For a long time, the term workplace diversity has been used to describe a workforce that is comprised of employees that belong to various ethnicities, races, religions, ages, gender, sexual orientation, and other such communities. Organizations often intentionally hire a diverse workforce to derive a plethora of benefits for the business. Recently, however, workforce diversity has expanded to also include neurodivergent employees into its ambit.
The slow yet sure shift in perspective when it comes to neurodiversity is the biggest driving force behind neurodiverse hiring. It perceives autism spectrum disorder and other such learning and thinking differences as merely a different way in which the brain processes information rather than being an impairment. In recent years, this has also gained a lot of support in terms of research and clinical studies.
There are several undeniable benefits that neurodivergent employees can bring to the equation. Here are a few of the biggest strengths of a workforce that thinks differently:
- Attention to detail
The way that a neurodiverse brain approaches scenarios is quite different from that of a neurotypical brain. People with autism usually have obsessive behaviors and they tend to focus on a lot of information that most people label ‘irrelevant.’ In a workplace, this can translate to greater attention to detail.
- Unique strengths
Most autistic people have intensely focused interests – usually developed from a fairly young age. This also means they often know their strengths and weaknesses. Coupled with a lifetime of creating a workaround to ‘fit in’ with their predominantly neurotypical surroundings, this gives them immense clarity about the areas in which they can flourish.
- Positive work environment
Neurodiversity in a team setting can go a long way towards creating a largely inclusive and positive work environment. It allows the employees to understand the challenges and benefits of neurodiversity and create more empathetic and sensitive interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Employees from different kinds of backgrounds can share valuable skills among themselves, adding to their professional as well as personal growth.
- Creative thinking
While people with intellectual difficulties such as dyslexia struggle with reading, spelling, and writing, studies suggest that they have a high level of creativity. They are great at coming up with creative and unusual ideas. It is this kind of stellar imagination and out-of-the-box thinking that can help organizations find more efficient and effective alternative solutions for problems.
- Rule-based thinking
Individuals on the spectrum are usually very good at recognizing patterns and approaching challenges with enhanced analytical and process-driven thinking. This is exactly what companies might need for major breakthroughs when it comes to technology, innovative products, and services. In fact, the tech industry is where autistic people can thrive and have some of the most prolific careers.
- Different perspective
Being neurodivergent, in itself, is a huge advantage. It provides neurodiverse people with the ability to think differently from neurotypical people. It allows them to question the status quo and challenge the ‘that’s how it has always been done’ and (sometimes) redundant processes to make them more streamlined. They bring in a different perspective that can add to the potential benefits for the employing organization’s business.
- Flexible work culture
When organizations hire a neurodivergent workforce, they also create a flexible working environment to accommodate the needs of neurodivergent employees. For the existing neurotypical employees, it shows that their company cares – not just about the numbers but also about the individuals behind those numbers. This can lead to improved rates of employee turnover and an inclusive workplace where employees genuinely enjoy what they do.
As more research explores the competitive advantages of neurodiversity for businesses, many multinational companies have started to actively seek out neurodiverse employees. Some big names that have already tapped into the neurodiversity pool are Ernst and Young, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, SAP, and Dell among others. Neurodiversity represents a previously untapped pool of skills and talent waiting to be discovered. When people from diverse backgrounds and mindsets come together, their unique perspectives can help organizations build successful brands.