There seems to be a lot of buzz around ‘neurodiversity’ currently, but what does it mean for your business?

It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent. However, this number is likely to be much bigger. A neurodivergent brain has developed in a different way to that which is considered ‘typical’ (or neurotypical), and can result in any of the following conditions: ADHD, dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia, and OCD to name a few.

By its very definition, diversity means difference. Neurodiversity means a difference in seeing and experiencing the world. Difference should be nurtured and embraced. How are you going to make your business stand out and be different? By employing and supporting people who are different; people who are naturally innovative, productive and problem- solvers. And how are you going to attract and retain these different people? By doing things a bit, well, differently.

Michelle Tiller, People Partner at Brewhouse & Kitchen says, “I’ve always believed that everybody has something to offer…and you don’t want a workforce that is all the same, because actually our guests aren’t all the same either.”

Too often, neurodiverse individuals are assessed by ‘typical’ standards, meaning the focus falls on what they can’t do.

You wouldn’t expect an athlete with a prosthetic leg to compete in a race with two-legged athletes. It wouldn’t be fair. Similarly, we can’t expect neurodiverse people to perform in the same way as neurotypical people.

Research published in the report ‘Neurodiversity at Work 2023’ by Birkbeck University reveals that 80% of neurodiverse people surveyed considered hyperfocus to be a strength, 78% creativity, 75% innovative thinking and 71% detail processing. In order to foster and benefit from these strengths, you need to nurture your neurodiverse employees so that they feel psychologically safe and able to thrive.

Furthermore, it has been reported that when companies start considering how to nurture their neurodiverse employees, they do the same for their whole workforce, resulting in higher levels of staff morale and wellbeing, and increased productivity all round. 

So why are businesses hesitating when it comes to supporting neurodiversity in the workplace? Michelle says, “When we first became a Disability Confident Employer, there was a fear from some about getting something wrong – ‘What will the repercussions be?’ and questions like ‘How could someone with autism, for example, work in hospitality?’ We now have neurodiverse colleagues working at Brewhouse & Kitchen, some colleagues we just make minor adjustments for, which do not cost a penny, and they’re doing really well.

Being a neuro-inclusive business will also make you more attractive to future applicants, as well as potential customers. Are you on board yet?

As we have seen, neurodiverse employees can bring a huge variety of skills, which are often more pronounced than their neurotypical colleagues. So how can you harness these assets to give your business an advantage?

Firstly, talk to the experts – your neurodiverse employees. They are best-equipped to tell you what impacts their ability and productivity, and what they need in order to excel in their role. They are your most valuable resource and can offer insight on how to develop neuroinclusive hiring practices (e.g. removing wordy, jargon-filled job descriptions and eradicating interviews based on social skills), educating managers and colleagues, and workplace accommodations.

Secondly, don’t be afraid of difference. Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean that a different way can’t be even better. At Brewhouse & Kitchen, they “don’t start with a ‘no’…but with ‘what can we do, rather than what can’t we do?’”

They have spent the last 18 months focussing on becoming a more neuro-inclusive employer, and Michelle’s advice for other businesses? “We started by committing to making small changes within our business and changing perceptions of our colleagues and guests. Brewhouse & Kitchen have built strong networks with local careers hubs, education providers and local businesses and we offer a variety of training to our colleagues, including training in partnership with Autism Unlimited to upskill our colleagues and support their understanding. My advice would be to not overcomplicate things for your business, small changes make a difference to the individuals and our business, and grow in momentum.”