Being an advocate for neurodivergent people has always been a massive part of my life. My brother’s autistic. He sparked a passion in me to work on projects supporting neurodivergent people in their role at work and in the hiring process. I’ve done lots of work in this space throughout my career, including here at Made Tech.
Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains and minds. Someone who’s neurodivergent behaves, thinks and learns differently from what’s considered “neurotypical”. Some neurodivergent conditions include autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, social anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Communication, training and ways of working
Being neurodivergent isn’t a rare thing. At least 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent. At Made Tech, we know at least 15% of our teammates identify as being neurodivergent. The reality is, there are probably more. But not everyone will feel comfortable talking about it in the workplace. And that’s totally understandable.
We just need to make sure we’re creating a space for people to share things if they feel comfortable doing so, and support our people in the best way we can. Let’s talk about some ways we can do that.
Look at how you currently communicate with the team. For example, working together virtually can be overwhelming for anyone given the number of different software and tools we use. Ask people what their preferred communication style is. For example, some people may understand and digest things better visually rather than in written text. Consider using tools like Miro to share information, rather than a word document. The benefits of communicating better don’t just benefit neurodivergent teammates, it benefits the whole team. You could also consider things like:
- speaking as clearly as possible
- using short sentences in emails and messages
- avoiding using ambiguous language
- making sure there’s context and/or an agenda for every meeting invite
Holding training sessions with people from across the organisation is so important. This way teammates will have a better understanding and awareness of neurodiversity and how to support people. We’ve done some training with an organisation called Adjust. We also did a company-wide lunch and learn with them, and separate training for our talent team and line managers.
Ways of working
I encourage you all not to get too comfortable with your current ways of working, and don’t be afraid to challenge the way we work as a team if you feel something’s not right or can be done better. For example, ask questions like “does this conversation need to be had in a video call?”
When we get too comfortable with one way of working, we’re not considering the impact it might have on others. We need to constantly adapt to make sure we’re truly working in an inclusive way.
There are great resources out there that are underrepresented and underused that can help support teammates at work.
Free assistive technology tools – Teams can use built-in tech software to help support reading and writing.
Manual of Me – This is a document that helps people to communicate with their teammates, their preferred way of working and communicating.
Writing tools – Use things like Grammarly and the Hemingway App. These tools help review spelling, grammar, punctuation, fluency and sentence structure.
The Pomodoro method – This helps to break the workday into 25-minute focus periods followed by five-minute breaks. We like to use a tool called Kaizen flow.
Exceptional Individuals – This organisation does workplace audits on physical and virtual workplace environments. Their team assesses things like organisational culture, with a focus on fairness, inclusivity, diversity and support available to teammates.
We’ve got some great Slack communities that I encourage everyone to join! One’s called x-neurodiversity, and there’s a wider community channel called cop-equity-diversity-and-inclusion. We also have more specific channels, like x-adhd-support, and a more private, closed group for neurodivergent teammates.
These channels are a space for people to share their experiences, talk about challenges they face, share resources with each other, and support others. It’s been awesome seeing these channels grow!
Improving our processes
We need to continuously improve the way we do things to make sure we continue to meet people’s needs. Here are some things we’ve been doing to make sure what we’re doing in the neurodiversity space is best practice.
The hiring process
We’re always looking at ways to better support people when it comes to making reasonable adjustments in the interview process.
It’s not enough to say “we can provide reasonable adjustments”. One thing we’ve learned is to always ask neurodivergent candidates how they’d like to be supported in interviews. But also, some people who need reasonable adjustments don’t know what they can ask for and what’s available to them. For example, we show interviewees the type of support we’ve given others in the past. This can look like giving extended time in interviews or sending questions in a video chat so people can see them written down.
We’re also looking into how we can better support neurodivergent interviewers. It can be tricky for anyone doing lots of context switching throughout the day. So, for example, we want to make sure our people have the time and resources they need to prepare for interviews. We’ll keep you updated on our plans!
Neurodiversity in Business
We’re a Neurodiversity in Business member. It’s a forum and industry group for organisations to share good practice for neurodiverse recruitment, retention, and empowerment. It helps our efforts to improve support for neurodivergent teammates, and encourage more to work with us. We’ve gone to some of their events where people from different industries, including neurodivergent leaders, have shared with us what best practice looks like in this space. We also find their members’ hub super useful. There are lots of helpful tools and resources like guides for individuals, HR teams, and job seekers.
Meeting diverse user experiences
At Made Tech, we build public services that make a positive impact on society. Many people rely on these services day-to-day so making sure they’re accessible and meet diverse user experiences is crucial. We need teammates with different perspectives to help make this happen. We strive to make sure Made Tech’s an equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace. This covers neurodiversity, diversity in race, sexuality, gender, disability, education and experience.
If you’re thinking about joining our team, learn more about us and see our open roles. If you want to find out more about how we’re working to create an inclusive environment for everyone at Made Tech, read our latest insights on Life at Made Tech. And why not subscribe to our Made Tech Insights newsletter to get new blog posts straight to your inbox?