What do organizations like Microsoft, Facebook, Virgin, HSBC, and even the UK’s GCHQ have in common? They have all, very recently, begun actively seeking out neurodiverse candidates.
Why, you ask? Because we now have increasingly more evidence that dyslexia is a ‘different’ way of thinking, not a lesser one. If you want proof of this, you can look no further than a recent report by E&Y, titled “The Value of Dyslexia', which found that employees who experience dyslexia excelled in key areas like idea generation, problem solving, leadership, critical reasoning, and ‘three dimensional thinking’.
So, what can we take from all of this? Well, we can finally say that dyslexia in the workplace is fundamentally an ‘accessibility’ issue, not an issue of talent. Studies like these suggest that, in addition to a moral duty to be inclusive, there is also a key strategic and financial imperative behind cultivating a neurodiverse workforce.
There is a caveat here, however. In order for organizations to benefit from the unique skill sets of employees who also experience dyslexia, they also need to be aware of the challenges they may face, and be ready to make improvements to the work environment.
Fortunately, these accommodations benefit the organization as a whole! Below we’ve listed some simple workplace changes that can help ensure employees experiencing dyslexia reach their full potential in their roles.
Provide the tools
The challenges individuals with dyslexia face when dealing with written language can be a major barrier in their everyday lives. What may surprise you, however, is that we are currently going through a period of exceptional progress towards eroding these barriers. There is already a wide range of dynamic software that assist individuals in overcoming key struggles around reading and writing - and the market for this is set to grow even bigger!
Perhaps the most well-known is Grammarly, which is an app which proofreads your writing for grammar issues, as well as provides insightful recommendations around the quality and flow of your written language. The great thing about Grammarly is that it can be used as its own stand-alone word processing app, or can act as a useful plug-in when using software such as Gmail and outlook. This means it can fit neatly into almost any established work environment whether on-site or remote.
On the note-taking side of things, meeting recording software, such as Otter.Ai, is also becoming more popular. Rather than face the pressure of both taking notes and contributing to a meeting, note taking software allows neurodiverse employees to focus on engaging with clients and colleagues without fear of missing key information.
And finally, text-to-speech software, such as Speechify, can provide a huge quality of life solution for employees with dyslexia, especially when digesting large amounts of information in a short period of time. Where possible, it's highly recommended that employers use digital versions of documents so dyslexic workers can choose to use text-to-speech software, if they so wish.
Ultimately, more important than the tech itself, is the responsibility employers have in providing these tools for their staff. As an employer, you should be keeping up to date on new software that could prove beneficial to your workforce, as well as setting aside budget to implement them.
In order to fully understand the challenges dyslexic employees face in the workplace, it is paramount that employers actively cultivate an environment of open-communication.
There is still a whole host of unwarranted stigma around neurodivergence. Despite all the best intentions from employers, many employees could be holding themselves back in asking for extra assistance or special considerations.
Avoiding this once again requires proactivity. Let your employees know that your organization accepts and encourages neurodivergence, and if an employee has shared that they have dyslexia, don’t be afraid to use 1-to-1 meetings to gauge whether they need any extra assistance, as well as discuss any potential solutions.
Ensure your entire organization is onboard
Building an inclusive workplace is a company wide endeavor. While providing tools and assistance to employees experiencing dyslexia is an excellent first step, feelings of stress and alienation from co-workers can severely dampen any efforts made towards inclusivity.
Consequently, we strongly recommend businesses research and invest in company-wide neurodiversity awareness training. By being aware of the challenges their colleagues face, team members will be more capable of effectively working together towards common goals.
Despite all the progress being made in tackling issues surrounding neurodivergence, it is important to keep in mind that nothing changes overnight. With all the tools at an employer's disposal, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of believing in quick fixes. Like everything else, inclusivity and accessibility are ongoing issues that require persistence and dedication - especially during times of significant change. Before actioning anything mentioned above, make sure you have a genuine plan of action, and that you are ready listen to your employees as you work towards solutions together.
If you don’t know where to start, we have nested our introduction to neurodiversity within our self-directed course on Diversity and Inclusion. It covers important points regarding neurodiversity and how it plays out in the workplace. We find that departing from a place of compassion and having the willingness to learn is an essential step in making workplaces welcoming for all.