Being a truly inclusive organization goes beyond sourcing diverse talent—companies must also integrate neurodiversity into their cultural fabric. Doing so ensures equity among employees, promotes diverse ideas, and embraces neurodiversity acceptance as a standard business practice. In Part 1 of this series, we explored neurodiverse-friendly hiring practices and how to build a successful infrastructure that supports all candidates throughout the hiring process and beyond. In Part 2 of the series, we’ll discuss how to build inclusive workspaces and communicate the message of neurodiversity throughout your organization.
Building inclusive workspaces
One of the most effective ways to promote neurodiversity in the workplace is to focus on the workplace itself. Offer remote work where available, to those who feel more comfortable working from home, but also make sure your physical workspace is inclusive. Adopting universal design principles and building spaces to accommodate a wide range of individuals and working preferences sets everyone up for success.
Making workplace accommodations more accessible can further encourage neurodiversity acceptance. For example, some organizations have focused their efforts on identifying success factors for all, not just those going through an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation process. With this in place, the organization creates a list of accommodations anyone can request if it helps to set them up for success. This approach encourages neurodivergent individuals to be more forthcoming about their potential needs and accommodations.
Beyond physical accommodations, providing a robust support system for neurodivergent individuals gives everyone an added layer of comfort and security at work. Having a dedicated mentor or team leader to answer questions, provide feedback and guidance, and ease the transition into a new role fosters a greater sense of belonging. Furthermore, providing information about ERGs/BRGs—what they are, their missions, how to join and get involved, etc.—gives new and existing employees an opportunity to connect with others and learn more about diverse perspectives.
Spreading the message of neurodiversity
Gaining executive buy-in is another effective way to spread a message of neurodiversity acceptance that sticks. Senior leaders have the authority and influence to introduce lasting change, making them critical champions of these initiatives. Ensuring that senior leadership is communicating clearly and often about neurodiversity initiatives, programs, and their value will underscore the importance of neurodiversity in company culture—and employees will listen. Further, executive communications about your organization’s commitment to neurodiversity and inclusion creates a safe working environment that may encourage employees to disclose their neurodiversity.
For example, the University of Pittsburgh embarked on its neurodiversity hiring journey because of senior leadership. The Information Technology Department Chief of Staff and Associate Director for Enterprise Applications collaborated to bring CAI Neurodiverse Solutions to their organization. They identified areas within the IT department that would benefit from the program and were key stakeholders in the launch of the school’s neurodiversity program. With their support and advocacy, automated testing and career development for neurodivergent individuals were brought to the university at the same time.
Neurodiversity awareness training is another great way to integrate neurodiversity into your company’s values and culture. These trainings can be offered to all levels of the organization and, at a minimum, should discuss the following topics:
- Exploring learning differences and why neurodiversity matters in the workplace
- Understanding the relationship between neurodiversity and mental health
- Creating and contributing to a supportive culture
- Working with neurodiverse teams
These topics, among others, can help promote greater neurodiversity awareness and acceptance across all levels of a business and empower individuals to be more effective communicators. Similarly, offering unconscious bias and microaggression training can help employees across the enterprise become more self-aware, considerate individuals and colleagues. Learning how to communicate clearly and concisely, being considerate of others, and working to achieve shared goals strengthens organizational culture and allows for a more neurodiverse workforce—and this can be accomplished with neurodiversity training coupled with support from executive leadership.
Neurodiversity is a valuable asset in the workplace, as neurodiverse talent brings diverse skillsets, opinions, and backgrounds to shared business objectives. And neurodivergent individuals make up a historically underemployed population, making them an untapped talent pool that organizations are realizing the value of. But simply looking to hire more neurodivergent employees isn’t enough; there must be support in place to ensure their success. Building an infrastructure that integrates neurodiversity into organizational culture can be done with simple, mindful changes to policies and procedures. These small changes can add up, promoting greater neurodiversity hiring practices and allowing neurodivergent individuals to thrive in their careers.
To learn more about building or expanding a neurodiversity employment program at your company, please contact us.