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The Business Case for Neurodiversity

In a previous post, we explained how making a business case is not universally considered a good or even neutral activity. And that, on balance, we perceive it as still necessary at this point in time to make the business case for neuro-inclusion because of the extreme focus of organisations on profitability. In the future, as generational priorities shift and it is likely that more organisations will embrace the idea of prioritising values over profitability, we imagine that the business case will not only not be necessary but be considered in poor taste. But we are not quite there yet. So today, we’re going to go ahead and share the business case (or as much of it as we can in one newsletter).

Elements of the Business Case for Neurodiversity

1. Traits of neurodivergent individuals specifically that improve business outcomes

There are a number of traits linked to various neurotypes which are often considered an asset in a workplace context. It’s important to note though that not every neurodivergent person will possess each of these traits, and there should not be any expectation on them to do so. The traits often cited are creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, attention to detail, pattern recognition and productivity. Some of these traits, like creativity, are associated with many neurotypes (including bi-polar, dyslexia, ADHD and Autism), while others are mostly associated with Autism and have been most heavily analysed in studies by organisations in relation to Autistic individuals - with a key focus on the finding that Autistic individuals have been found to be 90-140% more productive than neurotypical peers. We urge taking this statistic with a grain of salt, as it can be problematic for many reasons - chief among them being that the small proportion of Autistic individuals that are in employment (3 in 10 in the UK) are statistically likely to be underemployed, in positions that do not reflect their experience or qualifications. It follows then that such individuals will be more efficient in tasks that are relatively easier for them.

2. The improvement in business outcomes that occurs by including more diverse groups in general

There are a whole lot of business reports and studies out there about the positive impact of improving diversity. Here’s some highlights specifically relating to disability and neurodiversity:

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co found that it’s Autistic teams were 50% more productive.

  • EY’s investment in ‘Neurodiverse Centres of Excellence’ has had a $650m+ return on investment since it’s beginnings in 2016

  • Accenture found that companies considered ‘leaders’ in the area of disability employment and inclusion had on average over a four-year period: 28% higher revenue, double the net income and 30% higher profit margins than comparator companies

3. The neurodivergent community as a source of untapped talent in the context of an aging population which will likely mean recurrent labour shortages in the coming decades

The business case here essentially suggests that by adapting your workplace to include Neurodivergent people now, you’re mitigating your future risks in the inevitable talent wars to come, and diversifying your labour supply. Yet if that diversification is truly a goal, current employment rates of Neurodivergent people are not an especially inspiring place to start from - as noted above, 3 in 10 Autistic individuals in the UK are in employment at present, with similar statistics found across the world.

4. The opportunity cost of not embracing neurodiversity on your position in the market versus other competitors who are

Microsoft has been an early adopter of Autism-specific hiring programs. What they found after starting this programs is that around half of program entrants had previously applied to them in their regular application process and been screened out. This both confirms the existence of an ‘untapped talent pool’, and negates the view that traditional hiring processes are already sourcing the best talent. So the opportunity cost then of not making your hiring processes neuro-inclusive is that your competitors will be the ones tapping into that talent.

5. The impact on your reputation for prospective customers and employees for failing to engage on an issue that is highly important to younger generations.

The opportunity cost above is exacerbated by the fact that Millennials and even more so Gen Z prioritise inclusion when evaluating workplaces. If you fail to take action to make your workplace more neuro-inclusive, you’ll surely have people who choose not to apply at all. But if you perfromatively embrace neurodiversity without actually changing anything in substance, you’ll likely also cause yourself a retention headache - and one that will cost you more than the investment in neuro-inclusivity would have in the long run.

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