What is Neurodiversity and Why Does It Matter?
  • 4 min read

What is Neurodiversity and Why Does It Matter?

In recent years, diversity has been at the forefront of many conversations. Especially those about the workforce. While all this has happened, some diversity themes haven’t been discussed as much as others; one of them being neurodiversity. It is reported that between 15 and 20% of the population are neurodivergent, highlighting the importance of the topic.

Anyone working with people should know how neurodiversity is playing a key role in the modern workforce.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity describes the naturally occurring variation found in our brain in regards to neurocognitive functioning.

We all know that there’s no right way of thinking or learning; we all have our differences and unique quirks in regards to how our brain operates. which is why talking about neurodiversity and highlighting it is ever so important. There are various different neurological or developmental conditions associated with neurodiversity, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette’s Syndrome and more.

Why is Neurodiversity important?

It’s important to shine light on the subject to help reduce stigma associated with it. It often results in neurodivergent people being misunderstood and excluded, preventing them from achieving success in education and work.

It’s essential for employers to gain an understanding on how to support neurodivergent people. In order to help them to be a part of their workplace, employers must also comprehend that neurodivergent people have different barriers.

How neurodiversity benefits the workplace

Diversity of all kinds is proven to yield great benefits to organizations that act on it. Neurodiversity is no exception; it can bring unique perspectives and ways of thinking. It’s about having people who can look outside of the box.

Another thing to consider is the unreached skill set that many neurodivergent individuals possess. Unfortunately, at least 30-40% of neurodivergent adults are unemployed; eight times the rate for people without a disability.

The neurodiverse talent pool is a huge community of capable people, accessible to organizations receptive to the neurodiversity challenges they face.

Catering for neurodiversity

Before advertising as being welcoming to neurodiverse applicants, there are various things employers must build into their workplace culture, behaviors, processes, and systems to help accommodate the community. 

Many neurodiverse individuals struggle with social environments.  They don’t respond to other humans the way society might expect them to.  Some have emotional challenges that are very real to them, even though these behavioural and social barriers may appear trivial to others. 

This means any employer keen to fashion their workforce strategy to incorporate neurodivergent people should pause and create a plan.  Fortunately, there is a wealth of useful reference points to help employers make informed decisions on the steps to take: 

Once you look through these resources, it would be beneficial to embrace mentoring and support programs for employees, both neurodiverse and neurotypical. This would allow teams to better understand how to accommodate each other’s differences and challenges, strengthening the quality of teamwork.

You can’t treat neurodivergent individuals the same as neurotypicals because their brain functions differently. Additionally, you also can’t treat neurodivergent people the same, because their symptoms may be expressed differently to someone else with the same condition.

For example, ADHD can be categorized into three main types: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combination. So even if someone has the same condition, they might face different challenges.

Supporting neurodivergent individuals can be challenging, but it’s often worth it in the long run. Many ND individuals have special talents and are capable of achieving things most neurotypical people can’t, which could provide a massive benefit to employers.

Final thoughts

Neurodiversity is an important topic to consider when designing a modern workforce. There is a substantial talent shortfall, as the workforce is becoming more digital. Organizations are struggling to find the quality talent they need. Therefore, employers need to diversify their talent pool and their expectations.

Neurodiverse people represent a sizable, yet misunderstood talent pool that is not yet been tapped into. I tried to answer some key questions with this article, and it’s clear that embracing neurodivergent talent is the way forward. To do this, businesses first need to have a better understanding of the barriers that neurodivergent employees often face, which we will identify in our next article.