Empowering Neurodivergent Voices – Building a Culture of Inclusion

Fri, 22 Mar 2024
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Impact’s Jules Dosne and Carly David brought together an intimate group to join a roundtable discussion led by DEIB Consultant and Coach, Ben de Pfeiffer-Key *, in celebration of Neurodiversity Week.

An inspiring and thought-provoking discussion where Ben shared insights and built on our understanding of challenges faced and actionable steps businesses can take.  It was uplifting to hear the progress some creative businesses are making where they are recognising and celebrating the strengths and talents of individuals with neurological differences.

Diving into our discussion:

The creative industry thrives on fresh ideas and diverse perspectives. But what if a significant portion of your talent pool feels invisible or unsupported?

That’s the reality for many neurodiverse individuals, who face challenges in the workplace due to a lack of understanding.

So, what is Neurodiversity? We brought together HR leaders from across the industry to unpack this question and more at our roundtable discussion in recognition of Neurodiversity Celebration Week.

Simply put, Neurodiversity means that our brains work differently, with a focus on neurodevelopmental or neurodivergent conditions like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and dyscalculia that fall outside of how society is typically designed to think.

Contrary to some schools of thought, however, these are not deficits but rather different ways of processing information, we just need to learn to embrace them.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Up to 20% of the UK population is neurodivergent.
  • Neurodiverse individuals can bring innovation, creativity, and a keen eye for detail
  • The unemployment rate is estimated to be up to 10 x higher for neurodiverse individuals
  • Conditions can lead to sensory overload, and difficulty with organisation, written, verbal and social communication.

Why it Matters

A staggering 64% of employers admit to lacking knowledge about Neurodiversity. This can breed a culture of stigma and shame, with 65% of employees fearing discrimination.

The good news is that by embracing neurodiversity, it can be a competitive advantage and taps into a pool of talent that unlocks the full potential of your team.

How can we create workplaces that support Neurodiverse talent?

Our roundtable conversation highlighted that whilst there is still work to be done, the conversation around this topic is becoming more common, with organisations at various stages of readiness investing time and money in how they can support a level playing field for talent.

  • Start with Awareness: Educate yourself and your team.
  • Welcome Open Communication: Encourage employees to feel comfortable disclosing their needs.
  • Inclusive Recruiting and Onboarding: Be transparent, set clear expectations and provide accessible resources from the get-go.
  • Embrace ERGs (Employee Resource Groups): Create a community for neurodiverse talent, these can champion inclusivity and give you insight into their real needs.
  • Invest in Support: Offer coaching, mentorship, flexible work arrangements and technology.
  • Accommodate the Environment: Offer choice and empower talent to minimise distractions, sensory overload or accessible communications.
  • Focus on Ability: Seek to understand the unique strengths the various conditions bring, and think about how your business is able to utilise them better.

True change requires commitment from the top and Leaders can champion neurodiversity through publicly advocating for change, holding you and your organisations accountable and encouraging senior leaders with neurodivergence to share their experiences to inspire others.

The impact of inclusivity also extends beyond our organisations and we discussed how we can advocate for change in our wider industries, in particular with clients, customers and suppliers.

Be transparent about Neurodiversity and partnering with clients to manage expectations, whilst encouraging employees to disclose their needs to gain a better understanding of your workforce, and how you can support each individual.

Special thanks to Ben for leading our discussion, to Carlene Read MCIPD at Weber Shandwick, Amy Dunlop at Wieden + Kennedy, Koral Neil at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Kate Bell at AMV BBDO, Michelle Joseph at Iris and Lisa Hayden at Hotwire for joining us today and to Weber Shandwick for your fabulous hospitality.

*Ben is a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Consultant and Coach who partners with internal DEI, HR and leadership teams to support the creation and delivery of DEI strategies through culture change and transformation. Alongside this, he works with underrepresented talent, with a focus on neurodiversity, LGBTQ+, women and people of colour, on a transformational journey to become advocates for themselves, and others through coaching.

He brings 20 years of experience, both as a consultant and in-house, with some of the world’s best-known fashion and luxury brands, most notably as the first DEI lead for Capri Holding Limited (Versace, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors) in EMEA. Prior to that, he delivered inclusive talent acquisition strategies for AllSaints, Yoox Net-A-Porter Group and Topshop Topman.

He has lived and worked in the UK, North America and Australia, partnering with C-Suite and regional executives to develop and implement strategies that are tailored to regional nuances.