It’s safe to say that every employer knows it’s important to have clear policies when it comes to diversity and equality within the workplace. Whether their policies are fit for purpose, may be another matter, of course.
However, a recent CIPD study found that almost 75% of employers failed to have any form of neurodiversity policy. Which, when you consider that it’s estimated 10% of the population is neurodivergent in some way, that’s a large section of the community that are not being catered for.
What is neurodiversity?
As a term, “neurodiversity” hasn’t been around all that long; however, it simply refers to various neurological conditions, such as ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and autism/ASD.
What’s the problem?
Recent statistics show that only 16% of adults with an autism diagnosis are in full-time paid work. Whilst autism is a spectrum, and means different things for different people in terms of skills and abilities, there is little doubt that many of those who could (and would want) to work, are unable to access the workplace.
The Recruitment Process
Applying for a job starts with the job advert, and this is also where problems can begin for some people. Ambiguous and vague descriptions of the role, skills required and general day to day duties can cause people confusion and anxiety. In turn, this means they may not seek further information, and might not apply for a role despite being a perfect fit.
When individuals do apply for roles, the interview process itself can be quite a difficult experience for them. As an example, asking an autistic adult “What will you be doing in five years?” is likely to illicit “I don’t know” as a response. In truth, they don’t know (unless they also happen to be psychic). It might not be the answer you want, but it does fit with the actual question you asked. It is vital to carefully consider the wording of questions to ensure they don’t cause confusion.
One of the biggest problems for neurodiverse members of staff can be the anxiety they feel about fully disclosing their condition. If it is clear, from the outset, that their employer is supportive, and is willing to adapt situations and circumstances to make life easier where necessary, then full disclosure is more likely.
With this comes the opportunity to work together to ensure that everyone is getting the best out of the working relationship as possible. A staff member may be able to identify how their skill set could be better used to the benefit of the company.
Equally, full disclosure will allow managers to manage their neurodiverse team members more effectively and compassionately. Being aware that a member of staff struggles with sudden changes in routine, will allow leadership to plan accordingly (where possible).
If you’re not sure what your policies say, or more importantly, what they should say, you can get in touch with People Matters for a chat.