Managing neurodiverse employees
Neurodiverse people are individuals who display neurologically atypical behaviour, thought or patterns, such as people with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or dyslexia. And there are a lot of neurodiverse people in our country. According to a report by the Public Health Agency of Canada “Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children and Youth in Canada 2018”, autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in 66 children and youth in Canada – 1 in 42 males and 1 in 165 females. In addition, 4% of adults and 5% of children have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder — ADD or ADHD — according to CADDAC. And it is estimated that 15-20% of the population has dyslexia according to Dyslexia Canada.
The interesting thing is that while neurodiverse people have typically been at a disadvantage in the workplace, a growing number of companies are now recognizing that these individuals frequently have above average skills — particularly in fields such as memory, pattern recognition, creativity, mathematics and logical reasoning. As such, increasingly more organizations are actively recruiting them. Yet recruiting and managing neurodiverse employees requires you to use different management techniques than managing neurotypical workers — people who don’t have autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or dyslexia. Keep the following pointers in mind:
- Leverage skills tests during the interview process. As Jared Lindzon reports in the Fast Company article “75% of staff at this successful IT company are on the autism spectrum,” neurodiverse candidates often find Q&A interviews challenging. Focusing on skills tests instead can give you better insight into their true capabilities — especially since neurodiverse employees might not have a lot of work experience and therefore may not have extensive résumés.
- Ask how you can best provide support. Since neurodiverse people all have their own unique strengths and find different things challenging, it’s advisable to simply ask them what kind of support they need from you. Many may find teamwork and communication challenging and will ask you to focus on their strengths instead. Others might need you to help them build confidence by starting out working in a small team before moving on to larger projects.
- Provide them with a quiet work environment. Many neurodiverse employees find open plan offices distracting and challenging. As much as possible, try to provide individual offices or otherwise secluded spaces for them to work.
In addition to knowing how to manage neurodiverse employees, it’s also imperative to educate your neurotypical employees on how best to communicate and collaborate in a diverse setting. By creating a work environment where both neurodiverse and neurotypical employees can thrive, you stand a better chance of building an innovative and productive team.