Tag Archive for: Awareness Training

Purple ribbon with question marks - awareness training

Why awareness training falls short in achieving real change

Awareness training is essential but falls short because awareness of neurodiversity and neurodivergent traits does not lead to inclusion. Awareness training can help individuals and teams to recognise and understand the existence of different traits and conditions. Still, it infrequently leads to actions that support those individuals to thrive in the workplace.

To create an inclusive environment for neurodivergent people, we need to move beyond awareness. Concrete steps that implement policies and practices that support the strengths and challenges associated with neurodivergent conditions are essential. This may include changes to the physical environment, adjustments to communication and work processes, training and education for managers and colleagues on supporting and accommodating neurodivergent individuals.

We must move beyond simply accommodating neurodivergent individuals and instead welcoming, embracing and celebrating the unique perspectives and contributions they bring to our workplaces. This often means a culture shift that values and prioritises neurodivergent traits as strengths rather than viewing them as weaknesses or problems to be solved.

Therefore, while awareness training is an essential first step in creating an inclusive workplace, it must be followed by concrete actions and changes to support and embrace neurodiversity in the workplace.

Here are nine ways to move beyond awareness training and stop it from falling short:

  • Develop and improve your inclusion policy:

    • Develop an inclusion policy that specifically addresses neurodiversity in the workplace.
    • This policy should outline the organisation’s commitment to inclusion, strategies for recruitment, hiring, and retention of neurodivergent employees, and specific accommodations available to support them.
  • Actively recruit neurodivergent employees:

    • Partner with organisations specialising in neurodiversity recruitment. Ensure your existing recruitment programme embraces neurodivergent traits.
    • This means looking at everything from your workforce planning to how you attract neurodivergent traits in terms of promoting disclosure and support, using concise language within your job spec so that essential and desirable attributes are clearly defined and that your screening process doesn’t screen out unconventional backgrounds. For example, that the interview process is transparent.
    • It’s clear that adaptions will be made, and the onboarding process provides mentoring. Finally, you have a retention and development plan that allows those individuals to stay and thrive within your organisation.
  • Provide flexibility:

    • These need to support neurodivergent employees.
    • This may involve providing assistive technology, creating quiet workspaces, or providing flexible work schedules.
    • Ensure that all employees know the available solutions and how to request them.
    • Better still, make them available on demand and normalise the process of seeking and facilitating accommodations.
  • Foster a culture of acceptance:

    • Enable respect for neurodiversity in the workplace.
    • This can involve creating inclusive policies and procedures and actively promoting diversity and inclusion through communication and activities.
    • This can be as simple as engaging in broader neurodiversity celebration activities.
    • I encourage you to look deeper and celebrate your excellent employees often.
  • Provide training and education:

    • Managers and employees need to understand how to support and work with neurodivergent individuals and teams effectively.
    • This can involve providing specific training on communication, management, and flexible strategies and how to have great conversations that enable everyone to operate at their most effective.
  • Create mentorship programs:

    • Pair neurodivergent employees with experienced colleagues trained to mentor.
    • This will create a supportive environment and provide opportunities for growth and development, especially in the retention and development phase of the career life-cycle.
  • Encourage employee feedback:

    • Ask neurodivergent employees how the organisation can better support them.
    • How we ask for feedback is essential; for example, this may need to be asked one-on-one or in a facilitated action learning set.
    • This could also be supported with broader employee surveys.
    • The key idea is that we take action with the information we gather and that it informs us how we move forwards.
  • Provide mental health support:

    • Access resources and information for employees who need additional help.
    • This could be around mental health, first aid, or just facilitating conversations for individuals to work out what they need.
    • There may then be a requirement for counselling services or mental health support.
    • Again, what’s important is to offer the individual the capability to “not be okay” and options regarding how they move forwards.
  • Celebrate neurodiversity:

    • Celebrating neurodiversity is about amplifying strengths and managing difficulties.
    • This isn’t just one week a year.
    • Neurodiversity must be something we consistently do within our organisations. Noticing where people have gone above and beyond, achieved terrific work, and also how they have overcome problems should be noticed and celebrated often.

Pondering about your next move?

Get in contact if a chat would be helpful.

Red Camera showing Zooming out on neurodiversity

Zooming out on neurodiversity

Have you ever attended a drawing class? I have, and as someone who is particularly bad at drawing, it surprised me. We visited the Eden Project, where an incredible local artist taught us to draw more effectively. It turns out that it has little to do with how well you hold a pencil and a lot to do with how often you stand back and look at your drawing from a distance. I created artwork that resembled the object I was attempting to draw. It was a huge surprise and impressed the little girl sitting next to me. This got me thinking about zooming out on neurodiversity!

When integrating neurodiversity into organisations, we are often tempted to make many small changes. These can be beneficial, but if we don’t take a step back and look at the big picture of what’s happening in the organisation, we risk a disjointed, ineffective approach.

This is especially true when discussing the subject of awareness. I facilitate a lot of neurodiversity awareness-training sessions, which are always well attended with very engaged interactive audiences. Still, there is a risk that if all you do is raise awareness, nothing changes, and you end up having a very informative meeting accompanied by lovely biscuits.

Professor Amanda Kirby highlights the dangers of oversimplification, stereotyping, tokenism, cause blindness, pinup people and becoming a broken record. Neurodiversity is not simple! Neurodiversity is very complicated because each individual will present their neurodivergent traits differently. There is a temptation to simplify neurodiversity to make it more accessible and understandable for everyone. Still, we must treat each person individually and provide a tailored solution to their struggles.

Raising awareness can create new stereotypes of how people behave. For example, I frequently get asked, “what should we be looking out for?” And “how will we know if someone has a neurodivergent trait?” I don’t think this is always helpful because it is more important to ask the individual what is beneficial for them and not put them into a box so we allow them to progress and then flourish.

Tokenism

(We all love a bandwagon and going along with the crowd). It was recently Neurodiversity Week, which is fantastic, but if all it does is make noise, it is ineffective; nothing changes for the people who need it the most, and our organisations suffer from not embracing and engaging with different thinking styles to help with innovation.

Cause blindness

People will become bored if we continue to bang the drum but make no progress. You must act, even if it is only a tiny action, or you risk nothing effective happening.

Poster people

It’s common to hear the same stories about the same people. Richard Branson is an excellent role model but is not the world’s only dyslexic entrepreneur. Love him or hate him, Elon Musk is not the only autistic entrepreneur; there are many brilliant people with neurodivergent traits who have done outstanding work. You need to think more broadly and not just roll out the same old pinups.

Broken records

Whether you like it or not, our world history has some challenging lessons for us to learn. Taking a person’s humanity and labelling them can dehumanise them. You must ensure that you focus on the individual and learn from mistakes in the past.

As we stand back and take a look at what it means to be inclusive within our organisations, I think it’s helpful to consider some of the following areas.

The issue we’re attempting to resolve by zooming out on neurodiversity

Instead of raising awareness and avoiding it, let’s get real and address it. Is it about recruiting, retaining employees, or something else? Let’s be clear about the problem and ensure our efforts are directed towards resolving it. Sometimes more data will be required, while other times, it will simply be a question of what should happen next.

Communicate with others

We frequently make assumptions about what is required. We must have an open and safe conversation about what and how change needs to occur. This conversation must be sensitive to specific cultural backgrounds or thinking styles, but it must happen.

Collaborate with others

It is beneficial to collaborate with other organisations that can assist you in moving forward with solving the problems you’ve identified. They may provide specialised knowledge or simply the ability to step outside the situation. This does not need to be a general label but a specific response to a problem you are attempting to solve.

Think carefully about your goals

SMART Goals aren’t the be-all and end-all, but they can help you figure out what you want to do and ensure it’s realistic and time-bound. This is critical because it allows you to assess your progress and determine whether your actions are effective or if something needs to be changed.

Taking action by zooming out on neurodiversity

This will not occur unless we take the first step forward. Moving forward may entail collaborating with an outside organisation to help you achieve your goals or forming an employee group. What matters is that you do not postpone this until tomorrow. Take the first step and figure out what you need to do next.

Measure what’s going on

You’ll never know if your changes have had any beneficial impact unless you measure their outcomes. Before you measure the outcome, it’s always helpful to take a baseline of where you are before you start otherwise, you will never know if anything you’ve done has made a difference. I would encourage you to consider ways to measure and understand the changes you have made easily.

Keep going by zooming out on neurodiversity

Moving inclusion forward, particularly in neurodiversity, requires a sustained effort. Many leaders will need to be involved in moving your efforts forward, and the organisation must buy into the entire process. If you want long-term change, you must ensure that you have the energy and drive to continue this effort for an extended period.

Would a conversation on zooming out be helpful? – Contact us here.

Neurodiversity Awareness Training

An introduction to neurodiversity that will:

  • Help people understand the various neurodivergent conditions such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, autism, dyscalculia and ADHD
  • Explore why neurodiversity matters and how it makes organisations better
  • Look at the building blocks of a neuroinclusive workplace
  • Signpost the next steps

As a specialist workplace coach with years of coaching and training experience, I help organisations and individuals to be more effective in the workplace.

What’s included?

Empowering neurodiversity in the workplace session

Timings

60 or 90min options

Neurodiversity explained – what is it?

Let’s explore the language of neurodiversity and how this helps to frame what it is. We’ll look briefly at each of the underlying diagnoses that come under this umbrella, including what they look like, associated strengths and difficulties and how they are interrelated.

Why neurodiversity matters – how it makes organisations better.

Neurodiverse individuals are likely to account for 1 in 8 of the average organisation’s workforce with specific industries having far more. Many of these individuals will be undiagnosed, though this landscape is rapidly changing with more active screening and diagnosis taking place. The negative components of neurodiversity are often well understood; what can be less well understood is the huge positive impact that neurodiverse individuals can and do have on organisations.

Building an inclusive, neurodiverse workplace – what you need to consider and be aware of.

We will look at some of the benefits that come from introducing awareness training, workplace needs assessments and coaching to individuals and organisations. Then we’ll look at communication, and how this can be adapted and reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of both employees and the business. Finally, we’ll look at environmental factors that often need to be considered when making a workplace an effective environment for all employees.

Useful resources – what’s next and where to get further support and assistance.

During this session, we will explore specific issues, discuss guidance on what to consider and what to do next. We will also include advice on what support is available and the types of actions you can take. Many changes have little or no cost and we often find making a workplace more neuroinclusive is better for everyone.

Q&A

We will close this session with an informal Q&A. This can be conducted as an open forum and/or through using pre-submitted questions.

“Nathan delivered some engaging and informative training for us that has helped encourage more conversations about how we can better embrace our neurodiversity and support each other.”

Sean Kent

Executive Resources Director at Hundred Houses Society Ltd

 

For more about this service please contact me.