Strengths associated with Neurodiversity in the workplace

This post is one of several we’ll be sharing on the blog around the theme of neurodiversity & strengths in the workplace.

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways that the human brain can work and interpret information, and includes attention deficit disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

In an Financial Times article entitled ‘Dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalulia: the gains for employers‘ the question is asked –

As industries adjust to shocks dealt by the automation of jobs, the rise of political populism and economic protectionism, businesses are in need of bold thinking to guide strategies and innovation. Could harnessing the brainpower of people whose minds are wired differently be part of the solution?

For this post, I’ve collated some thoughts that introduce this theme –

Nicole Mikulla, Enterprise Client Manager UK, Adecco – summarising how things are in the recruitment process currently.

Neurodiversity is a growing area of interest for many employers. Businesses have begun to recognise that they are losing out on huge areas of transferable skills and talent through using their “tried and tested” recruitment processes. The skills to succeed in interviews are often not the skills needed to successfully deliver in the position and as such you have the likes of Virgin, EY, GCHQ and SAP creating programmes to actually attract neurodiverse talent. I personally feel that a failure to understand how to recruit and include neurodiverse talent means that clients will miss out on the best skills in the market.”

Caroline Turner – Director, Creased Puddle, introducing how neurodiversity can be seen as an advantage.

Call it what you will, ‘thinking differently’, ‘a hidden disability’, ‘neurodivergent’ its all the same.  The ability to see something from a perspective that no one has seen before.  This might be a simplified process cutting out all the ‘gumf’ or a piece of code that has been glitching up the system or it might be a sense of humour, a way to paint or express your soul.  Whatever the outcome never before has harnessing these talents been so hot on the agenda.  Being different is the new ‘fitting in’ and the younger generation get it.  Its not always easy, it can be anything other than a fairy tale but with skills gaps widening every year we need to capitalise on their ability to enhance our work places.  There is no stopping the neurodiversity bus, so throw your arms around it and enjoy its impact.

The CIPD produced a resource, ‘Neurodiversity at Work‘ that focuses on how organisations can be more accommodating for ‘neurodiverse’ staff, and summarises some of the associated strengths –

A well-known Forbes article from 2014, ‘ADHD: The entrepreneur’s superpower’, cited ADHDer traits as including ability to focus for extended periods, multitasking and being calm under pressure: all valuable skills for employees within organisations, not just when starting a company. The capacity of dyslexic and dyspraxic people to ‘think outside the box’ – often a much-desired quality of an individual employee, or team – is also highly valuable. Autistic people, too, are proven to be successful in a variety of roles, often bringing strengths to their work such as analytical thinking, focus, and attention to detail.In the words of one autistic employee at SAP’s Autism at Work programme, data analyst Raphael Vivas, ‘people on the spectrum come with a diverse set of skills and interest and have a lot of prowess in a whole range of fields.’

A similar report from the organisation Modis, ‘Why neurodiversity should be on your agenda‘, also highlights some of the strengths associated with being neurodiverse –

Creativity, lateral thinking, a different perspective, highly specialised skills and strict consistency are commonly associated with neurodivergent people.

David Neeleman – ADHDer and founder of Jet Blue Airways – said he would refuse a magic ill to become ‘neurotypical’, due to the benefits his ADHD has provided him in business…

The main benefit we hear about is that the inclusion of diverse thinking styles increases creativity and innovation with an organisation. Homogenous work teams fail to challenge the status quo and can become entrenched and inflexible.

The Harvard Business Review also produced an article entitled ‘Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage‘, highlights some advantages of being ‘neurodiverse’ –

Because neurodiverse people are wried diffferently from “neurotypical” people, they may bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognize value. At [company], neurodiverse software testsers observed that one client’s projects always seemed to go into crisis mode before a launch. Intolerant of disorder, they strenusouly questioned the company’s apparent acceptance of chaos. This led the client company to realize that it had indeed become too tolerant of these crises and , with the help of the tests, to successfully redesign the launch process. At [another company], a neurodiverse customer-support analyst spotted an opportunity to let customers help solve a common problem themselves; thousands of them subsequently used the resources he created.

The AGCAS Disability Task Group produced resources about talking to employers about your neurodiversity. These can be accessed by your university careers service by going here.

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