How HR can help dyslexic employees

Dyslexia is the most common neurodiversity. Statistically speaking, as many as one in five of your employees is likely to be dyslexic, so it’s incredibly important HR understands it and supports employees with the challenges they may face.

Traditionally, organisations have focused on what dyslexics can’t do, rather than what they can – measuring us by our challenges rather than harnessing our strengths.

Because our brains process things differently, dyslexics often find things like spelling, reading out loud and memorising facts tricky.

These are often the skills we are benchmarked and assessed against, or which people link to intelligence. This can sometimes mean employers and colleagues misjudge us as careless or not as capable as other employees.

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This had led the majority of dyslexics (three in four) to hide their dyslexia from their employer. If dyslexics hide their dyslexia, it can stop them from getting support and prevent employers from spotting and empowering their dyslexic strengths.

Dyslexics excel at the exact skills that are vital to the future of work – from creative thinking and problem-solving to collaboration and active learning – and have incredible leadership and people skills.

For instance, 80% of dyslexics are above average at connecting with people, 84% of dyslexics are above average at reasoning and 75% of dyslexics are above average at visualising and seeing the big picture.

It’s exactly these skills many companies are trying to recruit for right now so we need to get better at attracting and retaining dyslexic talent.

As we shift into a world where up to 50% of jobs will be done by machines, a recent survey by charity Made by Dyslexia and recruitment giant Manpower shows the other 50% of jobs which will be done by the human workforce will require the exact skills dyslexics excel at.

Fewer than one in five dyslexics believe their employer understands the strengths of dyslexic thinking. So what can HR do to support and empower dyslexic employees?

Change the recruitment process. Standardised tests often don’t allow dyslexics to showcase their strengths and dyslexic thinking skills. Simple changes like offering dyslexic candidates more time will make the recruitment process more dyslexia-friendly.

Show you understand the value of dyslexic thinking. Both to current employees and in the hiring process. This will encourage more dyslexics to apply to roles and also empower dyslexic employees to be open about dyslexia at work.

Support dyslexic workplace challenges. There are tiny things every employer can do to make a huge difference – from keeping meetings short to minimising email overload (try sending voice messages instead) to presenting information in more visual ways and keeping instructions concise (all things that are brilliant for everyone).

Empower dyslexic strengths. Empower dyslexics to do the things we excel at. Promote us into management roles, where our incredible people skills will help us build high-performance teams. Bring us in on big picture thinking. Get us involved in complex projects with reams of data where our ability to see things others can’t will help us come up with breakthrough solutions.

It’s time HR redefines dyslexia as a skill not a disability in the workplace and develop a skills-first culture. Let’s get better at supporting dyslexic employees and start empowering their incredible strengths.

Kate Griggs is the founder and CEO of global charity Made By Dyslexia and author of dyslexia guide This is Dyslexia