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Bristol Businesses supporting the Neurodiverse workforce

January 31, 2022

A neurodiverse workforce is good for businesses, for so many reasons. Neurodiversity or neurodivergence is a relatively new term and a term not everyone will be familiar with, to put simply, it’s the way a brain can function, it’s a disability that everyone should recognise and respect just as much as those with other forms of disability.  Neurodiversity can include Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Autism/Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, asperger syndrome, OCD and others. There has been a correlation between certain neurological conditions and high performance for a long time but only fairly recently have businesses begun to recognise the strengths of hiring and retaining neurodiverse employees.

This blog piece will focus on understanding a little more about neurodivergent individuals, the strengths of working with neurodivergent employees and how local Bristol businesses are supporting those individuals and have a neurodiverse workforce. It’s important to note, that this is a subject which we are not experts in and it’s ever evolving but we are keen to support our clients and continue to educate ourselves and others. Last year we engaged with neurodiversity specialist, Laura Bell of NeurovationHR to further educate our team.

Neurodivergent individuals and their Strengths

To create inclusion within any workplace we need to accept, adapt and embrace the differences every single person can offer. Individuals that have ASD, ADHD or Dyslexia are often creative and innovative people, whom are determined, imaginative, energetic and offer empathy on levels that others may not. As managers and business owners, it is recognising these traits as strengths and working with them to support them, not against them or trying to get them to ‘fit in’ to ‘standards’. Small, reasonable working adjustments can have a huge impact. For example, offering flexible working patterns, encouraging regular breaks to exert energies and comfortable/relaxing work spaces to put creative thinking in place.

Bristol Businesses & Organisations supporting Neurodiverse individuals

University of the West of England (UWE) have made great progress in their engineering department to support neurodiverse individuals to be educated in the subject, they stated “engineering must change to include everyone”.

Traditionally, engineering classrooms are loud and noisy, however UWE have setup small spaces for people to work in either smaller groups or on their own, they’ve consulted with individuals with Autism to support the changes made and it was noted that the white walls and brightly lit room was unfriendly and could cause somebody with autism a sensory overload, they have now; “brought in new lighting, with controls allowing people to change the colour. Soft beanbags and other relaxing furniture has been introduced.” UWE.

This offering is a fantastic start to show commitment and help encourage inclusivity in more industries such as engineering.

Bristol Airport is also championing supporting neurodiverse passengers, they have recently opened a purpose-built sensory room for passengers, so they can feel relaxed when in unfamiliar surroundings. Additionally, they provide special hidden disability lanyards to passengers, assistance cards, booklets and videos on aspects of the airport to familiarise themselves with.

Bristol recruitment firm Neuropool specialise in matching candidates with employers locally, providing applicants with tailored mentoring and inclusive recruitment support.  Neuropool also offer advice and support to local businesses who want to better support their neurodivergent staff.

Nationally, firms such as EY, SAP, Goldman Sachs and Dell have neurodiverse programs in place from recruitment, onboarding, training and management. It’s positive to see these changes taking place.

Supporting a neurodiverse workforce?

The support an employer can offer is relevant to what condition the employee has, in some cases the individual themselves may not be aware of a condition, therefore ensure conversations are sensitive and you’re mindful of their feelings. Some suggestions to support neurodiverse employees include:

Recruitment: making small but impactful changes to your recruitment process; job descriptions and job adverts should be carefully drafted to ensure they are inclusive and fair to all. If you need any support in ensuring you’re inclusive from the start, please ask you HR Consultant and they’ll be happy to review/create the documents and advise you.

Training & Knowledge Sharing: ensuring managers are aware and supporting neurodiverse individuals, changing the culture of the business from the core values to demonstrate support for inclusivity. Appreciating all differences by addressing preconceptions and societal judgements. It’s important to note that information can be comprehended by people in different ways and that the words you use can have values and judgements attached to them. CitrusHR Consulting are rolling out Diversity and Inclusion training sessions throughout the next couple of months, if you’d like more information please get in touch. Training your management on this subject is essential for change to take place.

The work premises and workspace: is the lighting suitable? Spacing between desks? Noise of machinery such as water machine and printers? Making small physical adjustments to the workspace could hugely benefit an employee with autism for example that finds noise distractions difficult and a sensory overload.

Communication: a recurring and important theme. Effective, clear and concise communication will again support all individuals, especially when change is required. Ensuring communications are made direct to individuals so they understand the impact the change will have on them and they are prepared.

Flexibility: if the business can offer it, flexible start and finish times and to offer additional breaks or longer lunch breaks so that individuals can exert their energy.

Management supervision: for some neurodiverse individuals they may need additional performance management processes to be in place or more regular one to one meetings scheduled.

Diversity & Inclusion Training

We are keen to support our clients in becoming and continuing to be inclusive workplaces, and encourage workplaces to create a sense of belonging. Our Diversity and Inclusion training course is being rolled out throughout February and March. It’s a short half-day, interactive training session and includes a section on Neurodiversity. If you’re keen to learn more then please do get in touch with your usual HR Consultant to arrange.  We’d be happy to come to client’s premises to train managers or we can offer training in our offices in Dursley, please get in touch if you’d like more information.

If you are a business championing neurodiversity then we’d really love to hear from you. Helping and creating a inclusive neurodiverse workforce is so important. Please get in touch with your usual HR Consultant or contact us direct: Rise HR, call us on 0844 854 6704 or email us at hello@risehr.co.uk.