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Promoting Neurodiversity in the Workplace

August 10, 2018

Diversity in the workplace is a topic that is often discussed. Providing a culturally inclusive workforce that reflects the world at large is an important goal to work towards. Most often we think about this in terms of gender, racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. And these are all important, after all, as Leonid Hurwicz, a University of Michigan professor says, “Ten copies of the same person doesn’t do you much good.” However, there is one element of diversity that is often overlooked, but is starting to gain more attention. Neurodiversity is defined as the “range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits” and often times it specifically refers to individuals on the autism spectrum.  But it can also refer to the different ways that people think, problem solve, and relate to others. While the traditional ways we view diversity provides neurodiversity more often than not, there are extra steps you can take to ensure your organization has it.

It is often hard to tell at first glance if someone is not neurotypical. One of the first steps to building a neurodiverse work place is in the interviewing process.  Recently, there has been a shift away from relying on traditional resumes alone. They are still used to confirm candidates have the necessary qualifications during a prescreen process, but often times the hiring team or managers will not see the resume before the interview process. Exercise-based interviewing may occur in order to see how well the candidate displays the applicable job skills. Another option is to provide take-home activities or to interact with the applicant in a more social setting, such as lunch. Using these methods during the hiring process can highlight key differences between applicants and show the level of neurodiversity that person may bring to the workforce. 

Once they are hired, another way to tap into the skills and unique talents of neurodiverse individuals is to provide a “how to work with me” document. This document can include information on the following:

  • How an individual learns

  • How they process information

  • How they respond to different forms of feedback

  • What their communication style is

Having access to additional information about employees allows for better and more efficient collaboration between coworkers. 

Melanie Powers, a writer at SHRM, explains “a workforce that includes a robust mix of men and women of various ages, ethnicities, religions and other characteristics is more likely to reflect a variety of perspectives and thought patt

 

erns than a more-homogeneous group of people with similar backgrounds and experiences.” As more and more companies shift towards a neurodiverse workforce, we may see more successful and productive businesses than ever.  Having a diverse group of people who think differently and have had different life experiences is crucial to maintaining a cutting edge business model and increasing productivity and efficiency.

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