In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, diversity and inclusion have become more than just buzzwords. They are strategic imperatives that drive innovation, productivity, and employee engagement. One aspect of diversity that is gaining increasing attention is neurodiversity.
As the founder of Eternity and a neurodivergent individual myself, I have experienced firsthand the unique strengths and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to the table. This article aims to shed light on the importance of neurodiversity in the workplace and how it can be leveraged for organizational success.
Neurodiversity refers to the natural variations in how the human brain functions and processes information. It is a concept that challenges the notion of a "normal" brain and embraces cognitive differences as a vital aspect of human diversity.
Though I really never enjoyed that world “normal” — who defines what is normal anyway? Neurodivergent individuals, such as those with ADHD, autism, OCD, and other neurological differences, often possess unique skills and cognitive abilities that can be harnessed to drive innovation and productivity in the workplace.
The Unique Value Proposition of Neurodivergent Employees:
Unleashing Creativity: Neurodivergent individuals often possess a unique cognitive architecture that allows them to think outside the box. Their brains process information differently, enabling them to see connections that others might miss and come up with innovative and creative solutions to complex problems.
For instance, many of the traits associated with ADHD, such as high energy, risk-seeking behavior, and the ability to multitask, can be leveraged as key strengths in the right environment. These traits can fuel creativity, enabling individuals with ADHD to generate a plethora of ideas, take bold decisions and juggle multiple tasks efficiently.
Similarly, individuals with dyslexia often have the ability to see connections that others cannot. They can create narratives that simplify complex tasks or products, making them invaluable in roles that require problem-solving and strategic thinking.
Boosting Team Productivity and Performance: Research indicates that neurodivergent professionals can enhance team productivity. A Deloitte report suggests that teams with neurodivergent members can be up to 30% more productive than those without. This is attributed to the unique problem-solving abilities and cognitive skills of neurodivergent individuals, which allow them to approach tasks from different angles and offer innovative solutions.
Enhancing Employee Retention: Neurodivergent employees tend to be loyal and have lower turnover rates, provided the workplace environment is supportive and inclusive. Major companies like EY, SAP, JPMorgan Chase, and Microsoft, which run some of the largest autism hiring programs in the U.S., report retention rates exceeding 90%.
Driving Employee Engagement: A strong sense of inclusion and belonging can significantly boost employee engagement. Neurodivergent employees can enhance the perception of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within the company, making work more meaningful and boosting morale.
Fostering Innovation: Neurodivergent employees often think differently from their neurotypical peers, which can drive innovation. For instance, SAP reported that a neurodivergent employee developed a technical solution that saved the company an estimated $40 million.
Attracting Talent: A 2022 Glassdoor study found that DEI is a significant factor for employees and job seekers, especially among younger employees, women, and people of color. By prioritizing neurodiversity, companies can attract a diverse talent pool.
“Sadly, many companies fail to recognize a vast pool of talented individuals with incredible capabilities. Society often adheres to unspoken rules that dictate who is or isn’t considered a suitable candidate or employee.
It can be pretty discouraging if you don’t fit into that predefined mold. It’s crucial for individuals who think outside the box to know that their value is just as significant. I feel truly blessed that Eternity recognizes and appreciates the worth of neurodivergent individuals. I can openly share my thoughts with Mike and be confident he’ll provide support rather than judgment.
I no longer feel like the odd one out; instead, I’m grateful to be part of a team of unique individuals who welcome and celebrate each other."
—Holly Buttura, Content & SEO Specialist @ Eternity
Incorporating Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Creating a neurodiverse-friendly workplace requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are some strategies that can be employed:
Promote Awareness and Understanding: Provide neurodiversity awareness training to all employees. This can help create an inclusive environment and equip employees with the knowledge and skills to support their neurodivergent colleagues.
Facilitate Open Conversations: Encourage open discussions about neurodiversity. Hosting events like a "Neurodiversity Day" can help raise awareness, celebrate diversity and discuss topics related to inclusion and accommodations.
Provide Accommodations: Make necessary adjustments to accommodate the unique needs of neurodivergent employees. This could include providing noise-canceling headphones for those with sound sensitivity or offering flexible work schedules.
Amplify Neuroinclusion: Partner with organizations that support neurodiversity and promote the message of neuroinclusion. At Eternity, we are actively engaging with and sponsoring All Brains Belong located out of Montpelier.
"Neurodiversity is the next frontier of workplace conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion. Creating workplace environments for people with all types of brains to thrive benefits everyone."
—Melissa M. Houser, M.D., Executive Director @ All Brains Belong VT
Reflecting Neurodiversity in Your Equal Opportunity Statement:
As part of your commitment to neurodiversity, it's essential to reflect this in your Equal Opportunity Employment (EOE) statement. This public declaration serves as a testament to your organization's dedication to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace. It sends a clear message to potential employees, stakeholders, and the wider community about your values and commitment to equal opportunity.
Incorporating neurodiversity into your EOE statement can be as simple as explicitly stating your commitment to hiring and supporting neurodivergent individuals. This could look something like: "We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity in all its forms, including neurodiversity. We are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees and welcome applications from individuals of all backgrounds, including those who are neurodivergent."
In addition to updating your EOE statement, consider also updating your job descriptions, recruitment materials and workplace policies to reflect your commitment to neurodiversity. This could involve outlining specific accommodations you provide, detailing your neurodiversity training programs or highlighting partnerships with neurodiversity organizations.
At Eternity, we have taken steps to ensure our commitment to neurodiversity is clear. We have partnered with organizations that support neurodiversity, such as All Brains Belong, and are actively promoting the message of neuroinclusion. By making these commitments visible, we hope to attract a diverse range of talent and foster a truly inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive.
Considering that up to 30% of the population is estimated to be neurodivergent, it is crucial for organizations to consider the needs of these individuals in their talent strategies.
Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is not just a matter of social responsibility; it is a strategic imperative that can drive innovation, productivity and employee engagement. As a neurodivergent individual and the founder of Eternity, I can attest to the unique strengths and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to the table.
By fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, we can unlock the potential of neurodiverse employees and create a workplace where everyone thrives.