A Neurodiverse Workforce: Why Diversity Makes Better Business Sense

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In the past couple of years, there has been increasing societal awareness of diversity. Companies have taken note of this, leading to a push to hire people from different backgrounds. And statistics show that different companies are indeed more likely to thrive than non-diverse companies. Diverse companies are 70% more likely to enter new markets and report 19% higher revenues. 

One group that is often overlooked, however, is the neurodiverse community. In this article, we will explore how a neurodiverse workforce can serve as a corporate trump card and how diversity makes better business sense.

What is neurodiversity?

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Neurodiversity is a non-medical term coined by sociologist Judy Singer, which explains how developmental disorders are actually normal brain variations. It is also a concept that explains that people with these variations are not “defective,” but on the contrary have unique skills and perspectives. The term typically includes dyslexia, dyscalculia, hyperlexia, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome and autism, to name but a few. 

The challenges neurodiverse people face at work

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Neurodivergent individuals face a lot of stigma when applying and being interviewed for jobs. In the interview process, recruiters and interviewers often compare their interview style to neurotypical individuals. 

Furthermore, revealing a neurodiversity can unfortunately lead to neurodivergent individuals not being selected for certain positions or not being considered when it comes to promotions.

At work, neurodivergent individuals have to overcome a multitude of barriers and stigmas. In many companies, emotional and social support is minimal especially when it comes to common mental health issues that generally all workers can experience regardless of neurodiversity. 

Certain actions and behaviours can be negatively perceived by neurotypical managers and employers. It’s important to provide access to information and resources for anyone in the workplace looking to speak to a professional on how to overcome mental health concerns as a neurodivergent individual. 

As a result, neurodivergent individuals are more vulnerable to poverty. In other parts of the world including the UK, only 16% of autistic adults are full-time workers, while 45 percent left or lost their jobs due to workplace challenges. 

5 benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce

Increased productivity

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According to JPMorgan Chase, neurodivergent individuals in certain tech executive roles are 90% – 140% more productive than their neurotypical counterparts. Moreover, Aspergers Victoria suggests that neurodivergent people in the right roles can be 40% more productive than their neurotypical colleagues. 

Statistics aside, many neurodivergent individuals have unique skills that can be very beneficial to companies. People with ADHD may have a high level of hyper-focus, while employees with dyslexia may have excellent spatial reasoning, which can help them excel in certain roles. When companies recognise these capabilities and reward good work performance, neurodivergent employees feel valued and are more productive. 

Enhancing creativity and innovation

Another major advantage of a neurodiverse workforce is the fact that neurodivergent individuals are generally creative, which can lead to company and product innovation. Neurodivergent employees can have a different perspective on how things should be done or what certain products should look like. This can lead to the company staying one step ahead of its competitors.

Many autistic and dyslexic individuals, for example, have strong pattern recognition skills and excellent logical skills. They can help solve certain challenges that can be hidden to others, which in turn gives companies a competitive advantage. 

Tackling stigmas and stereotypes

Since many neurodivergent individuals face many challenges when it comes to finding a job, workplaces that embrace them play a key role in creating a more equitable and inclusive society. When companies create an inclusive corporate culture that champions differences, they send a powerful message to neurotypical employees and other companies that prejudice and stigmatisation are not tolerated. 

Workplaces that actively seek to support their neurodivergent employees create a sense of community and understanding in which all employees support each other. This can lead to a stronger sense of social cohesion and greater empathy and understanding.

On a financial level, workplaces with neurodiverse workers actively contribute to closing the neurodiversity pay gap and helping neurodivergent individuals succeed in all areas of life. By assessing the unique strengths of neurodivergent individuals, inclusive workplaces are one step closer to challenging social stigmas and promoting financial justice. 

Broader talent pool

By opening the recruitment pool to neurodivergent individuals, recruiters and employers benefit from a broader talent pool and discover some exceptional talent. They need to recognise that neurodivergent individuals have unique skills and perspectives that complement not only neurotypical employees, but also give the company a competitive advantage.

In order to have access to this broader talent pool, employers must ensure that their workplace policies accommodate potential neurodivergent employees. These include the implementation of policies such as hybrid or remote work, flexible working hours, assistive technology, specialised training and sensitivity training. Only then can they ensure that they truly create a positive and supportive environment in which neurodivergent employees can thrive. 

More bespoke customer service

Neurodivergent employees are crucial to diversifying customer service and communicating with neurodiverse customers. Many neurodivergent individuals are very good at adopting an analytical approach that is helpful in dealing with complex customer-related problems. For example, online communication channels often require the customer care agent to take a systematic approach that can play to the strength of the neurodivergent customer care agent. 

In addition, it is a plus to have neurodivergent customer care agents on board, as companies can better meet the needs of a diverse group of customers, including neurodivergent ones. This helps neurodivergent customers feel understood and resolve their problems more quickly. 

Final thoughts

As Judy Singer once wrote: “Why not propose that just as biodiversity is essential to ecosystem stability, so neurodiversity may be essential for cultural stability?” By putting their money where their mouth is and championing neurodiversity, companies not only have the power to change corporate culture, but also have a positive impact on society at large. 

Guest post by Gemma Williams