Some employers are looking to hire a certain number of neurodivergents, often autistic neurodivergents, but an employer will disservice themselves and their employees if they hire someone simply because they feel the need to hire someone of a particular neurotype, disability, or social group.
Neurodivergents bring unique skills to the workforce because they think differently than their neurotypical peers. Many tasks neurotypicals find difficult or impossible come easy to us. Many tasks neurotypicals find difficult or impossible come easy to them. When these differences are mixed, any problem is solvable. If, however, employees are not supported, if they don’t feel they are included and belong, they will not bring their whole selves to work, and will be unable to contribute their full selves, won’t be able to help solve these problems. In these cases, of which there are many, everyone loses.
Inclusion requires support. Employers can enable inclusion, equity, and belonging in the workplace by making a clear accommodation process, encouraging disclosure, deterring bullying, and focusing on the strengths and abilities of their employees rather than seeing only their disabilities. People work best when empowered, and people are empowered when their skills, rather than their weaknesses, are valued. It’s up to the employers to ensure that these employees, all employees, are given the accommodations they need to perform as well as their neurotypical colleagues.
One aspect of support I haven’t experienced much of as a member of the workforce is feedback. In my experience feedback is usually based on introductory trainings, but slips away after fully beginning the role. Or else I receive feedback only in the form of negative criticism, either as punishment for what people perceive as misbehavior, a threat to fire me, or as a reason I’ve been fired. Usually I’m just confused.
To ensure their autistic employees belong, employers should move beyond awareness to acceptance, employing a zero-tolerance bullying policy with accountability, sustaining these efforts via an Employee Resource Group, or a diversity or disability advisory board. I believe these places will work best for neurodivergents if a neurodivergent representative is in these groups. Employers should also provide the paths to promotion and other successes as they would any other employee, and should educate their workplaces about disability and neurodivergence, and offer multiple ways to train, learn, and work, allowing, as I’ve said before, the employee to state, “I work best when…”