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4 Ways to Embrace Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Posted in Company Culture, Employers, Policies & Procedures, Recruitment on Mar 08, 2022 by Keeley Edge

When we talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, attention is often focused on the importance and benefits of having a good mix of gender, age, and race. But what about the fair treatment and inclusion of those with differences we cannot see? Neurodiversity is one such difference that is all too often overlooked.

What is neurodiversity?

The term is used to describe the idea that everyone experiences, interacts and interprets the world around them in different ways. Neurodivergent people think and behave in a way that differs from the majority. Types of neurodivergence include dyslexia, autism, dyscalculia, ADHD and dyspraxia.

For too long these differences in cognition and behaviour have been considered to be something that needed to be fixed. Only now is the business world, and society at large, realising that these variations in how people think about and see the world are valuable skills that should be embraced and celebrated.


‘Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race 

as biodiversity is for life in general.’ (Harvey Blume)

One in seven people in the UK are thought to be neurodivergent (British Dyslexia Association), which likely equates to quite a high percentage of your workforce and potential recruits. Are their needs being met? Is their potential being fully explored?

Only 16% of autistic people in the UK are in full-time employment (National Autistic Society). Yet many people with autism are highly educated, detail driven, very capable individuals who would be an asset to any company. Who is missing out?


Here are four simple ways your company can attract and embrace neurodiversity.


1.  Talk about Neurodiversity openly

Create an open and supportive atmosphere at work to raise awareness and reduce any stigma around neurodiversity. This will make the workplace feel like a safe place for everyone. Talking about it will also help to empower those who have not yet disclosed their own neurodivergence to speak out and be understood.

Highlight the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion from the top down, to signal a positive outlook on neurodiversity both internally and externally.

Use positive, inclusive language and encourage your staff to do so too.

Include neurodiversity awareness in your training programmes to increase understanding and make everyone more comfortable talking about it.

And remember, nobody expects you to be an expert on this. Show your employees you support them by listening, asking helpful questions, and going away to learn more about how you can help.

2.  Play to people's strengths

This is good advice for people managers in general, but also for those being neurodiversity smart. Getting the best out of your employees means treating everyone as individuals and looking at your team as a set of people with unique but complementary skills and abilities. Don’t expect all of your team members to be good at everything.

Get to know the individual to identify their strengths. Don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes of someone with their condition.

Draw out a candidate’s strengths at interview and balance those skills with the rest of the team.


3.  Redefine the roles and job descriptions with Neurodiversity in mind

Role and job descriptions are often drawn up by and designed for neurotypicals. This means that they can unintentionally exclude and deter neurodiverse applicants. Typically, roles are defined in general terms and ask for a high capability in a wide range of skills. Neurodiverse individuals are often not generalists – their skills are outstanding in specific areas.

Make job descriptions clear and concise with well-defined essential and desirable skills and experiences.

Avoid including things like ‘excellent communication’ as an essential skill, as this will put off talented candidates who are literal thinkers (e.g. those with autism) and those who are uncomfortable with written communication (e.g. dyslexic applicants).

Demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion by adding a statement to the job description to let applicants know you welcome candidates with different thinking styles and are open to discussing modifications.


4.  Make adjustments to your recruitment process that support Neurodiversity

Much like job descriptions, the recruitment process is riddled with steps and procedures that are not neurodiversity smart and can result in deterring those candidates who would otherwise thrive in the job.

Consider those with ADHD being made to sit through an hour-long interview without a break. A person with dyslexia being asked to take a timed written test or aptitude assessment. Or the autistic applicant who has to sit in a noisy, brightly lit interview room. You will never see the best of these applicants unless you consider their needs and make adjustments.

Make space on your application forms for candidates to declare their neurodivergence should they wish to do so. Make it clear that such declarations will not go against them, but will allow you to accommodate them better throughout the recruitment process.

Communicate the application process clearly, setting out what will happen at each step.


To find out how we can help to make your recruitment practices more open to and accepting of people who are neurodivergent, call us on 0844 504 4666 or drop us a line at info@key-appointments.co.uk.

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