Furthermore according to the National Autistic Society only 16% of adults with autism are currently in full time paid employment, despite 77% wanting to work. It appears there is a significant degree of inequality when it comes to the promotion of diversity.
Most people are aware of conditions that are "on the spectrum" - autism, Asperger's and attention deficit disorder amongst them, even if the term "neurodiversity" has only recently been more widely understood. Irrespective of the label, a primary problem has been a wide spread perception of neurodiversity as a medical condition with the negative connotations that brings with it, rather than a naturally different way of thinking and experiencing the world. Differing ways of thinking mean alternative ways of looking at and potentially solving problems.
If you require persuasion about the benefits of employing neurodivergent staff, last year's CIPD guide on neurodiversity at work is an extremely good place to start. Not only does the guide identify a number of extremely successful neurodivergent people (examples ranging from Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and IKEA founder Ingvar Kampard to Daniel Radcliffe, Florence Welch and Cara Delevigne) there are also testimonials from a number of companies who have pioneered neurodiverse ways of working. A particularly compelling example comes from JP Morgan who reported that "after three to six months working in the Mortgage Banking Technology division, autistic workers were doing the work of people who took three years to ramp up - and were 50% more productive".
Whilst neurodivergent employees may share a number of characteristics they can be very differently affected. That said, typical strengths associated with the neurodivergent individuals include problem solving and analytical thinking, an ability to concentrate for lengthy periods of time and to assimilate and retain detailed information. All positive skills valued by most employers.
Of course, the additional challenges that come with promoting neurodiversity in the workplace can't be ignored. Some neurodivergent conditions will amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and employers will need to comply with the legal obligations that arise in consequence of that. However, employers need to bear in mind that a neuro typical employee may develop a disability during the course of employment, or simply prove to be a poor performer, so not diversifying at the recruitment stage may well be a false economy.
As the benefits of diversifying become more widely appreciated the guidance available both on what neurodiversity is and, specifically, how employers can change their workplace to support it is also becoming more readily available. ACAS has recently published guidance covering neurodiversity in the workplace, how employers can change the workplace to better support neurodiversity and how managers can manage neurodivergent staff. As the CIPD guide is quick to point out, many of the simple adjustments that can be made for neurodivergent employees are actually good for everybody. As such, embracing and supporting neurodiversity can help create not only a stronger workforce but also a healthier workplace overall.