The Value Of Inclusion


Many organisations have diversity targets which is great. However, sometimes people will question the value of pursuing diversity and whether it's more of an exercise in improving public perception and ticking off boxes as a 'good corporate citizen'.

Whilst these are fine and noble goals and I'd not dismiss them in any way, ultimately business is business and there needs to be some form of connection to long-term value at least to enable activities such as diversity targets to be sustainable.

A little while ago I came across an interesting article that talked about some research completed on the business value of having a more diverse workforce. Whilst this research was primarily focused on gender, race and more cultural elements of diversity it does raise an interesting point.

With material commercial value being derived by these organisations through having a greater representation of people from different backgrounds it's a good substantiation of the inherent value of taking a more inclusive approach to a business's people agenda.

Curtin University conducted a research exercise across more than 50 employers who had 1 or more employees with autism. Interestingly, the evidence from this study also highlighted the significant potential value of introducing staff who are neurodiverse which over time could well be extrapolated to outcomes similar to the first article.

Not only did it identify that people with autism (including those with Aspergers) were operating above expectation in their attention to detail (55% vs 19% for all staff) but they also have a significantly higher work ethic (70% vs 30%). This is often demonstrated through  substantially lower absenteeism rates as well as their overall commitment to consistently doing the best job they possibly can. The focus on doing their best at all times was reflected in the 41% of the group operating above expectation in their quality of work compared to only 26% of other staff.

So when businesses have a need to really lift quality, productivity and increase the potential for enhanced innovation and creativity why wouldn't you consider including more neurodiverse people in your people mix?

Out of the study, nearly a quarter of the employers surveyed also noted an improvement in workplace morale as a direct consequence of being more inclusive. Two-thirds of the employers also stated they would recommend employing someone with Aspergers or Autism to an associate.

It's understandable that if you've not explored hiring neurodiverse staff that it could be a daunting prospect. But when you see that the majority of people would recommend it once they've tried it themselves that has to give some comfort that it's not as difficult, risky or expensive as you might first believe. Also, take heart in that only three percent of the study group were adverse to recommending hiring people with autism.

Fear of the unknown, anticipated complexities and concerns of hidden costs are typical barriers to many businesses in hiring neurodiverse people. This is particularly true for small and medium businesses. However, when we consider the proportion of the population employed within small and medium businesses, it's this sector that can be the true change maker in the future fortunes of neurodiverse job seekers.

With the heightened vested interest of small and medium business owners, their familiarity with their business operations and customers and their proximity when it comes to managing and developing staff, these employers can provide a welcoming and supportive environment. Of course, attitudes and intentions are important, that goes without saying, but they are important considerations regardless of the size of the business.

Equally, irrespective of the size of the business, having a level of support available throughout the recruitment and post-hiring stages can do a lot to alleviate the concerns and uncertainties you may have. It can also provide a level of comfort and assurance that should you encounter challenges, you're not on your own when it comes to navigating them.

So, the next time you have a role to fill, how much are you prepared to stretch your normal approach to inclusion? Are you wanting to break the mould and gain the upper hand on your overall business performance and to improve the morale of your workplace?

Perhaps hiring a neurodiverse employee is the step that will help you improve your bottom line. 

chris turnerComment