What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the idea that all brains are diverse in how they work – no two brains or nervous systems are the same. This concept or term originated from Autistic communities, who have also welcomed folks with other neurodivergent brains into a strength-based mindset that neurodiversity is an asset in the workplace and everyday life.
How is neurodiversity an asset?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just about people of colour, race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability, it includes neurodiversity. Taking into account that roughly 10%–20% of the global population is considered neurodivergent what deters employers from believing that neurodiversity is an asset in the workplace? The behaviours of many neurodiverse people run counter to common notions of what makes a good employee—solid communication skills, being a team player, emotional intelligence, persuasiveness, the ability to network, and the ability to conform to standard social practices deterring most employers from hiring neurodivergent people. When in reality neurodiverse people offer different perspectives and skills including better processing of information, productivity, work quality, and attention to detail.
Considerations for an accessible workplace for all
Individuals who are neurodivergent, including those on the autism spectrum, are often stigmatized or considered underqualified based on how they identify. These biases contribute to non-inclusive workplace cultures and create psychological and physical barriers, leading to high turnover. Given that 86% of neurodiverse adults in Canada are unemployed, it’s vital for employers to understand the ways they can embrace neurodiversity by adopting a strength-based mindset to the different ways people work and communicate.
Unfortunately, due to inaccessible workplace environments and implicit hiring biases, many of these valuable persons will never bring their skills and passion to your team. These suggested strategies, (in the chart above), can help organizations not only capture the full potential of neurodivergent professionals but also better leverage the value of the overall workforce and create a better workplace for all.
Supporting the creation, implementation, and sustainability of diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace cultures where employees feel open and comfortable is key to maintaining a happy and successful workforce and will keep positive workplace culture alive long term. There will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to accommodate neurodiversity. Everyone has different needs, strengths, and talents that should be celebrated.