Businesses need to do more than simply get neurodivergent people through the door - Emma Walker

​Making workplaces more accommodating benefits every employee – and is a key factor for business success, writes Emma Walke

It’s no secret that having a diverse staff equals a successful business. Why? The more perspectives you have, the more prospective solutions you have at your disposal, not to mention endless creativity and opportunities to innovate. Bringing neurodivergent workers (people whose brain processing differs from the majority, for example people with a diagnosis of autism/ ADHD/ dyslexia etc) into the mix is a critical component of achieving this dynamic and varied way of thinking.

Despite the large numbers of neurodivergent talent available (around 15-20 per cent of the global population is thought to be neurodivergent; 2 per cent are estimated to be autistic), only 29 per cent of autistic people are in full-time employment. Furthermore, within the autistic workforce, a vast majority are under-employed, working in jobs that they are over-qualified or over-skilled for.

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Businesses need neurodivergent talent, neurodivergent workers want to work. So why the disconnect? Often, narratives on the autism employment gap are centred around finding work and getting a job, yet far less attention is given to considering the working environment once neurodivergent employees have joined an organisation.

Creating a neuroinclusive working environment is usually not a huge undertaking (Picture: a neuroinclusive working environment is usually not a huge undertaking (Picture:
Creating a neuroinclusive working environment is usually not a huge undertaking (Picture:

That’s not to say that the recruitment process should be ignored. There is still a lot of work to do there, as traditional recruitment processes are notoriously troublesome for anyone who may struggle with making eye contact, be flummoxed by arbitrary questions that are not related to the skills required to do the job, or be distracted by harsh office lighting, to name just a few of the many common barriers neurodivergent people face. To truly achieve an inclusive workplace, where all neurotypes are represented, businesses need to shake the classic ‘one size fits all’ model.

At auticon, we have spent 15 years successfully placing autistic IT consultants into fulfilling and challenging roles in areas such as data science and cyber security with a wide range of global businesses, that recognise the value of neurodivergent talent. Key to this success has been providing client and consultant alike with a dedicated job coach who acts an intermediary to ascertain each party’s requirements. This ensures that client teams are educated in neurodiversity awareness, whilst the consultant’s individual needs can be met – for example,. requesting flexible working to avoid sensory overload during a commute, or for meeting action points to be captured in clear bullet points and sent in writing to avoid ambiguity. This combination of education and accommodations ensures that the individual is set up in an environment in which they can thrive and, therefore, meet, and often exceed client expectations.

Our experience shows that it is only when the working environment and organisational culture shifts towards a personalised approach that workers truly begin to flourish. Crucially, this approach does not only benefit neurodivergent workers, it benefits everyone. This is the message we stress to clients who utilise our Neuroinclusion Services and, furthermore, that creating a neuroinclusive working environment is usually not a huge undertaking. In fact, it can be some of the smallest accommodations that make the biggest difference. Moreover, recognising and being willing to make changes on an individual basis, sends a message to co-workers and customers alike that the business puts people at its centre. In turn, this encourages long-term loyalty, from which everyone stands to benefit.

April is Autism Awareness Month. To find out more visit Emma Walker is Regional Director (Scotland) at auticon