Neurodiversity Awareness Low Among U.S. Employees

March 20, 2024

According to new research by Eagle Hill Consulting, 68% of U.S. employees surveyed either are unfamiliar with the term “neurodiversity” or don’t know its meaning.

As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, neurodiversity, as the term is used in the workplace, is the inclusion of people with different types of brain functioning—such as individuals with autism or dyslexia, to name just a few of the many examples.

The report, Neurodiversity in the Workplace, was conducted by research company Ipsos in January 2024. It included a random sample of 1,261 full- and part-time adult employees across the United States.

According to the survey, 72% of its participants would hire a neurodivergent employee, despite their lack of familiarity with the term and even though few workers had been trained on working with or managing neurodivergent workers. Only 22% could say that they currently work with someone who is neurodiverse.

“By some estimates, about 15 to 20% of the population is neurodiverse, and some employers increasingly are aware that these individuals can provide a competitive advantage,” said Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting president and CEO. “Neurodivergent employees often add tremendous value to a company with unique talents such as innovative problem solving, heightened attention to detail, sharp math and data analytics skills, reliability, and perseverance. But they also can face a multitude of big obstacles in the workplace—stigmas that create an inhospitable work environment, social and communication difficulties, sensory sensitives that make a typical workplace overwhelming, or executive functioning challenges that can hinder their organization, time management, and productivity.”

Regarding some of those obstacles, the report found that, even though most employees valued accommodations that would also make it easier for neurodivergent employees to participate more fully in the workplace, such accommodations were often not offered.

For example, 60% the surveyed employees said they value the ability to work from home, but only 41% have that option to do so. Similarly, 64% said they value options for different ways of taking in and communicating information, and 63% value the ability to communicate via text as opposed to videoconference, and yet, only 47% and 55%, respectively, have these options available to them.

Finally, most employees (64%) said they would find technology, such as smartphone alarms, calendars, and time management software, helpful, but only 53% had access to such technology.

When asked what aspects of neurodiversity they believed would be the biggest impediments to success in the workplace, employees most often cited problems with executive functioning, such as difficulty prioritizing, meeting deadlines, and staying on task, with 81% believing that these issues would make it difficult for an individual to succeed at work.

“Despite highly coveted employee attributes—from frequently high intelligence and academic achievement levels to unique skills and perspectives—employees who identify as neurodiverse typically face an uphill battle at work against long-held definitions of acceptable social interaction and traditional methods of hiring, managing, and promoting,” the report concluded.

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