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Understanding Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term and as a result there is still a lack of understanding surrounding it, even today.

It is also much more common than you may think. It is estimated that around 15% of the UK population have neurodevelopmental differences including Autism, ADHD, OCD and Dyslexia to name but a few.

Unfortunately, a large proportion of perceptions, opinions and even medical language surrounding neurodevelopmental differences are still focussed on what a person cannot do or the difficulties they may face in life.

Neurodiversity is a term which challenges this way of thinking and promotes the fact that those with neurodevelopmental differences have many positive traits. It looks at a what a person CAN do.

As we welcome 38 Graduates onto the Financial Services Programme and are in the process of recruiting for the next Fast Track Data/AI Programme, we felt it important to shine a spotlight on the topic of neurodiversity in the workplace.

Our hope is that by opening up the conversation, we can encourage anyone with a neurodiverse condition to disclose this to our team so that we can support them throughout every stage of the process including the interview phase, onboarding and for the duration of their time on the programme.

We also hope it will help raise awareness more widely to help other graduates, colleagues, managers, and friends of a neurodiverse person to be able to discuss things openly, provide guidance and learn more about the condition.

Graduate Programme Finance Manager, Rob Jennings, got formally diagnosed with Autism earlier this year as an adult. He has kindly shared his experience with the aim of helping others…

“My life changed profoundly once I had received my Autism diagnosis in January of this year. I cannot speak for every person with a neurodevelopmental difference, as there are such a broad range of characteristics and qualities out there. I would however like to introduce you to my experience of Autism and Neurodiversity, particularly in the world of work. 

A large change from my perspective was that the positive traits that I am lucky enough to possess were both recognised and put to use more often. Increased focus has been placed on areas such as my ability to hyper focus, attention to detail, abilities with numbers and my long-term memory.

There are also a few things that I struggle with in the workplace, changes of plans and routine, a dislike for large social events and the occasional misunderstanding! However, thanks to my diagnosis, colleagues are aware and take that into consideration.

The biggest change of all is that thanks to my diagnosis and speaking openly about it within the workplace, I have no reason to feel afraid that I do not fit in or that the way that I view the world isn’t valid.

For large proportions of my life, I couldn’t understand why I thought, acted, and viewed the world differently and because I didn’t do these things in the way that most people did, I was afraid. Thanks to the team that I work with, I am more confident and more open in general. I’m made to feel that my way of thinking is different, not weaker.”

A powerful and extremely personal account from Rob who has also put together some helpful tips for both Employers and Individuals on managing neurodiversity in the workplace.

3 Tips for Employers with Neurodiverse Colleagues:

  • A different way of thinking – Neurodiverse colleagues could potentially have ideas, strategies, opinions or thoughts which could be just what an employer needs. A different way of thinking or viewing the world could be extremely beneficial and the importance of this cannot be understated.

 

  • Being able to speak well does not always mean most suitable – Many recruitment processes often favour those who are extroverted and are good at speaking. While this would be required for certain roles such as customer services and sales for example it can often overlook those who are more introverted. A person with Autism for example may sometimes struggle with social interaction however could have amazing technical skills and suit roles that enable them to showcase their strengths such as analytical, compliance or creative positions.

 

  • Understanding is key – A few reasonable adjustments and recognition that a neurodiverse colleague has positive qualities and attributes will go a long way. Not just for employers who will then get the best from their employee, but it will mean a lot to neurodiverse colleagues who will feel valued and therefore more likely to perform better.

3 Tips for Neurodiverse Colleagues in the Workplace:

  • Your opinion matters too! – You will often be able to think of things that your neurotypical counterparts may not. Your opinions are equally as valid as your teammate’s, and you can often provide neurotypicals with a different perspective which could be extremely beneficial.

 

  • Be open – While it is often nerve wracking and difficult to disclose any mental health condition to an employer, I cannot stress the importance of doing so. If an employer knows of your condition, they need to make reasonable adjustments in order to provide you with the support you need in the workplace, and this will allow you to thrive!

 

  • Play to your strengths – While you may find certain things difficult in the workplace, there will often be things that you excel at. Remember that neurotypicals have things that they are good and bad at too, you are no weaker than they are. Make the most of what you are good at and ensure that your employer can see it and recognise.

A huge thank you to Rob!

If you’d like any more information on how this topic or help in how to approach it with a manager or colleague, please reach out to our Programme Liaison Manger Deb – Debra@wccf.uk