How to Support Neurodivergent People in the Workplace
Not all people think or work in the same way. Some are quiet and analytical thinkers. In contrast, others can’t focus on a task for too long. However, they may be wildly creative with no limit to their energy.
While neurodiverse employees may seem a little different than others, they offer unique perspectives and innovative ideas.
To leverage the talent and skills of employees who aren’t neurotypical, business leaders may need to adopt policies and adjust certain processes. Below are the best ways for companies to support neurodivergent workers.
1. Start With Your Hiring Practices
Support neurodiverse people in the workplace by starting with hiring practices. Employers may need to adjust them by revising the screening process or adding inclusive language in job descriptions.
When hiring employees, you must keep neurodiverse employees in mind throughout the hiring process.
For instance, hiring managers may need to reassess their idea of what top talent looks like within the interview stage. A candidate with autism may find difficulty maintaining eye contact. Or, people with ADHD may appear distracted and will easily switch topics.
While hiring managers may not be able to tell if the candidate is neurodivergent, they must keep an open mind to that possibility without passing judgment on their ability to perform.
2. Provide the Appropriate Training and Coaching
Instead of singling out neurodiverse employees, consider offering neurodiversity training. These programs can serve various purposes. For one, it helps organizations attract and retain talent that is diverse in thinking and doing.
Employees become more understanding and accommodating of their coworkers’ differences, encouraging them to learn what they can do to help them succeed.
Additionally, it benefits neurodiverse employees by showcasing an organization’s empathy toward their struggles. At the same time, it provides them with resources, such as coping mechanisms and training on assistive technologies when necessary.
Finally, employees of all levels can receive education on the benefits of thinking differently and how it provides value for the workplace. That way, ideas from neurodivergent workers are less likely to be dismissed by their colleagues.
3. Create Personalized Career Journeys
Employers should consider creating personalized career journeys for every employee, including those who are neurodiverse. Offering a curated work experience allows employees to contribute to the workplace. However, it also helps them grow into their position while helping their company scale.
Keep in mind that success in the workplace doesn’t look the same for all employees. Some like to work in isolation, while others prefer to work collaboratively. Some employees work best without noise, while others work best with the background noises of a bustling office.
Consider what success looks like to your employees by asking them. Knowing your employees means you can better support them along their career journeys.
4. Determine If Existing Tools Meet With Actual Needs
Every employee needs tools to help them work more productively. However, a device that works well for some may not work well for others. Consider consulting with supervisors, colleagues and neurodivergent individuals to gather their perspectives.
You can better support neurodivergent workers by analyzing their existing processes, tools and support to learn what does and doesn’t align with their needs. It’s more helpful to design solutions for existing problems than those that don’t.
5. Offer Mentorship
Mentorship can either be formal or informal. Either way, neurodivergent workers need mentorship, as it provides specialized guidance and support for tasks that may come easier to others.
Furthermore, it shows these employees how to advance within the company and can help them build healthy work relationships. It also provides them with an advocate, assisting these employees in connecting with others across the company and creating professional allies.
Whether neurodivergent or neurotypical — employers must evaluate workers’ needs and provide them with the necessary support to help them get through each day.
Embrace Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Neurodiverse workers may not act and think the same way as neurotypical workers. Still, every human is unique and employers must avoid tiptoeing around the topic. Instead, they should be open to new ideas, find strategies that accommodate others and be willing to embrace neurodiverse talent.
In doing so, it provides businesses with a significant competitive advantage and promotes neurodiverse talent within the workplace.
Guest Post by Eleanor Hecks
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pups, Bear and Lucy.