In the UK, around 15% of individuals are neurodivergent. You might expect that with such a large percentage of the population falling within the neurodivergent category, there would be an equivalent representation within businesses and, thus, within the solutions they create. But this isn’t always the case. Many companies are falling short when accounting for neurodiverse characteristics both in their own workforce and with the products/services they offer.
At BJSS, we believe that accounting for neurodiversity is vital. We are on a journey to make BJSS a more inclusive and diverse workplace and have been looking at why neurodiversity is important and the steps we are taking to be actively inclusive in our teams.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity acknowledges how individuals have cognitive differences that influence how they experience and interact with the world. Rather than viewing cognitive function through one lens, neurodiversity aims to celebrate the strength of these differences and reduce the stigma of not adhering to the “status quo."
Why is promoting neurodiversity important?
Inclusive behaviour across all individuals is a key value for how we work at BJSS. There are also tangible benefits to having a neurodiverse workforce that helps teams, products and services, and overall business performance. Embracing diversity helps to:
- Shape diverse, inclusive teams that are more collaborative, innovative, and productive: Limited diversity within a workforce contributes to a lack of understanding regarding the experiences and perspectives of others and leads to siloed, non-cohesive teams. This is particularly important when it comes to neurodiversity, given that, by definition, it means that not everyone views or processes the world in the same way. Organisations frequently report that teams with cognitive diversity can work together better and solve problems faster.
- Avoid bias: Non-diverse teams can create a proliferation of bias. In a world of increasingly sophisticated, automated technology, with reliance on artificial intelligence and machine learning, tools and systems are confined by the quality of the training data they rely on and the bias, conscious or not, of the individual that designs them. If the teams and individuals that build them have limited appreciation or experience of neurodiversity, it is likely that the products/services designed could reflect this, too.
- Access different skill sets: Neurodiverse individuals can often demonstrate a strong aptitude for skillsets less prevalent across neurotypical individuals. A recent research study has shown that people with autism have a greater aptitude for pattern. By promoting and accounting for neurodiversity, organisations can benefit from these different skill sets and access a typically underutilised labour force.
What are we doing at BJSS to drive neurodiversity?
As an organisation, we recognise the importance of neurodiversity to improve our teams, how we work with our clients, and the services we provide them. We know it’s a continual journey, and we will always improve at an organisation, team and individual level. As part of this, we are taking the following steps to proactively embrace neurodiversity:
- Recruitment: Actively enhancing our recruitment process to remove bias and ensure that the perspectives and needs of neurodiverse individuals are accounted for so they can achieve success. This includes:
- Assessing where university degrees are necessary and removing the requirement for them in applicable roles, acknowledging that university may not be the route for all neurodiverse individuals.
- Mandated Unconscious Bias training for all individuals involved in the recruitment and line management process.
- Actively seeking feedback on reasonable adjustments made for individuals throughout the recruitment process.
- Culture: Empowering individuals to openly talk about a range of issues and be confident to share, listen and support. We focus on:
- Actively talking about neurodiversity, from leadership and team meetings, to organising speaker series with diversity champions, seeking to encourage a culture of safe disclosure.
- Celebrating our diversity through awareness days and weeks (e.g., Neurodiversity Celebration Week), with bite-sized information sharing.
- Starting the conversation, establishing channels to discuss working practices, challenges, and thought leadership across neurodiversity and inclusion more broadly.
- People Management: Creating a safe environment for our teams and individuals where people are supported through their careers and are encouraged and able to bring their authentic selves to work. This includes:
- Diversity and Inclusion Training for all people managers, squad leads and individuals in management positions.
- Creating clear People management guidelines to set expectations for the support individuals may need to ensure they have a working environment that supports them to succeed.
- Gathering an understanding of our organisation through encouraging safe disclosure of diversity, and capturing information in a safe, secure and sensitive manner to help us understand and measure our actions.
Moreover, we are always seeking feedback from our teams and the people we work with. Like many other companies, we still have much to learn and improve.
We’d love to speak with other organisations that have seen or are implementing successful initiatives to increase neurodiversity.