Trending / April 29, 2024

Embracing Neurodiversity: Creating Inclusive Workplaces

Thinking back on my experiences in different jobs as a neurodivergent individual, it’s been quite a ride. Some places struggled to understand the way I work and discounted or dismissed my perspective. Yet other organizations, like Gigamon, embraced the value in my unique abilities. All of these experiences have taught me something important: workplaces need to be inclusive of all kinds of minds. They need to embrace neurodiversity—our different ways of thinking and seeing the world—not just for social responsibilities, but also to drive innovation and overall performance.

As the director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at Gigamon, I’m on a mission to make our workplace a powerful example of inclusivity. Drawing from my own journey of feeling isolated or excluded in the workplace, I am committed to making sure everyone feels welcome, valued, and has a sense of belonging here. Gigamon continues to strive for improvement in our inclusivity efforts. Below is a look at initiatives we have already implemented or are actively exploring that can help you whether you are an individual contributor, a hiring manager, or an executive.

Changing How We Look at Hiring

When looking at new hires—or even current employees—a term that you should replace is “Culture Fit” and instead adopt “Culture Add.” I recommend looking for people who will help evolve our culture, not people who think and perceive the world the same way. Hire for the future state not just the current need. Real innovation comes from diversity of thought, and you can’t achieve this if you look for “Culture Fit.”

Making Interviews Work for Everyone

Adapting to the interview needs of a candidate is essential. Typical interviews are designed with neurotypical people in mind. Neurodiverse individuals often have sensory processing issues and difficulties understanding body language, facial expressions, vocal tone, and social norms. Formats like panel interviewing can exacerbate this and result in “under performance.” Reframe how you look at desired tone, body language, and other social norms, because a person’s ability to do most jobs is not tied to these specific characteristics. Consider the type of questions you ask during the interview process. Avoid any question that starts with “imagine;” instead ask them to use past examples. For example, you could ask: “When faced with a challenging problem at work, how do you typically approach finding a solution? Could you share some strategies or techniques that have been effective for you in the past?”

Hiring managers must let go of their personal preferences and acknowledge that some roles and candidates may require a different format that will allow neurodiverse people to shine.

Creating Inclusive Environments

Finding and hiring talented neurodiverse people is only the beginning of creating an inclusive workplace. Ensuring that neurodiverse employees can flourish once they join is the most important piece. It starts with education, taking the time to educate yourself and your team on neurodiversity will allow for understanding, accommodation, and collaboration. Make the effort to include all employees’ voices in projects, programs, and meetings. This may look different for each individual and team. Consider providing flexible work arrangements or alternative communication channels for neurodiverse employees. Some individuals may thrive with written communication, while others may prefer face-to-face interactions. Managers should take an active role in supporting neurodiverse employees. Consider initiating conversations with employees to understand their unique needs and preferences.

Embracing different communication and engagement styles goes beyond what traditionally has been termed accommodations and in the end benefits everyone. We get new perspectives and diverse thoughts and ideas, all of which support our core belief of innovation.

Looking to the Future

As we celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, it’s essential to recognize an important statistic: 1 in 5 adults in the workplace are neurodivergent. This number underscores the significance of understanding and appreciating each other’s unique strengths. It’s a reminder of why inclusivity is paramount in creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their best. At Gigamon, we’re committed to fostering an environment where neurodiversity isn’t just accepted, it’s recognized and celebrated all year long.

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