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Majority of US workers say they lack awareness of workplace neurodiversity

March 24, 2024
Diversity & Inclusion

About 68% of U.S. employees say they’re unfamiliar with the term “neurodiversity,” and only 22% are aware of working with a neurodivergent colleague, according to a March 18 report from Eagle Hill Consulting.

Although 72% said they would hire a neurodivergent employee, few receive formal training on working with or managing neurodivergent workers.

“By some estimates, about 15 to 20 percent of the population is neurodiverse, and some employers increasingly are aware that these individuals can provide a competitive advantage,” Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, said in a statement.

“Neurodivergent employees often add tremendous value to a company with unique talents such as innovative problem solving, heightened attention to detail, sharp math and data analytics skills, reliability and perseverance,” she said. “But they also can face a multitude of big obstacles in the workplace — stigmas that create an inhospitable work environment, social and communication difficulties, sensory sensitivities that make a typical workplace overwhelming, or executive functioning challenges that can hinder their organization, time management and productivity.”

According to Eagle Hill, the term “neurodiversity” provides a framework for recognizing that some people’s brain functions and behavioral traits are different — not deficient. Neurodiversity can include autism spectrum, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. In general, neurodiverse workers can experience high rates of un- or underemployment.

In a survey of more than 1,200 U.S. employees, 57% said training in sensitivity around social differences would be valuable, and 56% said they would be interested in training on managing neurodivergent employees. However, only 14% percent said training is offered at their workplace.

Beyond that, only 16% of employees said there have been formal conversations about neurodiversity at their workplace, and 19% said neurodiversity is part of their corporate diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Overall, 85% said they’re unaware of a single neurodivergent employee who had been promoted in their organization. In addition, 69% said their employer doesn’t seek advice or input from neurodivergent employees when designing offices spaces, teams or project management systems.

Although neurodiverse inclusion is improving, a lack of awareness appears to be blocking progress, according to a 2022 Texthelp survey. Employers can create more awareness by providing training to workers and managers, developing support networks for neurodivergent employees and giving inclusion technology tools to everyone.

About half of neurodivergent workers said they want to quit their jobs — or already have — because they don’t feel valued or supported at work, according to an Alludo survey from 2023. Working from home, having a flexible schedule, taking regular breaks and having mental health days could help them feel better positioned to succeed at work, neurodivergent workers said.

Neurodiverse talent brings different perspectives to the workplace, which can be beneficial for both employers and employees alike, experts told HR Dive. In particular, neurodiverse workers may outperform neurotypical peers in detail-oriented and creative work, particularly in the tech labor market and fields such as cybersecurity, AI and supply chain logistics.

By Carolyn Crist


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