This April, Seramount hosted our first-ever webinar for Diversity Best Practices (DBP) members, centering neurodiversity and why being a champion for neurodivergent talent in your organization can be better for business. The webinar was moderated by Seramount’s Jess Kramer and Christian Santillo, who are both active neurodiversity self-advocates and champions for the community. They started the event by informing attendees of some important distinctions and statistics. The term neurodiversity is the diversity of how people’s brains work, which was coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer in 1998. There are four important terms to know:
- Neurodiversity: The diversity of human brains and minds
- Neurodivergent: Individuals who process information and behave in a way that differs from the actual or perceived norms of a particular culture
- Neurotypical: An individual with typical neurological development and/or functioning; not neurodivergent
- Neurodiverse: A group of individuals where some members of that group are neurodivergent (not for use when describing one person)
They also noted that approximately 15–20% of the world’s population is neurodivergent. This number might be higher because women and people of color often go undiagnosed. In the workforce, 50% of managers are uncomfortable hiring neurodivergent individuals, and 51% of neurodivergent workers want to quit their jobs, or already have, because they don’t feel valued or supported by their employer.
The event’s keynote speaker, Lydia X.Z. Brown spoke about the connection between neurodiversity and the disability justice movement. They highlighted how neurodiversity cannot be divorced from the bodies it impacts. This leads to ableism showing up in micro and macro ways. Lydia said: “Disability justice invites us to consider what our work would be like, what our communities would be like if we radically shifted our expectations for what care and assessment are away from charity or compliance. Away from managing or tolerance and toward embracing and affirming and supporting all of us and the rich tapestry of all of our needs.” Using this way of thinking can impact managers and how organizations treat neurodivergent talent.
How Being a Champion Impacts Business
Organizations employ neurodivergent talent every day but struggle to support them in a way that allows them to meet their full potential, even though 95% of all adjustments to better support neurodivergent employees will cost organizations nothing and lead to better business outcomes. Teams that have neurodivergent individuals report having a 30% increase in productivity, and companies that include neurodivergent talent have seen a 90% increase in employee retention. By embracing what makes neurodivergent employees unique, businesses can tap into different aspects of their workforce and set themselves apart from the rest.
Jamell G. Mitchell from EY, one of Seramount’s DBP member companies, spoke on his company’s Neurodiversity Center of Excellence and how they use it as the intersection of transformation and purpose within EY. Since launching in 2016, there have been Neurodiversity Centers of Excellences (NCoEs) established across eight countries in 19 cities, with 400 neurodivergent team members hired and trained. The results include a 92% retention rate of individuals hired through NCoEs and 1.2-–1.4 times greater productivity, quality, and timeliness of output from teams with NCoE members than teams without NCoE members. He framed the creation of this group with this question: “What happens when great minds don’t think alike?” The group helps the organization because problems are no longer looked at one-dimensionally, and it helps leadership to recognize that neurodivergent people can lift organizations to new heights. The group has built new connections with stakeholders across four pillars: digital transformation, workforce, results-driven DEI commitment, and ESG purpose and stakeholder values.
Rajesh Anandan from Ultranauts spoke on his organization’s “Universal Workplace.” He described the Ultranauts workforce as three-fourths neurodivergent. This proportion of neurodivergent employees is intentional because they want to build a more inclusive workplace. In being inclusive, they recognized that systems within the company needed to change. Some of the systems they had in place that they pinpointed as non-inclusive of neurodivergent talent were:
- A targeted approach to job listings limits roles that neurodiverse talent applies to
- Awareness workshops don’t change behaviors; actual, tracked changes do
- Job coaches don’t address underlying dynamics between neurodiverse and neurotypical people
- Accommodations shift responsibility to the employee instead of leaving it with the employer
Being intentional about inclusion meant that they had to redesign the system to make it work for everyone, not just singling out neurodivergent talent. Ultranauts’ Universal Workplace features mental health priorities, inclusion, continuous learning, flexibility, transparency, and collaboration.
The Path to Taking Correct Action
Creating and facilitating an inclusive workplace takes time and dedication. You will need a team and a plan to succeed in being a neurodiversity champion. If your organization is not ready, you are setting people up for failure. Jess Kramer mentioned that when it comes to neurodiversity initiatives, always make sure to have someone who identifies as neurodivergent as part of the planning process so that matters are handled from a place of lived experience and knowledge.
Interested in attending a webinar like this one? We’ll be hosting a similar event, open to the public, on May 16 titled “Why Supporting Neurodivergent Talent Is Better for Business.” Register here. If you would like to know more about neurodiversity in the workplace and how Seramount can help make your talent strategy more inclusive of neurodivergent individuals, contact us.