Embracing Neurodiversity In The Workplace

An increased spotlight on diversity within the workplace has allowed a focus on often ignored differences, most notably neurodiversity. Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain works, as well as understanding and interpreting information. This provides an insight in the way that people naturally think about things differently. Every human has different interests and motivations, which naturally transpires to being better at some things and poorer at others.

The average human brain is made up over 64 billion brain cells, signifying the obviousness that every person has different neural pathways when it comes to taking in new information, processing and communicating. This clear aspect of diversity has traditionally been seen in a stereotypically negative light, which when considered in a business sense, can provide holdback on progression or growth. This conventional ideology is fast becoming archaic, as more and more businesses are witnessing the overwhelming positives in having neurodiverse talent within the workforce.

Neurodivergence includes a range of conditions including Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. The National Autistic Society report there are over 700,000 autistic adults in UK, with a minor 15% in employment. As well as this, according to the British Dyslexia Association, approximately 10% of the UK population has dyslexia, with 4% considered at the severe end of the dyslexia spectrum.

We break down the clear evidence in obtaining more neurodiverse individuals in your team, the stigmas still held institutionally on the subject, and how accountancy can play a leading role in the call to include more neurodiversity across all sectors and industries.

The Facts & Figures

The benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce are overwhelming. Some of the ways neurodiversity can positively impact the workplace includes achieving a fresh perspective, the ability to hyper-focus, a close attention to detail, capacity to rapidly absorb facts and retain information, loyalty and honesty, creativity and innovation. All of these traits are synonymous with wanting to build a solid, innovative team that will no doubt supply an advantage over competitors.

Despite this, the neurodiverse population is still an untapped pool of talent that often goes unnoticed and non-accessed. According to the ONS, just 1 in 5 autistic people in the UK are in any form of employment, highlighting the need for change. A staggering 64% of employers still admit to having ‘little’ or ‘no’ understanding of the cognitive differences people may have, according to a study carried out by communications provider O2. As well as this, 81% of those with a condition such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, felt that more could be done in support for better opportunities in the workplace.

It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK, nearly 15% of the UK population are neurodiverse, which can cover a range of neurological conditions including Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Tourette’s Syndrome. Because neurodiversity is still a relatively unknown entity for many people, many are unaware that they are actually neurodiverse. In fact, 50% of all neurodiverse people in the UK actually don’t even know they have a condition which doesn’t fit the neurotypical convention.

Breaking The Stigma

There are many barriers to employment for neurodivergent people, including additional training and development. As a result of this, employers and organisations have long continued to overlook openly neurodivergent candidates in favour of neurotypical candidates. However, often many of the barriers can be consolidated into just a handful of areas. including recruitment, working environment, communication, and progression.

Many organisations fall at the first hurdle due to the language used in job applications which unbeknownst puts a large section of people off. Diane Lightfoot, CEO of the membership organisation Business Disability Forum, states, “terms such as ‘team player’, ‘good sense of humour’, and ‘lively’ are all commonly used without considering who might be excluded as a result”.

Diane goes on to say, “if you do need to interview, make sure the questions you ask are clear and unambiguous and consider sending them to candidates in advance to reduce anxiety on the day. Reasonable adjustments are a legal right, yes, but work with a range of neurodiverse people and listen to their solutions. Agreeing up front with your new recruit how they like to work and communicate, for example, and what to share that with the team and how, can make a huge difference.”

The Future & How Accountancy Can Support

The National Autistic Society claim that careers involving numbers, statistics and facts such as in finance and accounting; computer programming or systems testing, are particularly suited to people with autism. This is why the accountancy profession is seen as an attractive proposition to many with neurodiverse conditions.

Diane also states, “it can be true that some people on the autism spectrum are very good at technical roles, those which require a high degree of accuracy and attention to detail and/or the ability to spot patterns and identify anomalies in these: all of which are great strengths for the accountancy profession to take into account.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing to light many social injustices, both in a personal and professional sense, it’s encouraging to see more of an emphasis in playing to people’s strengths and making them feel safe, cared for and respected in the workplace.

Nordens’ CEO, Mitch Hahn, adds, “Neurodiversity is something which has rightfully been given an increased focus on in the workplace and in particular in the accountancy profession. I was part of a panel discussion just the other week at Accountex, where we spoke about neurodiversity and how everyone has strengths that can be tapped into and accessed for the greater good. At Nordens, we pride ourselves on being an open, inclusive and diverse team that provides the training and development necessary no matter who you are. Hopefully more professions and sectors will continue to follow suit and make neurodiversity a key aspect of their diversity policies and agendas.”

We hope this has outlined to you the awareness and benefits of increasing neurodiversity in the workplace. If you require any further information on any anything mentioned, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at Nordens where one of our trusted advisors would be happy talking you through your query.