20 Aug One Incredible Asset You’re Overlooking in Your Organization
Take a moment to imagine a diverse workplace… what comes to mind?
When we think of diversity in the workplace, we often see people of color, or people in wheelchairs, or with other visible differences. We typically neglect to consider diversity of the mind – our differences, whether physical, cultural, or otherwise, shape our way of thinking and interacting with the world, which allows us to bring unique assets to the table.
Neurodiversity is a term used to describe people whose brains are fundamentally different from what’s generally considered to be ‘normal’. These differences can manifest in a variety of ways, including out of the box thinking, radically different perspectives and approaches to problem solving, as well as an ability to keep high energy or hyper-focus – just to name a few.
Neurodiversity encompasses a wide range of neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, OCD, and more.
Approximately 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent. Yet, our society, culture, and workplaces usually operate in a neurotypical mode and pace, without much room for divergence. At a former job, I had a high performing, extremely creative direct report who had ADHD. I was fairly ignorant about ADHD back then, and it was only because of our trusted relationship that she shared her diagnosis with me and explained what support she needed from me so that she didn’t become overwhelmed. Our open lines of communication, regular prioritizing, and offering her work from home days to focus were key to helping her stay successful.
Being different can sometimes pose challenges in a world that is designed for the neurotypical. However, such differences can also present major advantages when understood and leveraged properly.
Some of the most successful people in the world are neurodivergent. Take for example the polarizing Elon Musk, who openly attributes his success to his autism. Thanks to his unusual way of thinking, Musk has been able to lean into his differences, break the mold, and achieve previously unheard of things. Musk is just one of countless cases of neurodivergence being leveraged as an asset.
Neurodivergence can be a beneficial addition to the workplace, and a critical yet often overlooked part of an inclusive workplace. As leaders, we can realize this superpower, and take the initiative to bring more neurodiversity into our teams.
So, how can you foster a work environment that is inclusive and supportive of all? Every organization is different, but here are some general tips:
Reimagine the hiring process:
Remember that neurodiverse people are, well, different, so they may not present as a traditionally good fit during an interview. Bear this in mind and consider tailoring your interview approach accordingly.
Adapt processes to accommodate differences:
Recognize that some people operate differently and allow flexibility in your workplace to accommodate for these differences. Think looser deadlines, optional odd work hours, a choice to work alone or together for certain projects, and minimal hoops to jump through or unnecessary rules and regulations.
Build a support system:
Affinity groups, coaching, and mentoring are a great way to provide the extra support or structure that some neurodifferences require.
Create a career path for everyone:
Neurotypical people are usually more likely to advocate for themselves, their wants, goals, and needs. When it comes to internal promotions, make sure you’re not overlooking candidates who may operate differently.
Take feedback into consideration:
Ask your employees what kind of support they need to thrive, and do your best to accommodate their unique needs. Ensure your career and job recruiting materials take into account different ways of processing information.
Celebrate neurodiversity and open up the conversation:
Encourage your team to be proud and vocal about their differences. This will foster bringing the whole self to the workplace, and it will help provide a deeper understanding of neurodiversity among the neurotypical people on your team.
People who are neurodiverse bring a new way of thinking and a unique approach to doing work-related tasks. Thanks to their brains being wired differently, they are often able to solve problems that others cannot, stay hyper-focused, innovate without even trying, and bring a fresh perspective to the table.
By supporting neurodiversity in your organization, you can tap into a wealth of innovation and detail orientation, helping your team stay ahead of the curve. Look at your hiring process, internal systems, and employee support – what areas cater only towards the neurotypical, and where can you make adjustments? Neurodiversity is a superpower – don’t sleep on it.