How Support Neurodivergent Employees: A Guide for Employers

  • Employee wellbeing
How Support Neurodivergent Employees: A Guide for Employers
Kiljon Shukullari

Kiljon Shukullari, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

According to a Canadian study, only 33% of autistic adults reported being employed, compared to 80% of those without a disability.

Although adults with autism have seen a 19% increase in employment from 2012 to 2017, neurodivergent individuals still face many challenges in the workplace. Among survey respondents, 45% said they felt they had to mask their autism to get through work, and 47% said they weren’t comfortable disclosing their autism to employers.

There are also still many negative stigmas and misconceptions about neurodivergent employees in the workplace. Employers often worry these individuals will require too much support, won’t be a good culture fit, or won’t have the necessary skill sets to do the job.

But not accommodating neurodivergent employees can have significant negative impacts on both the individual and your company, including poor job performance, reduced productivity, high turnover, and even discrimination which can lead to legal action.

As an employer, it’s crucial that you endeavour to support neurodiversity in the workplace, by providing necessary accommodations, support, and access to resources that can help individuals with neurological differences thrive. By embracing and valuing the unique skills and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to the table, you can help create a society that is more accepting and understanding of neurodiversity. Here’s how.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a concept that recognizes the natural variation in the human brain and nervous system. It acknowledges that people have different neurological makeups and abilities and that this diversity is a normal and valuable part of human diversity.

Neurodivergent individuals are those who have neurological differences that are often characterized as disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, and Tourette’s Syndrome, among others.

Why is supporting neurodiversity important?

Neurodivergent employees bring unique skills and perspectives to the workplace, but not accommodating their needs can lead to negative impacts. First, without the appropriate accommodations, neurodivergent employees may struggle to complete tasks or communicate effectively with their colleagues, which can result in poor job performance and reduced productivity.

Failure to provide accommodations can also lead to a high turnover rate as neurodivergent employees may feel unsupported and undervalued. This can be costly for companies. And lastly, not accommodating neurodivergent employees may be considered discrimination, which can result in legal action against the company. Fourth, poor team dynamics can occur when neurodivergent employees are not accommodated, and they may struggle to fit in with their colleagues, leading to poor collaboration and teamwork.

How can I support neurodivergent employees?

Promote an inclusive workplace culture

An inclusive workplace culture is essential to supporting neurodiversity in the workplace. Employers should create an environment where everyone feels valued and supported, regardless of their neurodivergent status. This can include implementing inclusive policies and practices, such as flexible work arrangements, accommodations for sensory sensitivities, and providing clear communication.

Provide training and education

Providing training and education to all employees can help to raise awareness and understanding of neurodiversity. This can include workshops or training sessions on topics such as disability etiquette, communication strategies, and best practices for supporting neurodivergent employees. Employers should also ensure that their human resources staff are trained in identifying and supporting neurodivergent employees.

Offer accommodations and support

Neurodiverse employees often face challenges in the workplace due to their condition, but there are initiatives that you can take to help these employees work more comfortably.

Accommodations can include providing noise-cancelling headphones, offering a quiet workspace, or adjusting work schedules to reduce sensory overload. Employers should also consider providing support, such as mentorship or coaching, to help neurodivergent employees succeed in their roles.

Even if the accommodations provided are not comprehensive or if employers are unsure of what to offer, making an effort towards inclusion sends a message that the company is committed to creating a supportive environment for all employees.

Create a talent pipeline

Creating a talent pipeline for neurodivergent individuals is becoming an increasingly popular approach for some companies, such as Microsoft and Google. For instance, Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program is a multi-day academy that focuses on skills assessments, job capabilities, networking, and career development. Similarly, Google recently launched the Autism Career Program, which partners with Stanford University to ensure equitable onboarding processes.

Employers can audit their recruiting strategies to determine whether there is an opportunity to formalize a hiring program that can create a neurodivergent talent pipeline. It is essential to tap into the potential of neurodivergent individuals in the workforce and offer career development opportunities to support their growth. By doing so, employers can help create an inclusive workplace that values diversity and enables all employees to reach their full potential.

Focus on strengths, not weaknesses

Employers should focus on the strengths that neurodivergent employees bring to the workplace, rather than their weaknesses. Neurodivergent individuals can bring unique skills and perspectives to their work, such as attention to detail, problem-solving abilities, and creativity. By recognizing and leveraging these strengths, you can create a more diverse and productive workforce.

Foster communication and feedback

Regular communication and feedback are essential to supporting neurodivergent employees in the workplace. You should provide clear and direct communication, and allow for regular check-ins to ensure that neurodivergent employees are comfortable and productive in their roles. You can also encourage neurodivergent employees to provide feedback on their experiences in the workplace and use this feedback to continuously improve your policies and practices.

Do you need help creating inclusive policies?

Accommodating neurodivergent employees is not only a legal and ethical obligation but also a key aspect of promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce. Employers who fail to provide reasonable accommodations may face legal consequences and negative impacts on their business, while those who prioritize accommodation can benefit from increased employee productivity, engagement, and retention.

An essential component of effectively accommodating neurodivergent employees is by developing effective policies. Peninsula’s experts can help you draft a policy catering specifically to your employee’s unique needs. We can also assist with any HR, health and safety, or employee management advice that you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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