4 Powerful Ways to Support Your Neurodivergent Workforce

By Alex Navarro

Supporting and retaining a neurodivergent workforce is possible. Discover the tools for building a more successful and emotionally safe workplace.

Great minds don’t always think alike. A growing number of innovative organizations are recognizing the advantages a neurodivergent workforce can offer. In fact, some workplaces are intentionally seeking cognitive diversity when it comes to finding the “right fit” for particular job roles.

For example, Ernst & Young (EY) reports that participants in its neurodiversity program excel in innovation and learn how to automate processes faster. JPMorgan Chase reports that its neurodivergent employees complete tasks more quickly and are considerably more productive than the rest of its workforce.

What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity describes differences in the way people’s brains function. The human brain is a complex communication network that allows for a wide range of ways people perceive and respond to the world. As such, people diagnosed as being neurodivergent simply means their brain function is considered alternative to the mainstream in the way their brains work. They are differently abled.

Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, made history when he first disclosed his Asperger’s Syndrome while hosting Saturday Night Live in May 2021.

Sir Richard Branson partially credits his success to coping with dyslexia and his ADHD diagnosis – enabling him to form unique perspectives and broader ways of thinking.

Leadership is often defined as this space in the organizational chart, and its qualities are limited to how well someone can tell others what to do,” says Ludmila Praslova, a professor of organizational psychology at the Vanguard University of Southern California. “It’s just way too narrow.”

Keith Cheney’s company Peadbo is a personal advisory board responsible for helping entrepreneurs define their board’s focus, strengths and areas to prioritize. It also includes a panel of individuals with diverse skill sets concentrated on helping their clients build a team dedicated to their personal or professional success.

What Can You Do for Your Organization and Employees?

To better support the neurodivergent employees who overcome daily obstacles for the sake of the business, consider these strategies:

  1. Increase access to mental health care. Boost employee trust by providing resources dedicated to eliminating patient wait time, travel and lost time through asynchronous and nationwide assessments, as well as timely diagnoses.
  2. Find ways to reduce costs to patients, payors and employers. Build confidence in your coverage by pursuing provider partnerships that align with your organization’s benefit offerings.
  3. Develop a systematic and continuous method of gathering feedback from your neurodivergent workforce. This can help you collect the data and insights needed to affect positive change for the individual, their teams, as well as the organization.

Investing in these supports can be beneficial for your employees as well as your bottom line. In a 2023 Birkbeck University of London workplace survey, a neurodivergent (ND) employee shared the following fruitful outcomes of a supportive work environment:

  • Loyal, committed employees
  • Enhanced comprehension of accessibility
  • Low staff turnover

That same ND employee sums it up nicely by saying, “Having diversity in the workplace leads to a better business 100%.”

4 Key Priorities for Neurodiversity in Business

Whether your objective is to recruit or retain neurodivergent employees, focusing on the following priorities will serve you well:

  1. Promote well-being and inclusion for everyone in the workplace. This can be as simple as accommodating a workforce with varying schedules. When the actions of an organization back up its values, employees, potential employees and industry partners will take notice.
  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of accommodations to establish benchmarks and to determine what works best for whom. The estimated return on investment (ROI) for employers investing in mental wellness initiatives for their workforce is, on average, $5.3 for every $1 spent, according to research recently published by Deloitte.
  3. Focus on relationships by providing quick access to quality care as well as nurturing manager confidence. Consider the impact of receiving an assessment within three to five days or scheduling a first treatment appointment within seven to 10 days. Employee tenure and retention can be positively affected while support is leveraged across the entire organization.
  4. Consider how policies and practices can push careers beyond surviving to thriving. Providing tailored and impactful employee support across the spectrum of mental health can yield significant results.

A strong neurodiversity program isn’t just beneficial to employees on the ND spectrum. By recognizing their strengths and supporting their needs, managers can unlock benefits that positively impact the entire organization.

Are you ready to explore how to build a more successful and emotionally safe workplace? Click here.