“It's incredibly important for businesses like the advice industry and advisers to become more aware of such conditions, and to challenge misconceptions, fears and stigmas as there are so many people that are neurodiverse, many that do not have any diagnosis.”
According to Knowles, “we are all interacting with people that are neurodiverse on a regular basis, we just don't always know about it. Advisers need to know as it could influence the way that they communicate with clients and each other, to make sure that they are providing information in the best way for others to understand it.”
For Knowles, inclusion of neurodiversity means recognising and building on strengths, and if this can be achieved it will be a win/win for the industry.
“Not only is this important in a work environment, but the more we can do to raise awareness through work, the more people will better their understanding in all aspects of their lives.
“Not only this, but there will be people that we work alongside that are neurodiverse without a formal diagnosis, or who haven't shared their diagnosis, and it will help us to work more effectively with colleagues and see their strengths.”
Kirby notes as a crucial part of building awareness and breaking down barriers of stigma and fear, it is important that “all that managers have the appropriate training around neurodiversity and this training is not undertaking it in boxes, for example, a course on autism and another one relating to dyslexia.
“It is better to think about managers improving communication and ensuring people can optimise their performance.”
“This needs two approaches: one that is about current processes and practices at an organisational level; and then understanding how and where an individual can get support that they may require – within a large organisation having 'champions' on the ground that can help people navigate what is available is really helpful.”
An aspect of looking at current practices is to take a “critical view of recruitment processes to ensure that they are actually inclusive at all stages,” says Kirby.
This may include “thinking about the words in a job description and what may put off a potential applicant. How inclusive are the recruitment processes such as group exercises, cognitive profiling, or interviews. If someone is not 'customer facing' do they really need excellent communication skills if they work in an analytical role?”
At Zurich a similarly adjusted approach is taken.