How to Build and Support Neurodiversity in the Workplace

It’s becoming more and more obvious that the next generation of consumers are increasingly concerned with social inclusion and morality when it comes to brand loyalty. Consider the concept of “cancel culture” and the power of different social media to create mass boycotts or purchasing revolutions. In the coming years, it will be as important to talk about your company values and the types of people you employ as it will be to talk about the products and services you provide. 

To this end, you need to join some of the biggest corporations out there in hiring neurodiverse employees. Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase and SAP, to name but a few, have all set up dedicated autism hiring teams to further their commitment to social inclusion and to reap the benefits of the strengths of autistic workers. 

Why Hire Neurodiverse Employees

Hiring neurodiverse employees and advertising your company as being autism friendly is a great way to build customer support especially among younger people. You’ll be seen as a driver towards social inclusion and, if you act quickly, as an early champion of equal opportunities for all. You’ll also get a whole range of benefits for your company by hiring autistic workers, including:

  • Out of the box thinking – while it’s definitely true that no two autistic people present with the same traits, the majority of individuals on the autism spectrum perceive and understand the world in a different way to their neurotypical counterparts. In the workplace, this means that they will be able to find new solutions to existing problems, as well as to see efficiencies in complex processes and routines. 
  • Increased empathy – the impact of hiring neurodiverse employees goes beyond bottom line productivity. You’ll also find that they change the way in which the rest of your staff interact and relate to each other. As your staff becomes used to including their new colleague, this increased sense of empathy towards others will spread so that your organization becomes a softer and more welcoming place to work for everyone. Eventually, you’ll see this empathetic approach be applied to your customers which will only help to build brand loyalty. 
  • Streamlined communication – finally, the communication challenges that many autistic workers face living in the neurotypical world can actually be a strength when it comes to the workplace. Many autistic employees benefit from concrete checklists, written agendas and minutes and conversations where abstract linguistic tools (for example sarcasm, idioms and metaphors) can’t be used. Again, you’ll notice that the rest of your staff actually prefer to communicate in this streamlined fashion, and you’ll find that meetings become more efficient and the amount of gossip around your office decreases as there is less chance for miscommunication. 

Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace

It’s clear to see that there are many benefits to hiring autistic workers, but there is a lot of groundwork to be done to support them in the workplace. Many of your existing workforce will have had limited exposure to autism in real life, and there is a propensity for negative stereotypes of the condition in popular culture. Before your new hire steps foot in the door, you’ll want to put everyone through autism training to build an understanding of what will need to change. 

It will serve you well to run a whole staff training on autism from a 30,000 foot perspective. This should include training on what autism is (and what autism isn’t) and the sorts of strengths and challenges that their new colleague may find in their new role. It should be as informal as possible to encourage your staff to ask questions and prepare themselves to be as inclusive as possible. There should then be follow up training for those who will work in close proximity with your new autistic hire, and this should focus on the specific individual and how to support them through the onboarding process.

Getting Professional Help

Unless you already have an autism expert on your team, you will need to team up with an autism employment agency to provide these training sessions. Here at Orbital, we offer a variety of pre and post hiring training sessions for all levels within your organization. Our team of experts will meet with your entire staff during a working lunch to bust some commonly held myths about autism, with the opportunity for individual and group follow up. We’ll also help to coach the team around your new hire to support your journey towards social inclusion.

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