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Neurodiversity not a priority for nine out of 10 businesses

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Neurodiverse talent could be the key as employers face pressure to fill skills gaps

Just one in ten (10%) organisations say they consider neurodiversity in their HR practices, according to a poll of HR professionals by the CIPD.

Neurodiversity refers to the natural range of differences in human brain function. Around 10% of the UK population are estimated to be neurodivergent in some way. Among employers it’s used to describe alternative thinking styles including dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia as they relate to diversity and inclusion.

The CIPD’s research revealed that many workplaces do not enable neurodiverse individuals to perform to their full potential. In the poll 72% of HR professionals said that consideration of neurodiversity wasn’t included in their people management practices, and 17% said they didn’t know if it was.

Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said: “The insights we already have show the unique value that neurodivergent individuals can bring to the workforce. However, even at a time when employers are under pressure to identify new talent pools to fill skills gaps, recruitment and development practices are screening out such individuals and the unique skills they possess.

“Rather than measuring potential employees against a long wishlist of capabilities, we need to be clear on the key skills each job requires and enable people who possess those to play to their strengths.”

In response to the study, the CIPD has partnered with online training provider Uptimize to develop a guide to raise employers' awareness of neurodiversity and help them make adjustments to workplaces and hiring practices.

Recommendations for HR include highlighting support networks through the intranet, ensuring individualised support is available, and addressing comfort at work on a regular basis using workplace preference surveys.

Other advice includes: training managers about neurovdiversity, considering how open-plan office environments could be overwhelming, and ensuring the interview process is fair towards neurodiverse candidates.

Miller added that making workplace adjustments would benefit all employees.

"While workplace adjustments will be dependent on individual need, they are often small and inexpensive and many actually benefit everyone. Why wouldn’t you want a more navigable intranet or clearer communications with your manager?

“Ultimately everyone has the right to feel accepted and included at work and organisations have a responsibility to be places where everyone can reach their potential," she said.

The CIPD polled 303 HR professionals in October 2017.