With the recent rhetoric around diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you’ve most probably heard the terms “neurodivergent” or “neurodiverse” before. But with more and more opportunities for companies to engage with neurodiverse talent, I strongly believe it is important to shift the conversation to something specific—the hugely positive effect neurodivergent talent can have on your business.
To start with, let’s look into what neurodiversity actually means.
What Is Neurodiversity?
Simply put, neurodiversity is the term used for people who experience natural variations in their brain. Unlike neurotypical people, neurodivergent people have differing neurocognitive function, which changes the way they behave, think, learn, and process information.
It’s estimated that one in eight people are neurodiverse, but according to a Canadian survey on disability, only 33 percent of neurodivergent Canadians were employed at the time. That’s a significant gap that we need to fill.
Why Hire Neurodiverse People?
There are many variations of neurodivergence—ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, and Tourette’s syndrome, to name a few.
With all these differences, it’s no surprise that neurodivergent people have some extraordinary skills. Pattern recognition, problem-solving, and memory are just a few skills that people commonly attribute to being neurodivergent. But from research and my own personal experience, these individuals have been shown to demonstrate out-of-the-box thinking, and the ability to bring unique perspectives to the table. These talents allow them to excel throughout an organization, not just in technical roles.
Study after study shows that diversity in the workplace won’t just enhance your business, but help add to your bottom line. Afterall, that’s why several large firms such as Microsoft, Google, Hewlett-Packard, and SAP run neurodiversity-at-work initiatives.
Let’s take a look at some of the distinct benefits of hiring more neurodivergent people.
1. Close any skill gaps. Many companies nowadays are looking beyond traditional talent pools to fill their positions. Neurodivergent people in the right positions very often excel, which leads to higher quality, innovation, and productivity.
2. Improve personal growth. Working with a diverse team gives employees the chance to learn in both professional and personal ways. A highly inclusive workplace is likely to result in more creative and open-minded employees.
3. Develop effective team processes. A common trait across the neurodivergent spectrum is that of curiosity. Neurodivergent employees are more likely to question the efficacy of existing processes and work on solutions.
4. Clear communication. Neurodivergent people sometimes have trouble understanding irony, nuance, and other unwritten rules of communication. As a result, workplaces can adapt to speak more directly, which results in clearer communication for everyone.
5. Create a supportive workplace. By accommodating neurodivergent people in the workplace, you won’t just reduce the stress and stigma they face, you will also create a culture of compassion, learning and understanding, leading to higher employee engagement.
SAAAC’s Special Needs Employment Program
The world is an incredibly diverse place. From my own personal experiences, I have seen companies that choose to reflect this diversity reap the benefits of a unique and dynamic workforce. To learn more about how you can create a more inclusive and accommodating environment for neurodivergent people, check out the SAAAC Special Needs Employment Program. There is wonder in diversity, and by spreading awareness and spearheading inclusivity initiatives, we can all experience it in full.