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Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce

The benefits of neurodiversity and the importance of creating a neuroinclusive culture in the workplace.

diverse brains

Attracting and retaining top talent is a constant challenge for employers. According to the SIA, demand for tech talent currently outstrips supply and this trend is set to continue until at least 2026, forcing employers to think bigger picture when it comes to talent attraction and diversifying their workforce.

In this article, we explore the business benefits of neurodiversity, as well as how building a culture of neuroinclusion could help organisations maximise the potential of their current workforce and tap into a larger population of talent in the future.

Defining Neurodiversity

It is widely regarded that hiring diverse talent can enhance productivity, and being inclusive of people who are neurodiverse is one way to bolster a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) agenda.

As Harvard Health Publishing puts it:

“People experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is no one "right" way of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.”

The term encompasses a broad spectrum of diagnosed (and often undiagnosed) conditions including Autism, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, ADD and ADHD, with approximately 15-20% of the general population identifying as neurodivergent according to Lexxic, an expert organisation in the field of neurodiversity.

Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce

Moving beyond the science and psychology that defines neurodiversity, focus is shifting towards the benefits these differences can bring. While no two people’s lived experience of neurodivergence will be the same, many neurodivergent individuals possess unique strengths in the following areas:

  • Memory and information processing
  • Productivity and work quality
  • Sustained attention to detail
  • High levels of stamina
  • Dependability

In addition to these, Lexxic sites that neurodivergent individuals are also often hardworking, adaptive, intuitive, logical, innovative, creative and academic.

Building a Neuroinclusive Culture

Businesses that truly understand neurodiversity and take steps to become neuroinclusive can realise a number of longer-term benefits.

  • Increased revenue from additional productivity gained by leveraging team strengths effectively.
  • Enhanced reputation in the in the marketplace and with customers.
  • New and innovative outcomes and solutions from a team that can problem solve and think outside the box.
  • Ability to attract diverse talent when neuroinclusion is part of the culture.
  • Improved engagement and retention from enhanced employee wellbeing.

Adapting for Neuroinclusion

While the attributes of neurodiverse talent present clear business benefits, it is important to note that the culture and physical environment of the modern workplace, has been designed with a neurotypical person in mind. For neurodivergent individuals, many of the common aspects of office work could present significant challenges. From sensory overload caused by noise and bright lights to the pace and style of information consumption and communication. Without proper understanding and HR support on these conditions, individuals could face discrimination, mental health and physical challenges as well as negative impacts on career development.

For employers, simply understanding the topic is not enough to realise the benefits. Becoming truly neuroinclusive involves both understanding the value of a neurodiverse workforce and removing the barriers that can impact the communities affected. Thinking forward, it will be important for leaders and HR managers to consider:

  • Implementing HR policies to support the needs of neurodivergent employees
  • Ensuring leaders are championing neurodiversity by providing a platform to share stories, listening to employees, acting as role models, and creating a sense of belonging and psychological safety
  • Gathering data to identify and understand how neurodiversity shows up in the workforce
  • Constant education and training for managers to lead effectively as well as to dispel common myth and misconception on the topic
  • Offering a flexible work schedule

Neurodiversity is “complex, nuanced, and often invisible – yet it offers a business upside in this context: given that neurodivergent people literally think differently.” (CIPD)

Despite this, findings in a report by Lexxic state that, only 10% of HR professionals say that neurodiversity is included in their HR practices (CIPD), 50% of managers say they’d be uncomfortable managing or hiring someone who was neurodiverse (ILM) and 32% of people don’t feel they could disclose their neurodivergence at work (City and Guilds).

While these statistics are disheartening, they speak to the volume of opportunity for organisations. It’s time to get curious, to learn, and to adapt to create an environment that isn't just fit for future talent, but that also supports and maximises the potential of those who are highly skilled, but perhaps underutilised, in the current workforce.