Neurodiversity in the workplace – BlackRock

By Nicsa Admin posted 10-30-2023 09:49 AM


A Guest Blog by BlackRock | Diversity Project North America Member 

Neurodiversity in the workplace -- different ways of thinking, learning, perceiving the world, processing information, and interacting with others -- helps organizations thrive, as such an inclusive workforce can improve creativity, innovation, and problem solving. October is National Disability Employment Awareness month, and this gives us the opportunity to shine a light on neurodivergent members of the corporate workforce whose disabilities may get less attention than others but who are no less important to an organizations success.  

Neurodivergent is a nonmedical umbrella term that includes people with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dyslexia. As there is no clear definition, some advocacy groups and people with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, include them under the umbrella while others do not.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 10% to 15% of the worlds population has some kind of neurodivergence.1 However, according to the 2023 Disability EqualitySM Index, a benchmarking tool for disability inclusion in business, the median disability self-identification rate was 4.6% among companies reporting data.2 In an age when C-suite priorities include a focus on talent and innovation, this means that companies could be missing an opportunity to understand the full composition of their workforce and receive the most benefit from it. The graphic below shows some of the skills and strengths that neurodiverse people bring to the table.

Image created by Genius Within based on work by Mary Colley.

Ways to manage with neurodiversity in mind

Neurodivergent people have their own preferences for communication patterns and methods, social interaction, and workspace setting. Given the fact that corporate employees may not disclose that they are neurodivergent, managers can proactively develop and employ management practices that keep neurodivergent people in mind, and likely benefit the team as a whole.

Helpful management practices can include3:

  • Adopting a person-centric management style that helps to create an environment where employees can perform at their best
    • Ensure communications are clear—tasks communicated in a rush with the process discarded can lead to confusion, stress, anxiety, and lost productivity
    • Allow flexibility around work patterns and frequency of social interaction
    • Consider role adjustments that help play to employees’ strengths across the team
    • Provide structured, positive feedback—this gives managers an opportunity to review progress and assist as necessary, and learn how they can better manage each employee
    • Provide access to support—monitor employee engagement and comfort at work.
    • Along with HR, be aware of common reasonable adjustments that are possible to enhance the employee experience for different neurominorities on the team (eg, accommodations such as software and devices, including portable and talking word processors, assistive listening systems, visual organizers; support; and access to mentors)

  • Developing a path for career progression—avoid stereotypes and assumptions about someone’s career aspirations. All employees should be able to have an open conversation with their manager about their ambition and the opportunities available

  • Adopt a strengths-based approach to performance management--appreciative enquiry can provide a more effective basis for improvement than negative feedback can; it is more effective to consider what people do well and try to find ways of using these strengths in other aspects of their work than to get them to invest time in areas where they have less inherent aptitude

  • Focus more on the core skills and competencies needed to do the particular job well

1. Neurodiversity. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Published April 12, 2022. Accessed September 27, 2023.

2. 2023 Disability Equality Index. American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN®. Accessed September 27, 2023.

3. Neurodiversity at Work. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. London, UK; 2018.

May contain forward-looking statements subject to various uncertainties. Personal views and observations of individuals contained herein are as of the date of the live event or written material and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nicsa or its member organizations. Nothing herein is intended to be or should be construed as legal advice. Contact your own counsel in order to obtain legal advice regarding these or any other matters. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation of best practices.