The key to unlocking neurodiversity & the code for success
In a recent discussion, Texthelp, EY and SAP explored how to unlock the value of neurodiversity. But, what does it mean to ‘unlock the value of neurodiversity?’
Below, we answer that question while highlighting some key insights from the discussion.
Discover advice shared by:
- Cathy Donnelly, Chief People Officer, Texthelp
- Hiren Shukla, Global Neurodiversity Leader, EY
- Jose Velasco, Program Director and Autism at Work Ambassador, SAP Signavio
What does it mean to ‘unlock the value of neurodiversity?’
Often, when we think of the value of neurodiversity, we think about the strengths that come from diversity of thought.
“When we [EY] conceived this idea around neurodiversity, we really started thinking about our businesses. And clearly, we think about the data and emerging technology sector, [which involves] skilling and re-skilling. But where are you going to find this agile and resilient workforce? The more I began to understand neurodiversity - whether it’s ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, or autism - the resiliency that's in that community is so significant.
“We have also seen the strengths that come across. Creativity, analytical thinking, complex problem solving, and a completely new dimension of how we're thinking about creating new products and processes and solutions.”
“It’s the journey of seeing those strengths and unlocking them.”
It’s true that with neurodiversity comes many business benefits. In fact, EY have secured $1b+ ROI and saved 3.5m+ hours from solutions created by their neurodivergent talent.
But when we think about ‘unlocking the value of neurodiversity’ more importantly, it’s about unlocking value for our people.
Our workplaces must become somewhere where people not only feel valued for their unique identities, but feel value from. That means creating a place where their talents are not only celebrated, but somewhere they are embraced and can truly shine and succeed.
The key to unlocking value
Diversity and inclusion is critical in this process. Hiren explained;
“How do we create value for our clients, our colleagues, and our community? It's really through that lens by which we continue to think about how do we drive inclusion that will unlock value…diversity, inclusion, equity isn’t just a nice thing to do, it is a critical thing to do…Organizations that will not only survive in the future but thrive, will have to make sure that they are agile in investing and committing to this journey.”
When we commit to prioritizing neuro-inclusion we can drive value for everyone, and make a difference for the future world of work.
On thinking about what inclusion really means, our panel shared 3 key factors.
For Jose, it’s the partnership of equal access to opportunities, and belonging.
“I believe that access without belonging is an incomplete equation.”
It’s well known that the neurodivergent community are unemployed or underemployed. For example, upwards of 80% of individuals with autism do not have a job. Through their Autism at Work program, SAP focuses on hiring employees that are on the autism spectrum. But as Jose points out, ensuring the hiring process is inclusive is not enough. Employees must be met with an experience that gives them a desire to remain within the company.
Jose explained how initiatives such as their Autism at Work program helps to create a value for the employees at SAP, as well as the business;
“Belonging really translates for many companies like ours into employee branding and retention. The cost of replacing an employee in a company like ours can range anywhere between 40% to 100% of the yearly salary. Value is created because people feel that they belong in programs like this.”
When we see ourselves represented in our environment, we can achieve that sense of belonging. The same applies when we see our employer taking a proactive approach to make sure our voices are heard.
For Cathy, it relates to the community that an organization creates.
“For me it’s community. At Texthelp we're really fortunate because community is actually one of our values. Of course our community needs to be built on trust. It needs to be built on mutual respect and dignity. And, to echo Jose, it's really about creating that sense of belonging and that people feel that the environment is psychologically safe. They can bring their full selves to work and they're going to be accepted.”
Alongside specific programs, the wider company culture must feel inclusive. Of course this is achieved with the existence of neurodiversity programs and initiatives. But success relies on a variety of factors. For example, the role that leadership plays in the process, and how well inclusive values are incorporated across all processes within the organization.
For Hiren, it’s important to remember that inclusion isn’t about how we can include neurodivergent people in our environment. It’s about creating an environment that is created for all types of people.
“Inclusion is often mistaken as a form of assimilation. I think there's an individuality component to inclusion. Am I, as an individual, comfortable and safe bringing my unique self to work. And that's not only accepted, but how about if it was valued and activated in my workplace?”
When we accept neurodiversity, we celebrate and welcome neurodivergent talent. But to unlock neurodivergent talent, we must give people the means to activate their individual and unique abilities.
ESG: The code to unlocking value that lasts
ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) is increasingly becoming a strategic business objective. But how does ESG goals relate to ‘unlocking the value of neurodiversity’?
Neuro-inclusive practices allow us to make an impact towards our ‘Social’ goals, while creating sustainable value for our business, people, and community.
Speaking on this, Cathy explained how;
“As organizations we all have a social responsibility and we all have a responsibility to make a difference outside of the four walls of our organizations. It’s important that our organizations are representative of the customers we are serving and the communities that we’re working in…I’m a strong believer in what gets measured gets done. By including neurodiversity we can make sure that we are making progress for neurodivergent people inside and outside the workplace.”
Sharing how we can succeed, Hiren spoke on the need to be intentional, deliberate and systematic in approach;
“It’s challenging for organizations to establish what they’re going to do in that social pillar that's creating sustainable, scalable value. It's one thing to write a check and be philanthropic, that's a one way transaction and then it's done. It's another thing to create ecosystems that will allow us to create self-sustaining value.”
Echoing this Jose said;
“We have to be intentional. The practices that we create have to be baked into the day to day processes of the company.”
With this in mind, both reminded us of what the S in ESG is all about - working collaboratively with others to achieve more. Jose summarized by stating;
“It’s important to remember the sense of the business community…These types of programs are not something that one company can do alone. We rely on service providers….We are proudly represented by Neurodiversity in the Workplace from Philadelphia who has been our partner for the last 10 years in the implementation of our Autism at Work program. We have many companies that are now part of this ecosystem - educational institutions, researchers, NGOs and government. Where things start really working well is when we start deriving value in each one of these members of the ecosystem, including of course, and most importantly the neurodiverse community.”
Watch the panel discussion
During the discussion our panel also addressed:
- Common challenges to neuro-inclusion and how to address these
- Key factors in creating an inclusive culture, and how to tackle stigma
- The impact of inclusive technology and how to integrate it into your business
Watch the recording and gain more insights from Cathy, Hiren and Jose. You’ll also hear a keynote from Abby Jo Sigal, Executive Director of NYC Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development.
Learn about the competitive edge that neurodiverse employees can bring to your workplace.
This guide, designed for HR and DEI managers, will help you recruit and retain neurodiverse talent, as well as benefit from the competitive advantages that neurodiverse employees can add to a business.