Enabling a workforce to embrace Neurodiversity has the unique combination of a clear and exciting business case with an appealing societal and community benefit. Nobody disagrees with the statement, ‘people should be enabled to bring their best skills to work’, the challenge we face is how to deliver that vision in an efficient manner. Delivering a workplace capable of empowering neurodiverse individuals would provide a significant talent advantage and contribute to a happy, inclusive culture.
Neurodiversity refers to the different ways people process information. The most identified variations are widely known and highly prevalent. Of the global adult population, 10% are Dyslexic, 5% are Dyspraxic, 4% have ADHD and roughly 1.7% are Autistic. This doesn’t account for milder versions of these variations that are undiagnosed, where readily available low-cost working practice adjustments would significantly improve productivity and worker satisfaction.
Our Neurodiversity taskforce has aimed to promote awareness throughout Agilisys during Neurodiversity week, I am struck by the extent to which all lives are touched by these different processing variations. Numerous stories have emerged of those affected by, and those with close friends and family affected by, the difficulties of integrating into standardised processes that others find effortless. Office noise, face-to-face interviews, presentations, and harsh lighting have the potential to exclude people from the workforce, despite their ability to operate effectively in the workplace and to excel through ‘flipside’ strengths.
These flipside strengths are rarely understood yet have enormous potential to make impact in the workplace. For an autistic individual, the interview process may deny them employment opportunity due to difficulties with eye contact and communication, yet logical thinking, lengthy focus periods and the ability to retain detailed information are highly valuable skills in the right roles and areas. Auticon CEO, Andrea Girlanda, has described autistic skills profiles as, ‘spikey’. There are challenges that often preclude employment, but this neglects the exceptional spikes in other skill areas.
JPMorgan ran a comprehensive scheme for autistic workers and reported, ‘after three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up – and were even 50 percent more productive’. Hewlett Packard have found their neurodiverse software testing teams were 30% more productive than others, while their Autistic employees had a retention rate of 98%.
Despite this, unemployment sits at 78% for UK autistic individuals. This presents a massive untapped talent pool, with relevant roles often concentrated in technical roles. To use a metaphor, players on a sports team will all have different body shapes and skills that fit their role; embracing neurodiversity brings all players onto the field.
Neurodiversity week is the beginning of a difficult journey at Agilisys towards embracing neurodiversity. It was a pleasure to share what we have learnt in researching the topics, to raise the awareness of this topic and to suggest provisional next steps; what has been highlighted is the breadth of possibility in these areas, particularly around supporting those in the business who currently have diagnoses. Feedback and fresh ideas will continuously shape our delivery objectives and we encourage those who feel they have energy and time to commit to come forward and offer their talents.
There is a year until the next Neurodiversity Week and a long list of aspirations and deliverables to bring into being before then. Creating a compelling narrative around the business case backed up by reliable data; undergoing an employee lifecycle review to understand where accessibility can be improved at multiple stages; generating engagement through effective communication and training our managers to feel comfortable and confident managing neurodiverse individuals.
The ultimate aspiration of this network is to place Agilisys at the forefront of workplace thinking on Neurodiversity, where others consult our operations to find best practice to emulate. We have kicked this off in style by building a team of passionate volunteers and creating the foundations of a research-led centre of excellence. We have a long way to go, but I am excited to see all that is to come.
If you’re interested in sending suggestions, making requests or joining the team, please reach out to Henry St George for more information.