01. WHAT is neurodiversity and who are neurodivergents and neurotypicals?
Neurodiversity is, according to activist Nick Walker, “the diversity of human brains and minds – the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species.” Basically, it’s a fancy name for the fact that all our brains and minds are unique and individual. Like snowflakes, no two brains and no two minds are exactly alike.
Neurodiversity encompasses conditions like Autism ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Hyperlexia, OCD, Tourrettes, Bipolar, and many other conditions.
People with such conditions are known as neurodivergents or NDs. All other people are known as neurotypicals or NTs.
02. WHat is special about neurodiversity in the workplace?
Neurodivergents constitute about 20% of the general population. Neurodivergents have talents, perspectives and skills that can be beneficial in many work environments. Hiring neurodivergent employees can provide companies with a competitive edge that brings measurable benefits, both financially and in terms of workplace culture. Some of these benefits include:
- Neurodivergent employees bring unique experiences and skill sets to your office, helping you build effectiveness and diversifying your outlook on engaging your clients.
- Diversity of all kinds contributes to creativity, innovation, and a competitive advantage over non-diverse companies. The greater the diversity of your staff, the more unique will be the ideas and perspectives you’ll bring to any given problem.
- Neurodivergent individuals are an untapped pool of talent. This is a huge resource to help fill the skills shortages and gaps that exist, especially in the IT and Finance sectors.
- Neurodiverse companies have been proven to outthink and outperform homogeneous companies.
- Dyslexic Individuals for example, often have average or above-average intelligence with excellent creative thinking skills. They tend to have strong problem-solving and spatial reasoning capabilities which allows them to see a variety of solutions to a problem.
- Autistic individuals tend to excel in areas like rule-based thinking. Many organizations are experiencing benefits from including individuals with these strengths in their workforces.
- By working together, diverse employees learn from each other, thus increasing the skill level of entire company
- Learning to manage neurodiverse teams makes for more empathetic managers.
03. What’s happening with neurodiversity in Fortune 500 companies?
More and more employers are beginning to understand these benefits and develop hiring initiatives that focus on recruiting and adapting the workplace for neurodiverse workers.
While these efforts are more common in larger corporations, they have proven beneficial for businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries. Here are some international companies that are leading the way with neurodiversity:
JPMorgan Chase hired more than 70 employees with autism between 2015 and 2018. As the executive director and head of Autism at Work at Chase told Fortune, people on the spectrum are highly focused and less distracted by social interactions. ‘Our autistic employees achieve, on average, 48% to 140% more work than their typical colleagues, depending on the roles,’ he said.
Deutsche Bank and UBS also have programs to increase the autistic population of their workforce
EY’s ‘Neurodiversity Centre of Excellence,’ which has been running since 2016, is helping them lead the way in being Neurodiverse
SAP, the Autism at Work program is proud to have a 90% retention rate of hires on the autism spectrum because it creates a system of support around those employees.
04. Where is the challenge?
Although companies are seeing encouraging results, given the very nature of neurodivergence, managers and peer groups need to be sensitized, proper processes and procedures put in place, sensory sensitivities accommodated and smooth onboarding are some of the important factors.
There is also a dearth of skilled and experienced professionals in this field offering to service these companies. Many times companies find it difficult to deploy their own assets towards this cause.
05. companies cutting corners.
As a result of the non-availability of skilled expertise to support neurodiversity initiatives, companies have opted to cut corners and find shorter or simpler ways to implement neuroinclusion. This has proved to be a costly mistake and they are now having to reverse their steps, undo and redo all over again.
Managers who are not adequately trained are finding it difficult to manage neurodivergent employees and many suffer from a lack of communication. This has led to frustration on both sides of the aisle.
06. What is NeuroGifted doing about it?
NeuroGifted has been working to bridge the gaps that exist in the system. We are helping build a viable ecosystem that will support the growth and expansion of neurodiversity inclusion in companies.
Some of our key focus areas are awareness building and advocacy, developing skilled and qualified professionals, and leveraging technology to develop solutions to many of the teething problems that are hindering neuroinclusion in companies.
We have also developed neurodiversity content for professionals like coaches, trainers, managers, leaders, and educators.