Is your neuroinclusion strategy working for everyone?
(12th December 2023) - Jo Faragher, D&I Leaders
Originally published on June 16th by D&I Leaders, a global community of senior diversity, inclusion and HR professionals, this article dives into the dynamics of neuroinclusion in the workplace. D&I Leaders and Texthelp provide valuable insights into bridging the gap between perceived support and the real-life experiences of neurodivergent employees.
Stay tuned to explore effective strategies for fostering truly inclusive workplaces.
“It’s really about creating that sense of belonging and that people feel that the environment is psychologically safe. Employees can bring their full selves to work and they’re going to be accepted.”
Provide tools and training
There are a number of practical ways organizations can enhance neuroinclusion at work. In Texthelp’s survey, 31% of respondents said they would benefit from specialist tools to support reading, writing and research. Small things like being able to choose which format to send and receive information can also make a difference. Almost a quarter (24%) suggested neurodiversity awareness training for colleagues, while 17% felt they would benefit from dedicated support networks or a buddy/mentor system. 16% said quiet spaces would help them feel comfortable, and other suggestions included more empathy from managers and colleagues, and a more proactive approach to support.
“A crucial part of our strategic priority focusing on DEI has been to create our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)”, Cathy adds. “These groups are led by employees, and employees who take part share common identity, values, interests or perspectives. We also welcome allies to join and participate in these groups. Our goal is to use the ERGs to offer opportunities for supporting one another, creating a community and sense of belonging.” ERG members also play a vital role in raising awareness of issues and trends affecting members, helping the company to address concerns and create a positive and inclusive experience at work.
Martin McKay, the Founder and CEO of Texthelp, believes that these and other measures help to create a workplace that is “more supportive and inclusive”, but insists there are always ways to learn and improve. “We all need to prioritise learning and educating ourselves about issues faced by underrepresented groups,” he adds.
"The workplace in general still has alarming statistics regarding inclusion and bias. By learning from diverse groups, we can expand our horizons and develop empathy and understanding for others. This helps us recruit and support an employee base that reflects society."
Empower individual strengths
Marketing agency, 21 Degrees Digital, has made an open commitment to supporting neurodiverse employees. Rory Mason, Managing Director, is himself dyslexic and currently undergoing a diagnosis for ADHD. “I felt at times I was completely unemployable – however the longer I’ve been in the workforce and been able to work in a way that’s best for me, this idea has seemed completely ridiculous,” he says. As a manager, Rory can now give opportunities to individuals “who have consistently been underestimated because of their neurodiversity”, adding that “anyone who wants to work hard will always succeed”. There have been a number of benefits to the agency, including finding the best way to communicate with individual clients based on employees’ particular strengths. “As an agency we don’t niche ourselves to one demographic or one industry, and so having a team that is diverse reflects the diversity of our clientele and their audiences which allows us to think like them and create marketing solutions that convert,” says Director Zac Evans.
From a practical perspective, the agency has introduced a number of measures to support neurodivergent staff – “bio sheets” that describe individuals’ preferred working styles and how best to communicate with them; adapting management styles to employees after discussing what works with them; and dividing work by skills rather than fitting people into roles that don’t work.
Disability campaign organization, Valuable 500, takes a similar approach. “A great example that we have seen within our own organization is an accessible document which is provided by the new employer prior to them starting,” says Ryan Curtis-Johnson, Director of Communications. “Having an open dialogue prior to them starting helps to prepare everything in advance and put things into place right away from the offset. Being inclusive from the start allows it to carry on through the individual’s working time with you and allows you to have best practice put into place.”
Some organizations have developed “neurodiversity passports”, explains Mandy Dennison, UK ICF Board Director, a coach trainer, coach mentor and coach. These help employees construct ways of working with HR and line managers that support their needs, such as specific deadlines, individual desks or flexible hours. Another small measure is an addition to an email signature that explains why someone cannot reply immediately or prefers to respond at certain times. But crucially, the culture needs to be there for neurodivergent employees to feel comfortable sharing their needs. “The organization needs to be a psychologically safe space to start off with, as in some workplaces there can be a feeling that if you speak out, this puts a ceiling on your potential,” Mandy adds. This can be a particular issue when it comes to adult diagnoses, where an employee may build up a fear of losing out on a promotion or feeling their career stall because they have declared a certain condition.
Gain more insights...
Martin McKay, Founder and CEO of Texthelp and Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN, explore further why neurodiversity must be included in your diversity and inclusion agenda.
Discover more expert insights and tips on improving neuroinclusion in your organization and empowering a neurodiverse team.