ND sense eases HR pain

Pursuing the HR agenda through a neuro-inclusive lens empowers business leaders to personalise people management across the whole workforce, writes neurodiversity (ND) champion and Train to Win CEO Julie Mills.

As much as the channel’s business leaders want their people to achieve peak performance the reality is that there’s already enough to deal with in keeping everyday HR issues on an even keel. Yet how we manage our talent makes all the difference, and I believe that a more neurodivergence-friendly organisation can significantly reduce the risk of HR challenges arising, including staff churn, demoralised employees and communication breakdowns within teams. How? Because an ND-friendly approach prevents perfectly happy and capable ND employees from becoming ‘HR problems’. Also, you’ll be adopting a framework that better accommodates all individuals’ needs, whether they are neurotypical, have a neurodivergent diagnosis or are somewhere in between.

Social expectations
Having someone leave the business can be disruptive, and recruiting and training a replacement is costly. A surprisingly common reason for ND people to leave an employer is when they feel they can’t escape the expectation of participating in staff socials and other team events. Promoting an accepting environment where it’s OK not to take part without being seen as weird or not a team player could help you retain staff, especially those who haven’t told anyone they are neurodivergent, or may not even know themselves.

Draconian policies
Demoralised or demotivated employees affect productivity, delivery, quality and performance. But many business leaders simply do not understand why certain employees are demotivated, or what triggers a sudden negative impact on morale. A recent example I came across was a company that introduced an IT policy banning dark mode from all apps (when backgrounds default to black and text to white instead of vice versa). While that might be a tad disappointing for neurotypical users who prefer dark mode, it’s devastating to some users on the autistic spectrum who rely on dark mode to concentrate and avoid sensory overload. Simply being aware of these issues should be enough to avoid unintended consequences.

Lack of flexibility
Communication breakdown within teams, particularly between line managers and their subordinates, can have a huge performance impact, erode trust and create friction between colleagues. The issue is often centred around flexibility, with line managers needing to learn how to be more accommodating to individual needs. A common complaint I hear is ND people not starting work on time, driving line managers bananas. Such a big deal over 10 minutes of lateness, but I’ll bet it happens in hundreds of workplaces. If the employee does all their work and makes the time up, the fact they find it hard to factor a 9am start into their routine shouldn’t matter.

If you’re experiencing difficulties like these in your business my advice is to fix them by taking an approach that’s more sensitive to staff neurodiversity. Not just for those who are ND... it makes sense to take a more individual and personalised approach to managing your whole workforce.

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