Advancing Neurodiversity in the Workplace: Insights from Senior HR & DEI Leaders

Texthelp recently hosted a Neurodiversity Roundtable at CBRE in London, where HR and DEI leaders gathered to explore the evolving landscape of workplace inclusion. The exclusive event, held on March 21st, provided a platform for attendees to exchange insights, success stories, and strategies, while identifying key areas for advancement. 

Paul Fox, VP & Inclusive Technology Director at Texthelp, and Darren Ackers, Director & Inclusive Technology Specialist, welcomed attendees and set the tone for the day. The roundtable featured esteemed expert speakers, including Fiona Barrett, Director of Operations at Genius Within and Chris Williams, Global Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at CBRE. 

Moderated by Marc Crawley, Founder of Diversita, the group heard inspiring insights from guests such as Sam Tuckey, UK&I Market Activation Lead at the Neuro-Diverse Centre of Excellence at EY, and many others. 

Let's dive into the key insights and takeaways from the day:

Addressing misconceptions

The discussions highlighted the need to overcome misconceptions surrounding neurodiversity, emphasizing that it goes beyond traditional notions of disability.

  1. You can solve issues that neurodivergent employees face with some reasonable adjustments
    For instance, performance ratings in certain areas may not accurately reflect an individual's true ability, especially if the criteria is based on areas where neurodivergent employees are prone to struggle. When challenges like this occur, it is always the barrier that needs fixing, not the individual. 
  2. Assuming everyone is a ‘plodder’ when some could be a ‘sprinter’
    This highlighted the diverse ways in which individuals approach work. Rather than completing tasks steadily, some neurodivergent individuals prefer to gear up for challenges, and take regular breaks before tackling them with intensity - often completing tasks more efficiently within shorter time frames.
  3. People know if they are neurodivergent
    The discussion highlighted flaws in the diagnosis system, including lengthy waiting lists, privilege in obtaining a diagnosis for certain communities, and underdiagnosed groups like girls and women, whose symptoms are often picked up later in life. Many struggle to get diagnosed due to these challenges and lack of symptom awareness, especially in a multi-generational workforce.
  4. It’s preferable to be neurotypical and it fits better with certain brands 
    The groups discussed the existing societal pressure to ‘fit in’ and conform in the workplace. While great progress is being made in this area, there's still a considerable distance to cover and create cultures that not only accept different thinkers, but celebrate them.
  5. Neurodiversity is not a monolithic and homogeneous entity
    Neurodiversity is diverse, with individuals from various ethnicities, races, cultures, heritages, and religions. Recognizing intersectionality is crucial, as biases and stigmas can hinder diagnosis for some groups. For instance, one attendee shared an employee's experience balancing neurodiversity with religious practices - employers must consider these diverse needs when implementing inclusive practices.

Did you know...

Texthelp interviewed 500 neurodivergent and 500 neurotypical employees to find out how they felt about neurodiversity support in the workplace? Explore the report here to find out where you can empower neurodivergent talent.

Raising awareness and education

The discussion shared various initiatives aimed at enhancing education and awareness to challenge stereotypes and create a more inclusive workplace culture.

  1. Understanding between organizations, people leaders, and line managers on neurodiversity responsibilities
    This addressed providing training for leadership teams to fully comprehend their responsibilities in fostering neurodiversity. A more expansive approach is needed, rather simplistic adjustments. Co-coaching has also been a helpful initiative to increase understanding for line managers in this area.
  2. Seeking external advice on neurodiversity best practices
    One valuable resource mentioned was the UK Business Disability Forum, which offers an advice service for its members. Attendees regarded it as one of the best investments their organization has made, underscoring its value in enhancing education and awareness in neurodiversity.
  3. Creating a global Neurodiversity Toolkit
    A Neurodiversity Toolkit can act as a comprehensive resource with practical tools and best practices for the implementation of inclusive policies company-wide. This can help support businesses creating a psychologically safe environment that promotes employees to bring their whole selves to work.
  4. Peer support and leadership engagement
    Colleague-to-colleague support is instrumental in fostering a supportive workplace culture as well as executive sponsors who back neurodiversity initiatives. Businesses can enhance existing strategies by updating adjustments, raising awareness through drumbeat discussions on various forms of neurodivergence, and creating open dialogues among employees.

Get your Free Workplace Inclusion Guide

Texthelp’s Workplace Inclusion Guide can help you implement best practices and advance your inclusion journey to better support neurodiverse teams.

Equal opportunities and promoting disclosure

HR and DEI leaders discussed how to ensure equal opportunities and encourage individuals to feel psychologically safe to disclose a neurodivergent condition.

  1. Building trust and mitigating fear
    Concerns about disclosure affecting career development still persist. Companies can address this by having leaders share their neurodiversity experiences and encouraging all employees to share their personal stories, fostering a culture of celebration and support that instils confidence.
  2. Removing the need for a label and disclosure
    It is vital not to create barriers to neurodiversity support with the need for labels, disclosure, or diagnosis. Many employees still hesitate to request support, therefore it should be available to all as standard practice - this removes invisible barriers and reduces the risk of employees suffering in silence, showing a truly inclusive approach.
  3. Providing pathways for self-identification
    Some companies share how they are funding private diagnosis for individuals who suspect they are neurodivergent. This initiative aims to overcome lengthy waiting lists and provide a streamlined process in individuals confirming a condition. 
  4. Creating safe spaces with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) 
    Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) serve as safe spaces where individuals can share their experiences and connect with others which can bring a sense of belonging and increased confidence. These groups provide a forum for open dialogue and support while reflecting an inclusive culture that cares.

Unlock the power of ERGs

Did you know Texthelp have 6 thriving ERGs? Discover more about the power of ERGs in driving inclusion and how to utilize them in your organization.

The role of technology in creating an inclusive culture

Thanks to modern technology, companies have the unique opportunity to tap into the talents of neurodivergent individuals and empower them to work to their strengths. 

  1. Bridging the gap between support in education and the workplace
    Support for neurodiverse individuals such as inclusive technology is not always readily available in the workplace as it is in education. Many neurodivergent employees feel hesitant to request these accommodations at work, meaning they cannot perform to their full potential.
  2. Building on neuroinclusion with assistive technology
    In creating a neuroinclusive culture, inclusive technology plays an important role. For example, Texthelp's Read&Write caters to diverse learning styles, with a range of features such as Text-to-Speech, Dictation and many more. This alongside a variety of accommodations, such as designated quiet spaces, flexibility, among others, further enhances workplace inclusion.
  3. Standardize inclusive technology company-wide as a ‘non-negotiable’
    The best practice of providing inclusive technology to all employees was widely echoed. Leading organizations share how they streamline support and access through employees simply submitting a digital request for the tool which is then promptly approved. 

    This means that individuals do not need to prove a condition, undergo a formal diagnosis or take part in a formal discussion to gain support. With Texthelp’s Read&Write, many companies invest in an enterprise license, which allows them to support not only all employees but their families too. 

Empower all employees with Read&Write

Find out how leading companies such as Lumen Technologies are using Read&Write to unlock neurodivergent talent and empower their entire workforce!

Measuring the effectiveness of neurodiversity initiatives

The group discussed how they measure the impact of their inclusion efforts in a number of ways and best practices for sharing information within your organization.

  1. Frameworks for measuring progress
    Organizations can use comprehensive frameworks to evaluate their neurodiversity efforts, which includes various stages across multiple categories. These frameworks provide a structured approach for management to assess their initiatives and identify areas for improvement.
  2. Leveraging data analytics
    Data analytics play a crucial role in measuring the effectiveness of neurodiversity efforts. Organizations analyze various data points, including employee engagement statistics, attrition rates, and team polls, to assess the impact of their initiatives and track progress over time.
  3. Pulse surveys and consistent check-ins
    Regular pulse surveys and check-ins provide real-time feedback on employees' perceptions of inclusion and support. By conducting frequent short surveys either quarterly or monthly, organizations can gauge the success of their inclusion efforts and promptly address any issues.
  4. Transparency and accountability
    Maintaining transparency regarding diversity and inclusion metrics and actions taken have proven successful for some. Organizations can develop dashboards and data pools to track key performance indicators related to neurodiversity, ensuring transparency in decision-making and fostering accountability at all levels of the organization.

Interesting statistics shared at the event: 

  • 15-20% of the global population are neurodivergent (that’s 1 in 5)
  • 76% of neurodivergent employees do not to fully disclose this at work
  • Gen Z and millennials make up approximately 38% of the global workforce and this percentage will rise to about 58% by 2030
  • In a recent survey, 53% of Gen Z say they identity as neurodiverse
  • Only 17% of disabilities are present from birth, 83% are acquired during the course of someone's life
  • Over 90% of disabilities are not immediately visible

The group also discussed the prevalence of neurodiversity and the need to adapt for the future of work. It was revealed that in the next 5-6 years, Gen Z and millennials make up the majority of the workforce. Notably, 53% of Gen Z already identify as neurodiverse, according to a recent survey. 

This underscores the ongoing importance for organizations to expand inclusion efforts, fostering a culture that embraces different thinkers, celebrates diversity, and leverages innovative solutions to future-proof their business.

Explore how our inclusive technology, Read&Write for Work, can transform workforce inclusion

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