The ‘superpowers’ that neurodiverse people bring to the workplace

Welcome to the second of our two-part series discussing neurodiversity in the workplace. You can read the first part here.

As we seek to be more inclusive as employers, it’s essential to realise that people with neurodiverse conditions are also on their own journey, adjusting and finding the best way to work.

As an employer, implementing a strengths-based culture is the best way to harness their neurodiversity strengths. Focus on the potential of your employees – whether neurodiverse or neurotypical – to create an engaged workforce who understands and leverages their skills and capabilities.

Psychological contract the people practice

Understanding neurodiverse strengths

While we all can identify with the following strengths (to different degrees), the unique neural pathways of neurodivergent people mean that they have natural tendencies to excel in these areas.

  • Innovation and creativity - neurodivergent people tend to have an aptitude for creative thinking. This gives them the ability to think outside the box with innovative and bold ideas.
  • Diverse thinking - the life experiences of neurodiverse people give them a rounded perspective that can help diversity the mindset of teams, often with unconventional ways to problem solve and strategise.
  • True honesty - a common trait of neurodiverse people is having no filter and often speaking their mind on impulse. While this can result in uncomfortable honesty, it can also provide an opportunity to trigger an open forum ­within your workplace – when a neurodiverse employee says something that others are too afraid to say.
  • Making connections that others may not - neurodiverse content marketer Geoff Hoppe notes, that his biggest strength is his ability to make connections that neurotypical people overlook: “I have a nonverbal learning disability (NLD). Two facets of my NLD are a phenomenal long-term memory, and an ability to hyper-focus on individual details. When you combine those two, you get the ability to draw connections between things that seem completely unrelated. I won’t just remember something other people forget, I’ll remember the one detail that ties everything together.”
“I see my condition as a gift, not a disability. It has helped me learn the art of delegation, focus my skills, and work with incredible people."
— Richard Branson (Virgin Group CEO)

Neurodiversity in action – success stories

When neurodiversity can be used as a strength, the results can lead to greatness. Notable neurodiverse entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Ingvar Kamprad and David Neeleman credit their neurodiversity as an integral part of their successes.

Richard Branson (Virgin Group CEO) has spoken openly about his ADHD and dyslexia, and says that his dyslexia has influenced his work: “I see my condition as a gift, not a disability. It has helped me learn the art of delegation, focus my skills, and work with incredible people.”

When founding IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad found that his dyslexia meant he often had trouble remembering product codes. This led to the innovation of naming his furniture creatively – using men’s names for chairs and desks, and Swedish islands for garden furniture. This has become one of the brand’s defining and enduring features.

David Neelemen (founder of JetBlue) credits his ability to uniquely process information to ADHD: “I can distil complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADD (now ADHD) brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”

While not speaking about his diagnosis specifically, Elon Musk (SpaceX CEO) recently revealed that he is on the autism spectrum during an appearance on Saturday Night Live in the USA. His opening speech included, “I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL … So, I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running ‘human’ in emulation mode.”

Harnessing HR to embrace neurodiversity

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 30-40% of Australians are neurodiverse – and approximately 34% of this population are unemployed.

Because of the lingering misconceptions about neurodiversity, about half of HR managers and leaders say they would not hire a neurodiverse employee. Reasons included concerns around increased support requirements, culture fit, and skill.

This mindset is not only unconducive to a healthy work environment but also harmful to neurodiverse people. It can potentially lead to people hiding their neurodiversity using masking behaviours, feeling shame, and leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

However, there is a way forward.

The People Practice is incredibly excited to be working with one of our clients in the tech industry to develop a Neurodiverse Hiring Program. This tailored, innovative program is aimed at supporting and celebrating the skills and talents of neurodiverse people.

Our program is centred around an inclusive application and interview process for neurodiverse talent, allowing them to showcase their unique abilities and suitability for roles across all sectors. With the right environment and support structure, we provide a unique talent acquisition process focusing on workability, team projects and skills assessments.

How The People Practice can assist you

Are you looking for ways to increase your employee diversity? The People Practice can assist with a range of services - from helping you create inclusive position descriptions and advertisements, to auditing your current recruitment practices, to developing your own tailored neurodiverse hiring program.

We can also provide leadership coaching and employee workshops to help shift the prevailing mentality and promote understanding and inclusivity in your workplace.

We’d love to talk to you – to chat about how we can help you, or even if you have questions about neurodiversity or DE&I principles. Contact us today.

Renée x

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