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How to Support Neurodiverse Employees

How to Support and Benefit from Neurodiverse Employees By Brittany Lewis

Supporting neurodiversity is sometimes overlooked in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) conversation, but it’s an important initiative. Employing and supporting neurodiverse individuals is key to creating a well-rounded and dynamic workforce and company culture.  

Research suggests that up to 15-20% of the U.S. population is neurodivergent, meaning that most of us likely interact in some way with people who are neurodiverse – at work or socially, and among family, friends, coworkers, or colleagues.  

Given such prevalence, and as a talent recruiter, I want to help grow awareness of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, recognized every March 18 – 24. This annual, global initiative aims to challenge stereotypes and impart a greater understanding of neurological differences among our fellow human beings who are neurodivergent.  

I’m going to focus on how neurodiverse employees are indeed people who should be celebrated!  

What is neurodiversity?  

Neurodivergent individuals tend to look at problems differently and think outside the box, offering creative solutions and unique perspectives. Neurodiversity is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other conditions, such as dyslexia, Tourette syndrome, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other learning disabilities.  

Neurodiverse employees offer competitive advantages. Deloitte says that workplaces with neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be as much as 30% more productive, saying that, “Abilities such as visual thinking, attention to detail, pattern recognition, visual memory, and creative thinking can help illuminate ideas or opportunities teams might otherwise have missed.”  

Considering the contributions that neurodiverse employees make to today’s companies, I want to offer ways for organizations to champion neuroinclusion. Supporting neurodiversity at work with tools and support for these individuals not only helps neurodiverse employees thrive but as mentioned, it also greatly improves an organization’s overall culture.  

Neuroinclusion benefits all employees: Many directives that are helpful to neurodiverse employees are also useful for neurotypical individuals, whose brains function in similar ways as most of their peers. As a result, workplace directives around neurodiversity are beneficial to employees at every level of an organization, increasing employee engagement, retention, harmony among team members, and a healthier work environment.  

5 effective strategies to promote neuroinclusion 

Each neurodivergent employee has their own strengths and individual needs. Open and consistent communication and programs designed around their needs are extremely important in nurturing successful working relationships and partnerships.

1. Deliver communication clearly and in written form, if possible

Neurodiverse individuals are often misunderstood, which is why so many prefer written communication. Being direct and specific helps to eliminate the chance of miscommunication. Additionally, when communication is clearly written out, both neurodiverse and neurotypical employees have access to it for future reference. How does this help neurodiverse individuals? Accommodating this need reduces stress by giving them a moment to gather their thoughts and deliver them in a way that won’t be misconstrued. 

2. Avoid blanket statements

Blanket statements are often kryptonite to neurodiverse employees, deterring them from using their natural and valued abilities. Neurodiverse employees to whom a blanket statement is directed often ignore the statement because they don’t think it applies to them. And those to whom a blanket statement does not apply are left to think they are doing something wrong.  

It’s good practice in business to avoid making blanket statements in general, and to simply address issues in detail with people who are directly involved. Employers and management have a responsibility to all employees to be open and forthright, rather than issue blanket statements that are too difficult for people to decipher.  

3. Use flexibility to move people to higher productivity

Neurodiverse employees have spent their entire lives learning how to navigate a world that isn’t built for them; however, organizations that offer them flexibility with work schedules, breaks, and workspaces succeed in opening doors that help them perform to their fullest potential.  

4. Give highly valued feedback and support  

Neurodiverse individuals tend to be harder on themselves than others, so consistent feedback is important to them. When interacting with and conducting performance reviews with these employees, make sure to highlight their successes as well as areas of needed improvement. Be specific in pointing out areas in which they can improve and grow.  

5. Create a culture that celebrates acceptance and inclusion

DEI initiatives should include support and programs for neurodiverse individuals, including regular training on neurodiverse awareness, as well as in hiring practices and during onboarding processes. It’s important to hold employees accountable for upholding best practices surrounding all DEI initiatives, including this one.  

By implementing the above strategies, your organization can ensure that your neurodiverse employees feel supported and valued and continue to be vital members of your team and company for years to come. Here are deeper insights into how to build an inclusive workplace for neurodivergent employees. 

Connect with me for access to top talent – and top jobs  

I hope you will join me in recognizing Neurodiversity Celebration Week and your neurodivergent workers, and I also encourage you to contact me for access to the best talent for your team – or your next job opportunity. I am a DEI-certified senior talent recruiter with Goodwin Recruiting and genuinely value every opportunity to match the right talent with the right opportunities.