Five Characteristics of a Neurodiverse-Friendly Workplace

All business owners should be working towards a world where all people, whether they have neurodiversity or not, can live their lives to the fullest. Here are five characteristics that your business needs to exhibit to become a neurodiverse-friendly workplace. 

In today’s business environment, there are some nasty businesses out there as well some great businesses. Anyone who is in business, whether you have a connection to neurodiversity or not, should be interested in creating a bully free, non-discriminatory, inclusive workplace that gets the most out of their employees.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls who are diagnosed with neurodiversity. Many of them have skills needed by many employers, but they cannot get hired since they are unable to make it through the hiring process.

Many organizations are beginning to realize the need to include people with neurodiversity in their workforce. However, in order to take advantage of neurodiverse talent, many organizations have to revamp how they recruit, interview, and also redo their career development policies to reflect the broader definition of talent.

A growing number of prominent companies are already taking the lead in accessing neurodiverse talent. Among them include SAP, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Ford, EY, Caterpillar, Dell, Deloitte, IBM, and JP Morgan Chase. Managers at these companies have been seeing positive improvements in productivity, quality improvements, and innovative capabilities that are far beyond their expectations.

Michael Bernick, an author with Forbes, said he recently took a tour of a true autism-friendly workplace. Expanding employment opportunities for people with neurodiversity has been a grassroots movement for many years.

Bernick had an interested encounter one morning. He was greeted by someone that looked to be in his senventies, and said to him “please come and tour our autism-friendly workplace.” It was a company that has over 400 employees.

After the tour, he concluded that the physical accommodations to the workplace were minor elements. It came to be known that a true neurodiverse-friendly workplace needs to be infused with flexibility and patience along with these five characteristics.

Five Characteristics of a Neurodiverse-Friendly Workplace:

  1. A range of jobs, not only tech. Have a range of positions that include data entry, office set-up, administrative support, and so on.

  2. Buy in at all levels, and training for managers and supervisors. Everyone in the company needs to understand how behavior of someone with autism is often misinterpreted.

  3. Job coaching and retention. Assign each employee, autistic or not, an in-house mentor. This can be another senior employee who can take this person under their wing to provide them with all the support that they need to be successful.

  4. Patience and flexibility. This develops empathy. We all have behaviors that are annoying to someone else. Give any new employee, one with neurodiversity or not, time to learn new skills and adapt.

  5. Don’t just focus on the negative. This will take some training because we are all hard-wired to think negative thoughts. Again, this goes without saying that recognizing the positive contributions of ALL workers. This can include perfect attendance for shorter time periods, celebrating other employment milestones such as 3 months of continous employment, and of course just saying thank you for a job well done.

Having a company that has flexibility and patience with good structures of worker support should be a requirement in all companies, not just autism-friendly workplaces. Instead of disciplining your workers, call it coaching. Like when a coach pulls a football player to the sideline when he commits a mental mistake that results in a penalty. Discipline should only be reserved for the most egregious offenses. Otherwise it should be coaching.

Many business owners and managers have a fear of lawsuits that is instilled upon by HR professionals. If you adhere to the five characteristics listed above, you will not have to fear any such lawsuits. Can you imagine the performance of a company that is known for instilling fear of being fired among its workers, when it practices the principles of patience and flexibility. They would be such high-performing organizations that everyone would envy. It goes without saying that all companies should be practicing the principles of patience and flexibility among all employees.

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