If you were among those who joined us for our recent Neurodiversity in the Workplace workshop, you’ll know what a fascinating source of debate and discussion this topic is.

Here, we reflect on the learnings of that event.

Can neurodiversity be considered a superpower in the workplace?

Is it possible that an employee who is living with neurodiverse traits could be even more creative, engaged, focused and capable?

If you attended our recent Neurodiversity in the Workplace workshop, you’ll likely conclude that, to some degree, there’s truth in that.

Our session enabled us to do a really insightful exploration of what it means to have a diagnosis, what operating in the work environment feels like when you’re neurodiverse, and what the obligations and implications are for employers and business owners, when it comes to recruiting, supporting and understanding neurodiverse staff.

 

James Kindred, founder of Fork, shared sentiments which many who have (finally) received a formal diagnosis on the neurodiverse scale (he has autism and ADHD) will no doubt have experienced.

He has come to understand more about the years in which he felt ‘he didn’t quite fit’, and has been able to define which traits align with his diagnosis (sensory issues, difficulty with social interaction, preference for routine). And yet, so too has he learned how his neurodiversity gives him unique workplace assets.

In particular, he cites hyperfocus, attention to detail, systematic thinking and a deep drive for excellence.

What employer wouldn’t want such characteristics in an employee?

But still, even in 2024, when we know there to be so much more ‘everyday conversation’ about neurodiversity, and we are provided with statistical evidence that some 15-20% of the UK population meet a neurodiverse condition, there remains a fear among some employers to fully embrace the chance to embrace diversity and to make their workplace appropriate.

Legally, as our workshop speaker, Kelly Sayers, of Keystone Law, was able to emphasise to our audience, disability is a protected characteristic, and therefore, under the Equality Act 2010, there are clear obligations upon a leader to ensure prevention of discrimination.

The employer has a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments, and to be educated as to the way in which their staff member is affected by neurodiversity – which doesn’t even have to mean a formal diagnosis has yet been achieved.

Worryingly, and despite the very real legal implications of not recruiting or supporting someone with neurodivergent issues, recent research has consistently shown that neurodiversity is not significantly considered in the people management strategy of many firms. What a mistake. To ignore this opportunity means to sustain the already troubling fact in the UK that four in five businesses are still struggling to fill talent gaps (according to People Management, 2023).

“Excellent service”

“MAD-HR are easy to work with and provide us with excellent HR support” Read the full review

MAD-HR Feefo Rating

At MAD-HR we make it a fundamental part of our client activity to help businesses understand their obligations, but equally to remind them of the ‘superpowers’ which serve neurodiverse candidates particularly well in the right workplace.

We can attest to the fact that where employers have undertaken an HR audit, recognised areas for improvement in this area, and have implemented the right strategies and enhancements to workplace environments, the benefit is significant – and achieved by all sides.

If, as an employer, you’re determined to access the best talent pool, and to ensure your business thrives through having staff of different thoughts, approaches and unique qualities, our number one recommendation is that you rethink your understanding of neurodiversity and its place in the employment landscape.

TOP TAKEAWAYS FOR THE EMPLOYER

  • Seek an external audit of your HR practices and recognise how these do or don’t align with obligations concerning neurodiversity
  • Take time to think about what ‘reasonable adjustments’ might be in your workplace (different zones for people to work, respecting sensitivities to noise, appreciating a person’s need for familiarity)
  • Introduce training for your staff or awareness activity
  • Ensure staff feel able to speak up and share their experiences
  • Be aware of your legal obligations
  • Address your policies and your recruitment processes so that these are fully in line with your duties as a business owner

*For those who missed our workshop, we are running the event again in Suffolk – click here to book your place.