Organisational checklist for neurodiversity

The diagram above shows a summary of the approach that has been proven to work in many organisations. Initially, on the right-hand side, the focus is on the individual – identification of their difference, and then supporting activities with the individual.

Mentoring has proved to be one of the most effective methods of developing the performance of neurodivergent individuals. Research has shown that significant improvements have been made after coaching and fairly standard reasonable adjustments.

Those involved in this process will recognise that progress for the individual will depend upon involvement of the line manager. After all, the line manager is the person who has the responsibility of putting in place the reasonable adjustments, and for carrying out performance appraisals and so on.

Challenging the stigma of neurodiversity

Then, particularly in team environments, it is important to explain to colleagues why there is a different relationship between the neurodivergent worker and their line manager. It is also important to raise their awareness about appropriate methods of communication etc.

Tackling the stigma, and changing attitudes is one of the main issues for organisations to overcome. Many people with hidden disabilities do not disclose because of the attitudes of the organisation and of colleagues. Training and communication are therefore very important in raising awareness which leads to changing attitudes and breaking down stereotypes.

Focusing on neurodivergent workers’ strengths

The Whole Organisation Approach concentrates on people’s strengths rather than weaknesses and regards people as “differently enabled”. Its aim is to recognise the contribution of individuals within the organisation towards the success of both.

Evidence has shown that implementing a programme such as the Whole Organisation Approach increases the performance of staff significantly. It is estimated that around 10% of the workforce has a cognitive processing difference, so if they are ignored, the organisation is missing out on the talents of 10% of their staff. It is therefore a business imperative.

In order for the Whole Organisation Approach to be effective, it is likely that changes will be required in the processes and practices of the organisation to take account of these hidden differences. The following is a checklist for reps to bear in mind when considering the approach within your own organisation – this is not an exhaustive list:

Recruitment, selection and promotion

  • Are adverts structured such that they are accessible to people with hidden disabilities? Avoid ambiguous/generic advertisements.
  • Does the process of application make it easy to disclose in a sensitive, confidential way? There are more people with hidden disabilities who have not told their employers, than those who have. It is therefore very important to ensure a culture where individuals will feel confident to disclose.
  • Is there a procedure in place to make adjustments for the interviewing process and perhaps for the criteria that are being used to judge?
  • Ensure that the line manager is briefed and trained in helpful management/interview techniques – for example, to understand that some individuals might not be comfortable making direct eye contact.
  • Are there multiple application methods?
  • Ensure interviews give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in different ways and that questions are presented clearly and concisely.

Training and development

  • Does the training department have a policy for people who may learn in different ways?
  • Is there an understanding of learning styles?
  • Is material presented in a variety of different ways?
  • Do they give potential learners the opportunity for disclosure?
  • Does the individual have a statement of training needs for outside training events?
  • Is a checklist of adjustments offered for external training providers?

Performance

  • People may not realise that their neurodivergence impacts on their performance and may not therefore realise that they are entitled to adjustments to help them fulfil their potential.
  • It is essential that any performance reviews or appraisals are conducted after adjustments have been put in place.
  • Are the criteria for assessment objective and justifiable?
  • Have line managers received appropriate training in managing workers with hidden disabilities?
  • Communications, instructions, aims and goals should be clearly communicated and understood. It may be necessary to follow-up verbal instructions with a written communication.

Fulfilling potential

  • Focusing on individuals’ strengths, rather than their weaknesses, and developing their skills is clearly beneficial for both the individual and the organisation.

Reorganisation

  • Neurodivergent people often prefer routine and therefore any reorganisation will need to be handled sensitively.
  • It would be good practice to involve the neurodivergent employee at the outset and throughout the reorganisation process.
  • Working with the organisation to develop strategies to enable people to disclose their hidden disabilities, to progress within the organisation etc will lead to a win-win situation for everyone.

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