Alastair Campbell, Texthelp

Supporting Diverse Talent

In a recent blog, I wrote about how neurodiversity can open up the doors to competitive advantage. Today, I’d like to take that a step further and look at how businesses can really harness neurodiversity in their organisations.

It all  starts with how employers find and recruit talent and how they support staff to overcome challenges to let their full abilities be realised.

Barriers in the workplace

Barriers to employment still exist which neurodiverse individuals have to overcome in order to firstly gain employment or even progress in a desired career path. 

Existing recruitment processes for example, are not flexible enough to enable or facilitate neurodiverse candidates to truly exhibit and demonstrate their abilities. This first step to employment is still the largest obstacle to overcome. 

There also still remains an element of stigma around these hidden conditions.  

Employees can be reluctant to disclose their condition for fear of negative reaction from colleagues, or of it potentially limiting their career opportunities, meaning they are often not receiving the support or adjustments that may be readily available.

Equally, managers are oftentimes unaware of the wide array of conditions that are affecting their staff in the workplace, let alone offer support.

What can we do as employers 

1. Organisational culture change
  • Recognise the talents and skills a diverse workforce can bring
  • Have the appetite to harness and integrate these diverse talents and skills into our business
  • Set up a defined workplace culture and support ecosystem.  Inspiring workplaces are, to an extent, discarding traditional job descriptions and instead hiring on the best fit for the role. These types of workplaces recognise the importance of the atmosphere and how hiring the ‘right fit’ allows their ecosystem to harmoniously continue.
2. Organisational awareness and training 
  • Make our business environment accessible to those with neurodiversities by making the application process less rigid. Focus more on the ability to successfully execute the role, not on completion of written tasks which may be a barrier to those with dyslexia, or verbal discussions which can be challenging for candidates with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Establish low-key training sessions to help existing employees understand what to expect from their new colleagues—for example, that they might need accommodations and might seem different. Managers should be offered  training and guidance on the support that’s available to those who need it. 

3. Provide assistive technology (AT) for all - it is necessary for some, but benefits all staff. I repeatedly hear how staff use assistive software as a productivity tool - to help staff work more effectively and in a style that suits different learning styles, reducing errors in written documentation and enhancing understanding and comprehension.

A couple of years ago ITV rolled out AT company-wide, primarily to support actors and staff with dyslexia. But they quickly found that as well as helping their neurodiverse staff, many of the actors were using the text-to-speech features to help them learn their lines. 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) integrated AT  to support a range of neurodiverse conditions and disabilities across it’s 14,000 UK and international staff. The software’s proved popular with all staff who view it as a really valuable productivity tool and use it everyday. It's especially popular with FCO staff for whom English is a second language - helping to improve accuracy and comprehension of written communications on a daily basis.

Neurodiversity is still a relatively new term  

The term itself is helping to raise awareness of hidden disabilities, focusing on the positive impact a neurodiverse workforce has on your business rather than the negative perceptions some people may have.

If employers can open up to new ideas around how they recruit, and are willing to incorporate new ways of working to allow individuals to demonstrate skills and talents in a way they feel best able, I believe it will enable them to discover and access a much broader range of talent in the workplace and reap the financial benefits in the longrun.


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