As part of Neurodiversity Celebration Week (21-27 March), Content+Cloud’s Group Marketing Director, Alex Stone, spoke with our Chief People Officer, Thea Fineren about neurodiversity in the workplace, and the positive impacts of creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Businesses are gaining clarity faster than ever before about the real benefits a diverse workforce and inclusive culture can bring. And while there is still a long way to go in all areas of the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion landscape, progress is being made.
Neurodiversity brings so many opportunities to business, and while the move to virtual working has certainly brought benefits to neurodiverse individuals we need to make sure the ‘in-real life’ workplace supports them just as well.
The following statement is taken from the Neurodiversity Celebration Week official website:
“If we work together there is no limit to the change we can make. It is time to recognise the many strengths and talents that come from thinking and perceiving the world differently. By celebrating the strengths of neurodivergent individuals, we can begin the seismic shift of changing the way neurodivergent individuals are perceived and supported, empowering them to achieve their potential. Together, we can change the narrative.”
Thea Fineren, our Chief People Officer, kindly spent some time with me discussing neurodiversity in the workplace.
How does greater neurodiversity in the workplace affect business outcomes?
“By their very nature, neurodiverse employees think differently. While this is, of course, also true for those of us who are neurotypical, neurodiverse employees broaden the capabilities, creativity, and problem-solving capacity of their organisations because their experience of the world and the workplace provides a unique counterpoint to those of their peers. Just as the cultural, ethnic and gender diversity of a workforce expands the landscape of ideas and experience, neurodiverse employees are valuable assets when it comes to creating a truly inclusive organisational culture and approach.
“At Content+Cloud, we deliver technology solutions for our clients that are designed to transform the way they do business and optimise the way their people work. The success of any implementation relies on consideration being given to the entire range of diversity with a userbase. Whether it’s providing features that help those with colour blindness, solutions that support the bespoke needs of remote workers, or accommodations for those who identify as neurodiverse, implementation must take diversity of all stripes into account.”
How might neurodiversity considerations affect how businesses attract talent and, at the same time, advance broader Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) goals?
“When nurtured and harnessed effectively, neurodiversity enriches culture and delivers further agility in the face of business challenges. One such challenge that is particularly pressing today has been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation.’ With Gartner revealing that 31% of IT workers actively sought a new job between July and September in 2021, the importance of inclusivity, when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, has never been clearer.
“To respond to this talent crisis, organisations need to wear their inclusivity with pride and bring neurodiversity into focus when hiring, ensuring potential applicants have the confidence their needs will be accommodated.
“When it comes to broadening DE&I goals, neurodiversity is essential, particularly in relation to intersectionality. It’s important we acknowledge that the needs and requirements of those with the same neurodivergent condition should not be viewed or treated as the same. By its very nature neurodiversity is diverse, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
What are some practical strategies for creating a more neuro-inclusive workplace and for attracting, and retaining, more neurodiverse candidates?
“At Content+Cloud, we have an open culture that encourages employees to disclose their neurodiversity, with the understanding that we will commit to accommodating their unique needs. This is something I would encourage all organisations to do, as even minor adjustments can make a world of difference for a neurodiverse employee, vastly improving wellbeing, engagement, and productivity.
“It’s a crucial point, as the perception of accommodating the needs of neurodiverse employees is often far from the reality. Sometimes, simply creating a quiet space or minimising face-to-face meetings, is all it takes. And sometimes, the needs of an individual will change. Accommodating the needs of any employee should not be a tick box exercise, and neurodiverse people, in particular, will require an approach of ongoing mindful awareness of their needs, which may surge or change.”
How could Learning & Development be optimised to advance DE&I neuro-inclusion practices?
“Leaders must be empowered to understand, identify, and accommodate neurodivergence within their teams. Courses and sessions that help develop this skillset are essential, as is maintaining an open dialogue with employees on these issues. For example, more than 300 employees at Content+Cloud have completed Microsoft’s Accessibility Fundamentals training course, more than any other UK partner, and this means we are well-equipped to meet the various accessibility requirements of our workforce so they are better able to build and deliver accessible solutions to our clients and their users.
“Ultimately, businesses should strive to reflect the world around them, which means adapting to the changing needs of their people. This goes far beyond simply changing business culture; it’s about ensuring the workplace is a reflection of a fairer society.”