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Neurodiversity: A Competitive Advantage in the Irish Workforce
Neurodiversity in Ireland
The idea of inclusion in the workplace and anti-discrimination have been key targets in the global workforce for many years. With the onset of time, the aspects of each have grown, with one of the newest additions being the inclusion of neurodiversity in the workplace. Neurodiversity is a framework which embraces a variety of brain makeups that are present across society. This is a category that is often overlooked or underserved in the workplace, since a lot of business consists around aspects of interaction such as noisy groups, eye contact and setting which can be overstimulating. That does not hold true for all aspects of a business, however, and companies are realising their ability to integrate a neurodiverse workforce creates excellent results.
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In Ireland, neurodiversity is becoming better known and as recognition and understanding of the inclusive nature is gained, so too is the amount of businesses who will see the inclusion of neurodiversity in their workforce as a fundamental benefit. Areas such as IT and data analytics can be excellent areas in which a neurodiverse workforce can excel and people with autism often excel in areas like compliance, software testing, and cyber security. Many of these roles and functions are currently facing talent shortages and many companies recognise the need to do more to attract people on the spectrum. The incidence of autism in Ireland is now 1 in 100, according to research conducted by DCU.
Global companies are already including neurodiversity in their workplaces in other countries, which will lead to rolling out the paradigm within all of their offices. Corporations such as Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprises have leveraged a neurodivergent workforce. A good example is JP Morgan, who is including efforts to hire people with autism in their banks working within technology functions. The company notes how skills which are necessary for technical jobs such as the ability to concentrate on the one subject for long periods of time and superior data skills are held by candidates with autism. Having a superior attention to detail is another skill which is noted that is found with candidates who have autism. Deutsche Bank and UBS also have programs to increase the autistic population of their workforce.
How your business can benefit by employing a neurodivergent workforce
An example can be seen in Yahoo, which created a neurodiversity employee resource group to gain insight on how employees see their strengths and the challenges they have within the work environment. Yahoo’s head of production Margaux Joffe has ADHD, and founded the Kaleidoscope Society for women with ADHD, which helps women with ADHD find lasting employment. Joffe noted that the point of hiring a neurodivergent workforce is not to comply with regulation, but to value different types of minds.
Steps you can take to reframe your office for a neurodivergent workforce include:
- Start with introducing the term ‘neurodiversity’ in all orientations for new employees, which will make neurodivergent employees comfortable to tell others about their differences down the road.
- Create roles that do not require as much linear thinking, which can have the added benefit of producing better results for both the employee and the company.
- Allow people to choose between an open office space or a private working space, which allows people that work better in quiet environments or those who excel in chaos to be within their most optimal working environment.
- Encourage employees to get exercise by giving gym memberships or creating a sports team, or even by encouraging them to take walks at their lunch times.
Examples of neurodiversity in the Irish workforce
Among other examples of companies in Ireland who have initiatives to include autistic spectrum employees within their overall workforce is SAP, who currently employs 7 people with autism and has a goal of making 1% of their worldwide workforce within the autistic spectrum. As it currently stands, this would be 650 employees globally. Another Irish company that specializes in bringing neurodiversity to the workforce is Specialisterne, which is a specialist consultancy for recruiting candidates with autism and Aspergers. Specialisterne counts among its business clients, the Bank of Ireland, Intel, Deloitte, DCU, Microsoft and many others.
When initiatives like this are added up, the opportunities that become available for those within any neurodiversity, including those with autism or those with ADHD or other mental difference, are vast. Both companies and employees benefit by the inclusion of a diverse workforce, and maximising the opportunity that each employee provides should always be of paramount concern to a growing business.
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