different ways of working, fresh new perspectives and a boost in creativity; all benefits to a business which can also increase productivity. 

According to Mydisabilityjobs, neurodiverse people are more likely to be unemployed than people with any other disability and the Office for National Statistics states that only 15% of the recorded >700,000 autistic people in the UK are in employment.

Let’s read that statistic in a slightly different way –  85% of autistic people are unemployed. Of course other elements need to be considered, but these statistics highlight the possibility of inaccessibility in the workplace for neurodivergent people.

A poll that we ran on Twitter echoes this very same sentiment; that there is lack of neurodivergent-friendly environments. When asked ‘Do you feel equipped to support people around you who might be neurodivergent?’, a resounding 55% out of 440 people disagreed (21% said ‘a little’ and 34% said ‘no’). This data implies that more than half of the people surveyed do not have enough knowledge, resources, training or even time to support people who may be neurodivergent.  

Firstly, why does it matter?

If 1 out of 2 people feel that they do not have the skills to support neurodivergent colleagues, then what does that mean for those particular neurodivergent employees? Well, it may suggest that they do not feel supported by their team and/or organisation. Without an accommodating team, and the possibility that neurodivergent employees may feel that they can not progress in their role without certain requirements, then they could soon be leaving to find an organisation where they do feel supported.

The lack of knowledge could be a deterrent from the off-set, during interviews and hiring. According to Harvard Business Review individuals with neurodiversity could be unsuccessful in the recruitment process because behaviours which are associated with ‘good employees’ are in-fact behaviours which neurodivergent individuals may struggle with e.g. solid communication skills, persuasiveness, the ability to network and the ability to conform to standard practices without special accommodations.

All departments may need to alter the way they work and their expectations in order to accommodate neurodiversity. For example, spelling or grammar errors on a CV, which may have once been seen as unprofessional or low attention to detail by HR and the hiring manager, may be the result of someone with dyslexia. But without the awareness that this may be the case, exceptionally talented candidates could be screened before having a chance to showcase themselves. If an individual avoids eye contact during conversations, it could be perceived negatively, but in many cases eye contact can be very uncomfortable for autistic people.

So, how do we ensure that employees do feel they can support neurodivergent people in every organisational process and day-to-day activities?

Increase neurodiversity awareness

Educate employees through training, resources and policies. Firstly, when onboarding an employee or during updates, ensure people have received a policy clearly detailing neurodiversity, that they can access when required.

Secondly, follow up the policies, guidelines and best practices with neurodiversity-awareness training, so they gain an understanding of not only what neurodiversity is, but how bias can impact neurodivergent people and the little changes we can make to support neurodiversity in the workplace. In order for there to be meaningful change in the organisation, steer away from the lecture-style training and make sure that there’s place for powerful discussions to be held and that it is specific, and therefore relatable, to your organisation or sector.

Thirdly, keep the learning alive with topic-specific resources where the employees can refresh their understanding as and when they need to. This could be in the format of team-meeting activities, toolkits uploaded onto the intranet, or webinars.

Drive conversation on it

After the training, make sure that there is still conversation on the topic and that instead of seeing neurodiversity as a potential barrier, it is embraced in the workplace.

Is there anyone in your organisation who is neurodivergent and is comfortable to use their lived experiences to educate others? Consider appointing them as an ambassador to further the conversation from learning to doing by celebrating neurodiversity.  

Ensure you have a calendar of events planned in where employees learn from neurodivergent individuals, attend workshops and take part in fun team activities. These specific days could also be used to launch an initiative to support neurodiversity accommodations in the workplace, such as introducing an uninterrupted work policy on Friday’s, encouraging short, regular breaks, supplying noise-cancelling headphones or creating quiet spaces in the office.

Neurodiversity Awareness in the Workplace Training

We’re advocates of crafting tailormade solutions that ensure you meet objectives and maximise budgets. Talk to us today about neurodiversity awareness training which focuses on thought-provoking discussions and activities, for your employees.