To create an employee experience that helps everyone feel they belong, your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program must align with your company culture and strategic goals. To be successful, your DEI policies and activities should promote the participation and representation of all groups, including the neurodiverse.
In this post, learn more about neurodiversity and the factors you should consider when including it in your DEI program.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity describes the variations in how people experience and interact with the world around them. It can include anyone who thinks, communicates, and processes information differently.
Studies have found that as much as 20% of the global workforce is considered neurodiverse. Neurodiverse individuals can have cognitive functioning diagnoses such as dyslexia, ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorder. But they can also be individuals with other learning, sensory, and emotional differences, including introversion and giftedness.
Considerations for Including Neurodiversity in Your DEI Planning
Despite the prevalence of neurodiversity, it may not be addressed explicitly in DEI programs, partly because neurodiverse traits aren’t always apparent, and some may not feel comfortable talking about it. As a result, neurodiversity may get less attention than other types, such as racial, cultural, and gender diversity.
Nonetheless, if you recognize that your DEI program could pay more attention to the needs and experiences of neurodiverse employees, consider the following:
1. The workplace benefits of neurodiversity
Research has found that neurodivergent teams are 30% more productive, make fewer errors, and help to boost innovation because they see the world and its problems differently. Addressing neurodiversity in your DEI program also builds awareness, helping neurodiverse employees feel safer showing their authentic selves at work. As an example, Ingenuity created the Individuals with Diverse Abilities (IwDA) etiquette guide for TD Bank, which highlighted everyday employee experiences and offered practical ideas for building a supportive work environment.
2. Many ways to promote neurodiversity
Creating an inclusive workplace for neurodiverse employees often starts with hiring, given that unemployment among the neurodiverse is estimated to be 30-40%. In addition to hiring initiatives, here are some other ways you can embed neurodiversity into your existing DEI and talent management programs:
- Include neurodiversity language in DEI messaging and normalize conversations about neurodiversity in the workplace.
- Provide workplace flexibility, making it easier for neurodiverse employees to manage their time and exposure to noise and other stimuli.
- Encourage the development of a neurodiversity employee resource group (ERG).
- Offer internal training programs in multiple formats (video, audio, written transcripts, etc.) to address different employee learning styles.
3. Existing benchmarking opportunities
If you want to learn more about best practices in workplace neurodiversity, there are many examples to benchmark. Companies such as JPMorgan Chase, SAP, Microsoft, and others, have launched neurodiversity hiring and retention programs, offering a blueprint for other companies who want to carve out a dedicated space for the neurodiverse in their DEI strategy. You can also discover what other companies are doing by visiting the Neurodiversity@Work Employer Roundtable site. Created by nonprofit advocacy group Disability:IN, the roundtable has amassed 60+ corporate members who have committed to neurodiversity-focused hiring initiatives.
Build a Neuroinclusive Workforce
While neurodiversity isn’t new, it may not be something your organization has specifically addressed. However, it’s not too late. Now is a great time to re-evaluate your DEI program to see if your organization can do more to recognize and celebrate the thinking, feeling, and learning differences in your workforce. By including neurodiversity in your DEI strategy, you can help more employees feel accepted and secure in your organization and culture.
To learn more about what you can do to cultivate a secure workforce, read our Employee Connections Study.