How Neurodiversity Programs Improve Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is about your employee’s sense of purpose and how effectively they fit-in at work. At first glance, this may sound like a minor detail to focus on, but taking it seriously is good for business. According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services:

“Customer loyalty stimulates profit and growth. Loyalty is a result of customer satisfaction. The value of the services provided to customers influence customer satisfaction. Satisfied, loyal, and productive employees create value (for your customers). Employee satisfaction comes from high-quality support services that enable employees to deliver results.”

If you want to take employee satisfaction seriously, wellbeing is essential. You need to provide a supportive environment where everyone can thrive.

If wellbeing and engagement matters to your organization, you also need to embrace and leverage neurodiversity

 All organizations are neurodiverse by definition: in that there is no one ‘normal’ human brain – everybody thinks differently. With some estimates suggesting as many as 1 in 5 people may be ‘neurodistinct’ in some way – for example, autistic or dyslexic – organizations also typically include a substantial neurodistinct demographic. Yet this is something many employees remain unaware of:  one study has shown that only 3 % of employees considered to have a ‘hidden disability’ willingly disclose this to their employer. 

In a workplace study, employers described their neurodistinct workers as: “Dependable, engaged, motivated, great attendance, attention to work quality, and highly productive.”

What challenges are your neurodistinct workers experiencing & what can you do about it?

David Moloney is on the board of Autism Ontario and works for CIBC. He is also autistic. When David first started working, there was a lack of understanding of neurodiversity. Under- and unemployment was common. 

For David and other neurodistinct adults to thrive, the perspective of employers has to change. Changing your mindset is never easy, but it’s not impossible. Dr Jill Miller, the CIPD’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and co-author with Uptimize of a landmark 2018 report on neurodiversity at work, has the following recommendations: “Recruitment practices are screening out (neurodistinct people) and the unique skills they have. We measure potential employees against a long wish list of capabilities. Although we need to be clear on the key skills each job requires. We also need to enable people who have those skills to play to their strengths.”

Accessibility needs vary. Making accessibility needs an open discussion will address your uncertainty about employee’s needs.

What if your neurodiverse staff aren’t comfortable with talking about their neurodivergence?

Far too often, organizations can treat accommodations like an inconvenience. Yet, accommodations that we create with neuroinclusion in mind can benefit your entire team. According to deliveringjobs.org, accommodations for assistive technology rarely exceed $500.

An example of a simple accommodation that employers can make is allowing employees to work with noise-cancelling headphones, which can increase productivity and focus. When everyone can access accommodations, we take the stigma out of accommodation requests. 

Workplace stigma can still happen, and we still need to address the cause of stigma for employees to be openly neurodiverse. Salesforce found a valuable solution to this issue.

How Salesforce has helped neurodiverse employees have a better experience at work

After introducing a hiring program that focuses on neurodiversity, Salesforce began to train staff in how to hire, work with, and support neurodiverse talent, and the results were positive. The number of employees self-disclosing increased substantially. 

The increase in self-disclosure made a massive difference. Everyone felt a lot more confident in their ability to do their job effectively. Introducing similar programs helped employees engage with the rest of their team members  on a deeper level. Some of the  programs that Salesforce introduced include the following:

  • A job coaching and mentorship program
  • An office of accessibility
  • A Slack Channel for inclusivity that provides valuable disability inclusion resources.

Salesforce’s neurodiversity program helped neurodistinct employees have a better relationship with their managers. Many of these employees also felt a lot less nervous about requesting accommodations.

Susan Van Klink , a Grokker contributor,  perceives Salesforce-like environments as places where neurodiverse employees can prioritize self-care in a way that works for them. When employees feel their best on a mental and physical level,  they produce their best work. Anything that you can do to strengthen your employee’s health and well-being  is a step in the right direction.

Neurodiversity programs & employee engagement

Wellbeing and engagement are proven to be crucial to productivity and performance. As a manager, you have a crucial role to play. You want to create an environment and culture where people can perform at their best. Often these environments and cultures are suboptimal, leading to lower productivity and higher turnover. 

We know from our focus groups in the neurodivergent community that culture is THE most important thing. There is generally little fear of not being able to do a good job and contribute – but there is a concern about not being understood and accepted. Many report feeling the need to ‘mask’ their differences, leading to significant effort and exhaustion while doing so. Given how many people are neurominorities, if you think your organization doesn’t already have a significant population who think differently, your organization probably has a fear problem – a culture where people don’t feel comfortable disclosing. That’s not a culture that is optimized to keep great people around, or drive effective collaboration.

When companies like Salesforce begin with awareness training, managers and teams report hiring candidates they say they never would have hired. Individual colleagues often feel more comfortable disclosing or asking for accommodations which boosts their comfort and productivity, and managers often describe a new sensitivity and awareness in their communication with their teams.

To get started making your company more neuroinclusive, contact Uptimize for a demo of our employee, manager, HR, and recruiter training.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!