Organizational Wellness

How to Support Neurodiversity in the Workplace

May 9, 2024
Last Updated May 9, 2024

Want to  find great, untapped talent? 

Look into hiring neurodiverse employees! This is a pool of highly skilled individuals who are often overlooked. For example, 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed. That isn’t, though, due to a lack of skill — people with autism can have incredible attention to detail and visual perception. Too often, people overlook these excellent workers. This gap is a prime opportunity for your company to find fantastic employees who will add to your organization. 

Hiring neurodivergent individuals is only one piece of the puzzle. You’ll also want to consider how to support them at your organization, including the workers you currently have. Too often neurodivergence is overlooked as a type of diversity because it can be invisible, but it’s still a crucial part of your DEI efforts

Discover how to hire neurodivergent workers and how to create an environment where they thrive!


What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the idea that there are natural variations in the human brain structures that lead to different ways of thinking and viewing the world. Embracing neurodivergence in the workforce involves accepting these other ways of thinking without seeking to cure anyone. 

Those variations include everything from being on the autism spectrum, to ADHD and dyslexia, to other learning disorders. This type of diversity is more prevalent than you might think: It’s estimated that 15 to 20% of the population is neurodivergent. 

Benefits of Embracing Neurodiversity

Having a neurodivergent workforce can help drive your company toward success. 

Increased Productivity

On average, teams with neurodivergent employees are 30% more productive than only neurotypical ones. That extends into individual performance. A typical employee is productive 60% of the time, whereas individuals on the autism spectrum can be up to 140% more productive than that. Higher productivity can increase retention, engagement, and collaboration. 

More Creative Thinking and Solutions

Unique ways of viewing the world can lead to innovative ideas and improved problem-solving. For example, neurodivergent team members often have skills like visual thinking or pattern recognition that help them find ideas or solve problems that might otherwise have been overlooked. They might also have improved creative thinking and attention to detail that helps them suggest ideas no one else considered. As a whole, companies that embrace neurodiversity experience an edge in innovation

Higher Retention Rates

It takes a lot of work to hire a new employee. Once you do, the next step is keeping them in your organization. The good news is that hiring a neurodivergent worker can help. In general, neurodivergent employees have low turnover rates, according to Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

On top of that, neurodivergence increases diversity in your organization. That boost can help reduce turnover, as the majority of employees are actively seeking diverse workplaces

Increased Accuracy

Neurodivergent employees may be able to increase the accuracy of work produced at your organization. They generally make fewer work errors, which researchers believe could be due to increased attention to detail and higher levels of meticulousness. 

This can be a major asset to your company, as errors in work at your company have real consequences. These mistakes can hurt your customers’ experience with your company and potentially even reduce revenue. Plus it means someone will have to fix the problem, and that can add to someone’s workload and raise their stress levels. 

Recruiting and Hiring Neurodivergent Talent

Increasing the number of neurodivergent individuals on your team begins with the hiring process. Currently, there’s a large disconnect somewhere because of the high rates of unemployment among neurodivergent people. It’s estimated that 30 to 40% of neurodivergent individuals are unemployed, despite only making up 15% of the population. 

The unfortunate reality is that a typical process can unfairly root out neurodivergent talent — to everyone’s detriment To counteract this problem, consider implementing these changes into your hiring process. 

Rethinking Job Descriptions and Requirements

Stereotypes of a good employee can systematically root out neurodivergent people from the hiring pool. The caricature of a ‘good employee’ often includes somebody who is incredibly  friendly or has a salesperson-type personality, regardless of what the job requires. When you view those traits as necessary for a position, you’ll likely include them in a job description and look for them in interviews. 

However, requiring them in every job can hinder your neurodiversity. While it’s likely necessary for customer service representatives to have those skills, it’s not necessary for every position. For example, a data analyst who isn’t friendly and people-oriented can still excel at the role. 

To help attract neurodiverse individuals, consider keeping job descriptions focused on what’s truly necessary for the position. That can help you find great talent without unfairly filtering out people who could add to your company.  

Adjusting the Assessment Process

Another part of hiring that can hinder neurodivergence hiring is the interview. Traditional video and in-person assessments have a disproportionate bias against neurodivergent individuals. These conversations often evaluate soft skills and behaviors that can be difficult for many of these candidates. In particular, hiring managers may be looking for how someone manages eye contact and small talk — even if these skills have nothing to do with the job. That can add an unfair bias to the process. 

To avoid this, you may need to actively alter your assessments. Here are a few ways to make changes that promote neurodiversity: 

  • Get information from more than an interview. That isn’t the only important part of selecting a candidate. You can also use skill-based assessments and reference checks with past employers to vet how well somebody would fit in a role. 
  • Allow candidates more control. Sometimes new situations can make a neurodivergent individual uncomfortable, which might affect their interview performance. Instead, you might let them have as much control and familiarity as possible. They could use their own laptops during assessments or bring supplies from home. For example, if you have them program on a company computer, you could let them use their own machine. Or if your technical skill assessments are open book, you could let applicants know they can bring books or notes. 
  • Keep the job itself in mind. As you talk with a candidate, try to remember what’s necessary for the job. That can help you give candidates some grace throughout the process. For example, if an individual doesn’t shake your hand after the conversation, they could still be right for the role if people skills are not mission-critical.
  • Try talent-matching software. Tools like this can help you use algorithms to match someone with a position — reducing the potential bias. It can also help you keep your focus on the skills required for the position. 

Collaborating with Neurodivergent-Allied Organizations

Another tactic is to work with experts on what you can do. That could include partnering with a specialized organization. For example, Allied Collaborative provides consulting on your recruiting and training processes. They also offer seminars that can give you great insights into finding this type of talent. 

Help Neurodivergent Employees Thrive

After you hire someone, it’s important to create a culture where they want to stay. Here are some tips to make your environment welcoming to your neurodivergent team members: 

Promote Awareness among Employees

Education is a powerful tool, and helping everyone in your organization understand neurodiversity can help them appreciate these individuals. This can be accomplished in many ways like providing official training or highlighting great work done by a variety of employees. 

Establishing Policies for Accommodation

Supporting your employees with individual accommodations can help them thrive. To make that process simple and fair, consider establishing official policies on how to put these accommodations into place. You could include it in your handbook or create a form for employees to fill out to request an adjustment. 

Some of the accommodations might include having headphones to avoid overstimulation or a designated space for breaks. Your team can help find solutions to accommodation requests. 

Providing Training for Managers

Leaders will need to understand the different communication styles of their neurodivergent employees. You could provide official courses or webinars for them to learn more about their team members. Training can also help them develop the necessary skills to support someone and help their team operate smoothly. 

Career Development Opportunities

Just like with all of your employees, advancement is important. Unfortunately, too many neurodivergent employees aren’t given the same opportunities as their peers. Consider implementing similar tactics to your promotion process as you do with hiring by staying focused on the requirements for the position. 

Supply Team Members with Tools

Say an employee has dyslexia. You may provide them  screen-reading software that helps them access text in new ways. Or you might give an employee with Autism noise-canceling headphones or cleaning supplies to keep their area spotless. These simple offerings can provide the support people need to excel in their role.

Include More Breaks

Long meetings could be difficult to sit through, especially for some neurodivergent individuals. For example, someone with ADHD might struggle to pay attention to all of the information. Try having everyone get up and walk around. What’s great about this is that almost every employee can benefit from stretch breaks throughout the day, so consider how you could implement breaks in meeting schedules — and for remote employees. 

Offer Mental Wellbeing Support

Access to therapy and other resources can help your neurodivergent workers support their mental wellness. 

Retain Top Talent with Employee Wellness

Neurodiversity can be powerful and can benefit your organization. Embracing neurodiversity also contributes to creating a culture of inclusion for everyone — which boosts retention. 

Another crucial element for keeping talent in your organization is a focus on employee wellness. Right now, 93% of workers consider their wellbeing at work to be equally important to their salary, according to Wellhub research. And not prioritizing wellness can actively drive people out the door: 87% workers in that same survey said they would consider leaving a company that doesn’t focus on employee wellbeing. 

Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist today to learn more about supporting all of your team members!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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