What does it take to win a Most Loved Workplace or Best Place to Work award? Strangely enough, it’s no longer just higher than average salaries and good benefits. It’s also not a Foosball table. Employees (and customers) want more.
While many businesses are launching diversity initiatives, there’s one area of diversity you may not have considered—neurodiversity. So how do you become a neurodiverse-friendly business? You can create a more inviting atmosphere for neurodiverse customers or focus on creating a workplace where all employees feel comfortable and valued.
Over the past two decades, identification as a neurodiverse individual has increased 600% so ensuring your business embraces this aspect of diversity is growing in importance.
Neurodiversity in the Workplace
If you want to make your business more diverse from this perspective, you’ll want to consider:
- Your hiring and recruitment process. Neurodiverse candidates may have a difficult time interviewing in a traditional setting.
- A mentor program. Helping neurodiverse employees see others who have succeeded before them can improve retention rate. SAP’s Autism at Work Program is a model for many companies.
- Your onboarding program. What is a typical first day on the job and what ways can you design a program that helps neurodiverse candidates thrive? With Dell’s program “neurodiverse applicants are guided through a series of projects and interactions with leaders, drawing upon a wide array of skills. There are multiple career avenues offered to neurodiverse people, ranging from direct hire to paid internships.”
For smaller businesses, these programs may seem out of your reach. However, you can still incorporate aspects of them on a smaller scale. For instance, the interview process and inquiries you receive from potential employees is a good place to start. Alter your expectations on things like interviewee eye contact or handshakes. Understanding the neurodiverse job candidate helps to create a more diverse employee base.
Welcoming the Neurodiverse Customer
In addition to creating a more diverse work culture, think about the customer experience. The Autism Society is challenging businesses to create more friendly experiences for everyone. You can fill out their form to become listed as an Autism-friendly business. They’re looking for businesses that do things like:
- Train employees to create positive environments. Breeze Airways partnered with Autism Double-Checked and trains its flight attendants to help alleviate the stresses of air travel for its passengers with an autism diagnosis.
- Create appealing spaces. According to the Autism Society, “individuals with an autism diagnosis are impacted by sensory issues such as lighting, noise, and crowds; and because a business’s customer service staff might not otherwise understand autism and how best to address the customer who has an autism diagnosis, becoming autism friendly helps the business understand how to adapt to best serve their customers with autism and allows the customer who is impacted by autism to utilize and benefit from the services of a business.” In 2019, Pittsburgh International Airport opened a space dedicated to ensuring travelers with sensory sensitivities can decompress and get acclimated to a real aircraft cabin, to help alleviate anxiety.
It’s estimated that over 3.5 million people in the US have received an autism diagnosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of autism among children is 1 out of 59, and that does not span all neurodiverse diagnosis, only autism and its spectrum. If you are considering a commitment to diversity in your business, you may want to consider neurodiversity as well.