The importance of acknowledging Neurodiversity in the workplace

"By allowing everyone to work flexibly, it means that people who need it, won’t have to justify their reasons for it." Naomi Cruden, Talent Manager at Amplifi, discusses neurodiversity in the workplace.

It’s estimated that between 15-20% of the UK population is diagnosed within the umbrella term neurodiverse . Neurodiversity has always been there, so why are we only just starting to acknowledge it more recently in the workplace?

Working in Amplifi's People Team I have seen how important it is to acknowledge individual difference when it comes to hiring and onboarding.

Let’s face it, hiring processes are typically full of bias, unwritten rules, and unnecessary tests. It’s often about how well a person performs under pressure, and more often than not, who you know. This comes with a multitude of inequality and unfair advantage and is why those who are neurodivergent have faced so many challenges when it comes to employment. According to Dr Maureen Dunne, 30-40% of people diagnosed find themselves facing unemployment. This figure is only a snapshot, with waiting lists for diagnosis' at an all-time high, unemployment rates will be disproportionately high. This means there is a large pool of untapped talent unable to secure work.

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Typically interviews in the tech sector have followed a similar structure for many years, question and answer style, with the occasional technical test. Whilst this has obviously been somewhat successful in the past, Q&A interviews will not suit everyone, particularly those who find it easier to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. For some people who are neurodivergent, this format can be challenging, and not the easiest way to showcase ability and skills. Eye contact, body language, time constraints and pressurised situations can be overwhelming, meaning some might miss out on a job they are perfectly capable of doing.

Not performing in interviews does not always mean a person lacks the necessary ability and skills to be successful in the job.

On a personal note, I am SO glad to see that there is movement and positive change happening when it comes to neurodiversity, but I recognise that we are still a long way off where it should be. Having a brother with Aspergers who finds interviews a cause of extreme anxiety I have seen first-hand how stress inducing recruitment processes can be. I have seen how reductive the ‘one size fits all approach’ is, and how it has meant that hundreds of talented individuals will have not been given equal opportunities. Helping my brother secure employment (back in 2014) was stressful and full of many, many setbacks, each time impacting his self- esteem and confidence. This was not necessary because he couldn’t do the job, but that the interview process itself was not inclusive and didn’t provide a platform fit for all. It's amazing to see how many initiatives now exist to bring neurodiverse talent into the workplace, and to bring equal opportunities to everyone.

So, yes, change is happening, but what is being done at Amplifi do to make sure we are giving everyone equal opportunity?

Since it was founded, Amplifi has operated through an inclusive lens; allowing employees to work wherever, however suits them - unintentionally, leading the way in terms of flexible working and inclusivity. Since joining the team, I have seen how important this is for people, and how much difference it can make to wellbeing. It enables people to focus on their lives outside work and work in an environment that suits them.

By allowing everyone to work flexibly it, means that people who need it, won’t have to justify their reasons for it.

As well as flexibility, here are some of our neurodiversity initiatives:

  • Lead by Tom Varty, we have set up an internal Neurodiverse Network where people can join to share resources, stories, anything that relates to neurodiversity.
  • A DEI committee who meets monthly to create initiatives, implement change, and provide education.
  • We have created a forum for people to share their personal stories and how being neurodivergent affects them.
  • Listen to feedback: we regularly seek out feedback and action anything that is suggested by the team
  • Inclusive interviewing: we ask candidates whether they are happy to interview face-to-face, or whether they would find an alternative platform easier.

I asked our Neurodiversity Network why flexibility improves their ability to be productive and happy at work, here are some of the responses I got:

Part of our flexible working culture means we aren't micromanaged and means I can work to my own schedule, rather than being told what to do and when to do it. As someone who loves routine it allows me to get my tasks done on my terms.

As a neurodivergent colleague at Amplifi, the flexibility is a huge part of why I love working here. I have a real sense of control over how I work, I don't have to factor in a stressful commute, and I can make my working environment perfectly tailored to my sensory needs.

Working at home means I have less distractions than in a busy office, I can take breaks when I need to, and I don't have to commute! More flexibility = More productivity.

Flexible working with ADHD takes away the emphasis on how I do my job and more on outputs on and achievements. This also reduces feelings of micromanagement and sends the message that I am supported to work in the best way which suits me instead of having that dictated to me by others. This means I can build an environment where I feel comfortable and confident to get on with my work instead of worrying about being judged for the way I work.

We are not perfect. No workplace is, yet. But we are always listening, learning, and taking stock. We want to improve and maintain our culture and inclusive working environment. Sometimes it’s thought that big bold statements and introductions of policies and processes is the way to make significant change. But I’ve seen how a small actions which are easy to implement, could have huge impact on someone, and should not be ignored.

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About the author

Naomi Cruden is Talent Manager at Amplifi.

She is an integral part of our People & Culture team and is Amplifi’s internal DEI champion, responsible for establishing and leading our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee, to ensure that Amplifi is a welcoming and inclusive place for the people who currently work here and anybody who is looking to join.

You can read more about Amplifi's DEI Commitment here.