DiversityFeb 27 2023

Why neurodivergent workforces boost your firm's resilience

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Why neurodivergent workforces boost your firm's resilience
Neurodiverse staff can bring huge potential to a company. (Fauxels/Pexels)
ByAnita Boniface

Diversity of thought is essential for innovation, agility, change and growth.

In a constantly changing world, businesses need to create a shift in culture to successfully navigate unchartered waters.

The need for recognising intersectionality requires acknowledging a workforce that is already diverse – racially diverse, gender diverse and neurodiverse – with the understanding that every possible kind of diversity already exists within clients, suppliers, and employees.

Greater inclusion leads to superior business outcomes.

Diversity of thought requires businesses to consider how to engage with all under-represented groups, including neurodivergent individuals.

New ideas and innovation

These individuals are often excluded through restrictive recruitment practises, retention and promotion process and procedures that are predominately aimed at the neurotypical. 

Johnny Timpson, supervisory board member of Gain – the group for Group for Autism, Insurance, Investment and Neurodiversity – is a member of the neurodiverse community himself.

He says: "Businesses need to consider a cultural shift that demands a neuroinclusive workplace. A safe haven where diverse voices feel empowered to bring their whole selves and innovative ideas to the conversation.

We can diverge positively with our strengths, which is exactly what financial institutions need to attract talent.Dame Amanda Kirby

"New ideas start with challenge; a challenge to the existing old ideas and old ways of thinking. Such innovation can be readily found within the skills and abilities of neurodivergent individuals.” 

This sharing of new ways of thinking and innovation present "clear benefits", according to Peter Hamilton, head of market engagement at Zurich (pictured below, at the 2022 FTAdviser Diversity in Finance Awards).

Hamilton says: "There are really clear benefits from having a diverse workforce that reflects the profile of the customers you are looking to serve, whether that’s across areas such as gender, ethnicity, or disability. 

"Having a neurodiverse workforce brings additional benefits; it’s tapping into a valuable talent pool often with a very different skill set.”

Variety of skills

That skill set is not just focused in one particular area.

Traditionally, people consider those who are neurodiverse to be mathematically inclined or studiously analytical, but the skill set itself is diverse, says Laurie Edmans, co-chairperson of Gain, financial inclusion commissioner and chairperson of the Quest school for autistic children.

Peter Hamilton, head of market engagement for Zurich. (Carmen Reichman/FTAdviser)

Edmans is keen to point out that while it is common to associate neurodiversity with more analytical left-brain thinking, many people on the spectrum of neurodiverse conditions have strengths in a variety of areas.

He explains: “I’m conscious of much being said, namely that people with autism tend to be stronger in relation to analytical thinking, identifying patterns and problem solving.