Neuroinclusive workplace – moving from awareness to action

When I was growing up we had a fruit bowl that was often filled with all sorts of different fruits, oranges, apples, mangoes, pineapples and sometimes even passionfruit. Now imagine a fruit bowl that is just full of apples and no other fruits are allowed. If another fruit wants to come into the fruit bowl it has to look like an apple, taste like an apple and be in the right shape to be considered an apple. Now I would argue many of our workplaces look like the fruit bowl and only have apples. This is true when it comes to the neuroinclusive workplace. I would also argue that we spend a lot of time trying to make oranges look like apples, when actually they make far better oranges!

Welcome to the reality of the homogenous workplace.

Diversity matters and it has a positive impact on the bottom line:

  • report by Deloitte found that 69 % of executives reported diversity is an important issue.
  • When studying how diversity and employee engagement affected performance Gallup found that, “the combination of [high] employee engagement and gender diversity resulted in 46% to 58% higher financial performance.”
  • In a similar study drawing a connection between performance and diversity, Boston Consulting Group “found that companies with above-average total diversity had both 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT margins, on average.”
  • McKinsey insights found businesses that have more women in executive positions are 25% more likely to earn more.
  • McKinsey found that in their Diversity Wins report “Companies in the top quartile for both gender and ethnic diversity are 12% more likely to outperform all other companies in the data set.”

Much of the research to date has centred around gender and racial diversity within organisations. What is clear from indicative evidence is that neurodiversity matters in solving problems and moving organisations forward in innovation. This has the benefit of also increasing profitability and operational effectiveness.

the neuroinclusive workplace

Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing in a neuroinclusive workplace

I believe we need to accept that making the neuroinclusive workspace a reality involves going through the steps of forming, storming, norming, and performing, like the formation of any team because the neuroinclusive workspace is about forming a team in a different way.

Awareness, I would argue sits at the forming stage. What we now need to do is step forwards into the storming, which can often involve deep and challenging conversations.

What is not always clear is how to go about the storming. Some insight can be gained from neurodiverse hiring programs to attract subsets of neurodivergent individual traits, for example, a focus on autism and the perceived benefits of hyperfocus. These on the surface are often great programs but they can fail to fully realise the benefits of neurodivergent thinking across the organisation. There is also the other resounding issue of individuals who find out about their neurodivergent traits later on in their careers, potentially after changing roles or a reorganisation. This can have a negative impact on the organisation and its effectiveness to achieve its goals.

Where does the neuroinclusive workplace fit within your organisation?

What is often also poorly understood is the reality of different thinking styles intersected with everything else that is going on in an individual’s life and how that can positively affect an organisation’s performance. As you can see throughout this piece we are talking about generalisations of conditions and assumptions. What’s more important is to consider the individuals that are involved. When we consider this it becomes obvious that this is about relationships and understanding. One of the most effective ways to make this happen is by getting individuals who have neurodivergent traits together with leaders so they can have frank and open conversations. The focus of these conversations could be on how to use their skills collaboratively together to help the organisation gain the benefits and innovative potential of neurodivergent thinking.

This is more than just a coffee, it must be a conversation that has structure and ground rules so that both parties can learn from each other and start to form an understanding of the strengths and difficulties that they face.

If this is a conversation that you’d like to start within your organisation and you need help to make it work please contact me.