Why Companies Can Benefit From Neurodiversity Training in 2019
The value of neurodiversity training
In this article I’m going to talk about the value of undertaking training on neurodiversity and how your organisation could benefit from it.
I’ll show you how what might seem like quite specific training could actually help you in a number of different ways that you’ve probably not previously considered. Primarily how can better support the mental health of your staff and improve employee engagement.
Rising stress and falling engagement
With the pressures of timelines and multiple priorities, combined with what can often be disjointed and unclear communication, stress levels are ever increasing in the majority of workplaces. Increased stress and concern at work is a leading contributor to lower employee engagement.
You put so much time and effort into resolving staff conflict and finding ways to increase people’s work satisfaction. For some employees, it’s like nothing you or your managers do seems to make any headway.
Workplace anxiety and engagement are two areas of real challenge for many neurodiverse people. Especially in an environment where the organisation and their manager doesn’t have a firm understanding of what it means to be neurodiverse.
All non-disclosures are not equal
Depending on the age of the employee and how well they’ve been able to adapt to a neurotypical world, it’s possible they may not even have a diagnosis.
Up until the late 1980’s early 1990’s, Autism wasn’t a known or understood ‘condition’. There is a rising rate of diagnosis for adults, especially women as a result of increased social awareness of autism and common characteristics.
The chances are that you’ve also got (or had) employees who are very well aware of their ADHD, Dyslexia or Autism etc and yet have made a very conscious election to not tell you. Past experiences with disclosing and changes in people’s perceptions, reactions and treatment of the employee can be a real barrier to disclosing again.
There are certainly things you can do to get on the front foot here, and to create a more understanding and accepting workplace culture and environment. But do you know what they are and why they are important?
Demand for graduates and talent
To top it all off, the shortage of both graduates generally and talent in certain fields has never been greater and is set to be an ongoing trend. As the baby boomers look to exit work and the nature of work rapidly shifts, there is a real need to find great individuals who can truly add value in your business.
Understanding how to adapt and alter your recruitment processes, graduate hiring programs so as to access a wider pool of talent makes a lot of sense. Limiting your options to hire in a limited supply market is only making your hiring job harder.
Many organisations such as JP Morgan, SAP and Ernst & Young are taking advantage of the productivity opportunity presented by neurodiverse people. Not only are they and other organisations finding alternative ways to help fill their talent gaps, they are doing it with people who can incrementally add value over and above their neurotypical peers.
Not to mention, there is a rising level of awareness amongst graduates of the social responsibility practices and positions that organisations have. For many graduates, this is a critical criteria used to select prospective employers.
Managing workplace stress and engagement
Neurodiverse people are more prone to feeling stress at work as result of a number of factors. Unclear expectations, sensory overload from their environments, the challenge of social interactions, miscommunications and misunderstandings and finally exclusion and bullying.
When a neurodiverse person feels they are not being understood, or their needs are not being catered for they are more likely to feel stress compared to other employees.
Social anxiety and miscommunications/misunderstandings are also common due to communication style differences and differences in the way neurodiverse people may process information. This can in turn lead to frustration, anger and impatience. Often for neurotypical peers as much as the neurodiverse individual. The extra strain this can create for teams can have an adverse impact on team dynamics, moral and individual engagement.
The upshot of all of that is lower performance and retention.
However, by understanding what the triggers are likely to be and having a tool box of strategies you can employ will allow you and your teams to much more successfully navigate these issues. As many other managers have found, the changes required to create a more productive and harmonious environment are not significant and typically work in everyone’s favour.
Training sources and opportunities
There are a number of organisations and people who can assist you with breaking your neurodiversity training drought. Previously I wrote about 3 ways you can learn more about neurodiversity, which is a great place to start.
When it comes to training specifically, you could definitely look at a couple of these options:
Uptimize, who provide both ‘off the shelf’ and more tailored training options.
myAccessHub, who use a combination of elearning and virtual reality to provide you knowledge to support autistic employees at work.
yours truly (yes, me), with both shorter and longer training options and the ability to offer both in person and live video based training, I aim to be more hands on and practical in my approach.
Why neurodiversity training can help you
In summary then, the key reasons neurodiversity training will help you:
to demonstrate your commitment to support existing neurodiverse employees and show future potential candidates that you take diversity and inclusion seriously - increasing your appeal to graduate talent generally.
having strategies to better support and manage neurodiverse staff members could also contribute to a reduction in workplace stress and increase employee engagement.
by understanding how your recruitment processes could be adjusted and knowing how to be more inclusive you could increase your potential talent pool by at least 10% (and possibly much more 15% depending on your industry).
But we don’t have any neurodiverse staff
It can be easy to assume that because you’ve never deliberately sought to hire autistic or dyslexic staff for example, that you don’t have any neurodiverse employees. It’s also very common for organisations to not have had any cases of existing employees disclosing their neurodivergent difference.
Consider however that 10-15% of the population are neurodiverse. Many of these people are able to pass through interviews and hold down jobs very successfully. In many instances they may have done so for decades.
The probability is that for most organisations they do have or have had neurodiverse employees. Particularly as your size increases, for businesses with more than 500 people, it would be almost a certainty that you have neurodiverse staff.
Even if you don’t have any neurodiverse staff today (and we’ll ignore any you had previously for a moment), is it possible that some of your existing staff have a personal connection to someone who is neurodiverse? We know that diagnosis rates are increasing for neurodiverse conditions such as autism. With improved clinical understanding, changes in diagnostic criteria and heightened public awareness, many more children are being diagnosed globally.
All those parents work somewhere. They will have challenges are carers and will be much more mindful of the way their employers are approaching these topics going forward. After all, one of their main worries will be where and how will their child secure employment in the future.
It’s time to get started this year
I’m going to be straight up with you. A key part of my purpose is to educate and inform people just like you on how to hire and manage neurodiverse employees.
Helping you find your way to a more inclusive recruitment practice, tapping into new talent pools and supporting staff at work are all areas I truly get excited about.
If that sounds like something you’d be interested in I have two asks for you.
If you’re not quite ready to jump into doing training but would like to continue to learn, then please, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll make sure you’re getting new articles every week that will inform and educate you.
Feeling more prepared to dive in but want more of a feel for what things might be like? I have a recording of an online webinar exploring neurodiversity at work - have a watch and if you’d like to learn more, we can chat then. Get the video here.
Being inclusive is within your grasp
No matter where you are now and where you’d like to be in terms of inclusion, the next step doesn’t need to be hard at all.
Understanding that your organisation can not only benefit from actively targeting neurodiverse talent as part of your recruitment approach, but that you’ve likely already go neurodiverse staff is a huge step forward.
I’d love to help you continue on that path of learning and supporting your staff. I realise I won’t be a fit for everyone, but if I’ve been able to help you level set and get clear on how you can progress in this space I’ll be super happy.
I look forward to seeing you and more people just like you find ways to better support your current and future staff and crack those talent gaps.
Are you a HR manager, recruiter or diversity & inclusion leader?
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