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5 Tips for Building a Neurodiverse Workplace

Companies have long focused on hiring and accommodating those with visible disabilities. But what about “invisible” disabilities? In a recent Center for Talent Innovation survey, 30 percent of white-collar-educated employees identify as having a disability. Of those, 62 percent have a disability that cannot be seen or detected unless the employee tells people. Another 26 percent of disabled employees stated that their disability is sometimes seen, depending on the circumstances.

But to complicate matters, only 3.2 percent of disabled employees inform their employers of their disability. According to the Center for Talent Innovation, “[t]hat means many people go through their day-to-day work lives without revealing what] disability they may be experiencing or how it impacts them physically, emotionally, and mentally.”

Included in the invisible disability category are learning and thinking differences. Common learning and thinking differences encompass dyslexia and ADHD.  Other disabilities, like autism, aren’t categorized as learning and thinking disabilities, but they do impact brain-based activities, such as reading, math, and focus. 

As one in five people in the U.S. have a learning and thinking disability, employers should consider employees with neurological differences to create, develop, and grow their DE&I initiatives. In this article, we will explore five tips that they can use to boost their DE&I strategies.

What is Neurodiversity?

Before we jump into our five DE&I tips, let’s first explore neurodiversity, what it is, and how it can impact your organization.

Neurodiversity is a scientific concept emerging from brain studies and imaging. According to these studies, people with learning and thinking differences process information differently. Neurodiversity includes all traditional learning and thinking conditions, like dyslexia, as well as conditions impacting brain processing, such as autism. 

5 Tips to Create a Neurodiverse Workplace

1. Tailor Recruiting Practices to Fit All Applicants

People operations professionals know that recruiting starts well before they receive a job candidate’s resume or application. It’s no different for neurodiverse candidates. 

Your recruiting strategies should focus on community outreach with this disabled population in mind. Engage with local and statewide vocational and rehabilitation agencies, as suggested by HR Drive

Examine your application and interview processes as well. Focus on skills and abilities, not academic credentials. Increase the use of video interviews, expanding your talent pool. Give all candidates time to prepare for the interview. One way to do this is to provide structured interview questions a week before the interview. Not only does this highly benefit neurodiverse candidates, but it also reduces hiring bias. 

2. Review Your Disability and Accommodation Policies

While it’s essential to review your disability and accommodation policies routinely, you may want to expand these policies for your neurodiverse workers. For example, take a look at your workspaces. Do you offer collaborative or co-working spaces where camaraderie can boost productivity? What about quiet areas for those that may have trouble focusing? 

What about your technology? Are you able to include closed captioning on your Zoom or Teams calls? Can you distribute reading materials ahead of a meeting? When looking at these issues, BenefitsPro recommends that gaining an understanding of how to support these employees will increase “a great sense of appreciation and loyalty to your organization, fostering motivation and adding intangible value.”

3. Adjust Your Return to Office Policies

As organizations execute their return-to-office policies, employers have the opportunity to optimize their strategy by adjusting for employees with learning and thinking differences. Not only does this include expanding or refining your disability accommodations, as mentioned above, but it gives you the ability to adapt physical surroundings, shift scheduling, and collaboration technology to those neurodiverse employees.

Something else to keep in mind:  a very small number of employees disclosed their disabilities to their employers. However, the past year has allowed employees to re-evaluate what’s important to them while embracing more flexible work schedules. As a result, according to Fast Company, employers may see more workers disclosing their disabilities. For this, employers need to have a plan in place to support these employees upon returning to the workplace.

4. Include Neurodiversity in Your DE&I Training

Like any DE&I strategy, it must start from the top-down, creating an “enterprise-wide initiative.” Create open conversations around neurodiversity to expand awareness and understanding. 

Additionally, include neurodiversity in your DE&I training. Focus on the benefits of having neurodiverse employees in the workplace as well as how to boost inclusion for these workers. Direct managers, for example, can benefit from understanding how to best support and lead their employees. Not only does this encourage these disabled employees, but it benefits the organization as a whole.

5. Offer Support and Resources to Your Disabled Employees

Finally, motivate and engage your neurodiverse employees by offering support and resources to them and their families. For example, encourage frequent breaks, offer noise-canceling headphones, or install adjustable lighting. Also, you can schedule meetings in blocks or on certain days, helping neurodiverse employees with focus and productivity. 

You can also assign a co-worker as a mentor as disabled employees onboard and create support groups where these employees feel comfortable expressing concerns or asking questions. After all, you want to support your top performers, so they remain committed and engaged

Now more than ever is the time to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. When supporting your employees, be sure to equip yourself with the tools to encourage your workforce’s diverse skills and thoughts. See how Cangrade can support your DE&I efforts. Find out more today.