HR Policies & Procedures

What Is Neurodiversity?

Does your organization have an opinion on hiring to ensure neurodiversity? While diversity is something most organizations pay attention to (and even strive for), neurodiversity may not be on your radar yet.

Neurodiversity simply refers to the fact that there are variations (diversity) in our own brains. Neurodiversity is often discussed in reference to the neurodiversity movement or neurodiversity paradigm. The neurodiversity movement advocates that we look at differences in neurological characteristics (neurodiversity) as being simply the same as differences in physical characteristics—they represent different points within the normal human range of characteristics and experiences. In other words, conditions like autism[i] represent simply a variation in how the brain functions; these types of differences are not an insufficiency.

This idea that neurological differences are still a part of the normal range represents a change in thinking for some. Many employers have not even considered the idea of intentionally increasing neurodiversity in their workplace or that doing so may come with many benefits.[ii]

Why Is Neurodiversity Important for Employers?

When hiring for diversity, not only are employers looking to make sure they’re not discriminating against any particular group, but they’re also trying to get a wealth of perspectives that will help to ensure there are more viewpoints considered when any issue is discussed. Neurodiversity fits right into this framework. If employers view neurological differences as just one more form of diversity, as something to be embraced, they can benefit from yet another perspective in the workplace, fostering new ideas. Individuals who are in a neurological minority may even have traits that allow them to be more successful in the workplace if given a chance.

It may come as no surprise that employers in the past have not always viewed individuals with neurological differences in a favorable light. This has resulted in a situation in which the vast majority of neurodivergent individuals find themselves unemployed—regardless of their education attainment or intelligence level.

Those with neurological variations can be a big asset to an employer. It may take some accommodations, but employers stand to gain. Not only will they benefit from a wealth of new perspectives, but they’ll also be accessing an entire group of previously overlooked talent, many of whom have highly valuable skill sets. (For more benefits of hiring a more neurodiverse workforce, check out http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2017/12/27/hiring-2018-neurodiversity-matters).

If you’re an employer looking to hire people who are neurodivergent, know that it may mean accommodations will be needed, but that alone should not be a deterrent. Of course, not all individuals who are neurodivergent will be a good fit for employment, but for those who are, employers can stand to benefit greatly by making strides toward being more inclusive and changing their processes to ensure these individuals are not overlooked.

[i] Note: Autism is just one example here; others may include (but are not limited to) attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, and more.

[ii] Note: Neurodiversity is a topic that can be complex. Neurological differences affect the ways in which people interact and how we treat one another. Treat this topic delicately, and be sure to be well-informed before proceeding with any workplace changes.