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5 ways employers can support neurodiverse employees in the workplace

August 17, 2022 Andrea Warmington

Building a workplace in which neurodiversity is supported is crucial for employers, from your hiring processes right through to your companywide culture.

Neurodiverse employees can bring unique strengths to businesses and organisations. But employers need to ensure that they’re offering a workplace where neurodiverse employees feel supported and accommodations will need to be made. “It is firmly in the interest of employers to put practices and procedures in place to cultivate and support an inclusive, neurodiverse workforce,” says HR Director. Here are five ways that employers can ensure they’re supporting neurodiversity in the workplace.

1. Adjust your hiring practices

Your hiring recruiting and hiring processes might need to be adjusted to ensure that candidates aren’t being rejected for traits that have no impact on job performance. “Hiring managers need to reframe their idea of what makes a ‘good candidate,’ says Great Place to Work. “Many superficial norms, such as a strong handshake or looking someone in the eye, are difficult for neurodiverse individuals to perform.”

EY completely revamped its recruitment and hiring processes as part of its neurodiversity programme. They now start with “a week of virtual meetings and technical exercises, avoiding initial face-to-face interviews that can be challenging for many neurodiverse job candidates''. They also make custom accommodations for each candidate and limit sessions to no more than one hour at a time, while building in unstructured time.

2. Customise your onboarding process

Once hired, your onboarding process should be customised to the needs of your new neurodivergent hires, too. At EY, neurodivergent employees are given a job coach and trained office buddies for ongoing support.

You can also use the onboarding process to ensure you have a good understanding of accommodations that might need to be made on an ongoing basis. “Individuals with autism may be sensitive to things like temperature, sound, and lighting,” says Great Place to Work. “As such, you may need to provide accommodations such as noise-canceling headphones, privacy rooms, or flexible work schedules, so employees can be their most productive.”

3. Provide a safe, consistent work environment

Providing a safe, consistent work environment is important for many neurodiverse employees, notes People Management. If this is not possible, “employers must be aware of the challenges that neurodivergent employees may face (such as a dislike of change and a need for routine), and support them through these more challenging times in the most appropriate way”.

You might need to make adjustments to the workplace, so that there are “fixed desk spaces for neurodivergent individuals who do not like change (particularly if the office adopts a hotdesk system) and IT equipment to support them in their work,” suggests People Management.

4. Build a culture of inclusion

“Implementing awareness training programmes, management plans and comprehensive workplace assessments for all staff are some of the best ways to support neurodiversity,” according to the HR Director. Great Place to Work says “all employees and especially managers … need to be educated about what it’s like to be on the spectrum, and how to best work together.”

A culture of inclusion can have other benefits, too. EY notes that many employees, especially millennials, “want to work at an organisation that acts ethically and is forward thinking in its approach to diversity. Teaming with neurodiverse colleagues makes work more meaningful and rewarding for everyone”.

5. Get regular feedback

It’s important that neurodiverse employees have an appropriate avenue in which to provide their employers with regular feedback on their experiences in the workplace. 

“Having a systematic and continuous way of gathering feedback around the employee experience provides the data and insights needed to create a roadmap for affecting positive change,” says Great Place to Work. 

You should be listening to your neurodivergent employees on an ongoing basis to find out how they can be better supported in the workplace - and ensure that you’re implementing such requests in a timely manner.