Making an effort to understand and accommodate neurodiversity not only helps ensure an inclusive workplace but can also enable a competitive advantage for the company. For individuals, the same applies: Getting a diagnosis for a possible neurological condition, making the effort to understand your own neurological needs and making accommodations for your personal neurological differences can help you perform your best at work.
Neurological differences often go undiagnosed, however. “There could be many within a population that are somewhere on the spectrum of autism who may not totally understand or even know it because they have not been formally diagnosed,” Luster says.
Moving beyond stigma to openness and inclusion
By current estimates, about 15% to 20% of the population may be considered neurodivergent, and that number has been increasing for decades. Most analysts believe the reason for the increase is simply that growing awareness and acceptance has led to more proactive diagnosis.
To make the most of employees’ potential, companies may need to adjust the way they hire, evaluate and manage people. Some large, market-leading companies are already beginning to change their approaches to neurodiverse hiring and management.
“It begins with organizations that help develop better ecosystems around such issues,” Luster explains. “Companies can use things to hire differently, such as nontraditional, non-interview-based assessment and training processes, allowing and developing hangout sessions and project assessment trial periods that are a bit more extended for those who are neurodiverse. They can train managers and others on what to expect and tailor long-term career pathing.”
With greater awareness and understanding comes greater acceptance and inclusion. If your company hasn’t yet begun to focus on neurodiversity as an element of its DEI programs, you could do a number of things to facilitate it, either as a leader or as an employee.
The first, of course, is to talk about it. Employees and managers at every level should advocate for neurodiversity, even if they don’t feel they’re personally neurodivergent (and remember, we’re all a little different).
Managers should make an effort to recognize and appreciate neurodiversity within their teams and promote a working environment in which people’s differences are respected and their needs accommodated.
“More conversations in one-on-ones can also be helpful around these topics which are geared really toward the promotion of talent within the person and utilizing the great things that they bring with them,” says Luster.
Ultimately, what makes us different from one another is part of what makes our teams and organizations stronger. Diversity is a strength, and by playing to one another’s strengths in the workplace, we make our teams stronger and allow individuals to perform better.