I thought I would take a break from my usual tasks to make myself a cuppa and wish all my fellow neurodiverse friends, family, colleagues, clients and contacts a very happy Dyslexia Awareness Week and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness) Month! October is a great opportunity for those of us in the neurodiverse community to celebrate our unique qualities, raise awareness and help to inform others.
It’s a true delight to be able to freely celebrate the fact that I am, like 10% of the UK population, dyslexic. Any neurodiverse individuals who went to school in the 80s will know all too well how until fairly recently many of us, including myself, choose not to disclose or talk about our Dyslexia for fear of being stigmatised and misunderstood.
For me personally, I worried that my ability and competence would be questioned, especially by an employer. However, things are changing for the better and now, I’m not just more open about my neurodiversity I feel I’ve grown in confidence as a result of being encouraged to be my true self at work, without needing to hide any aspects of who I am. That’s thanks to joining Solomons Europe seven years ago – a company that is genuinely inclusive – and as a result of greater general awareness in society.
This month I’m looking forward to celebrating with my colleagues by raising awareness and utilising the great media resources provided by the British Dyslexia Association and their #UniquelyYou campaign, having some open conversations about peoples’ own experiences, while also helping to dispel a few myths.
I’m very proud to say I work for an organisation that embraces employees for who they are and encourages us to be ourselves. I would advocate to other organisations to review your culture and processes to ensure all employees feel free to be themselves. Creating an open culture, built on trust, where everyone feels they are safe to share who they are, is key to inclusivity for any organisation. This requires leadership and management teams to lead by example and open up about their own vulnerabilities, which can be difficult.
Whenever I’ve felt safe to share information about myself at work, I’ve been rewarded with openness and honesty from others. This in turn helps us as an organisation to understand how best to support, develop and champion each other, creating a rich and multilayered work culture, where we can all thrive.
Raising awareness and understanding through training, enables leaders and mangers to learn how to get the best from neurologically diverse employees and colleagues, which can have a positive and direct impact on successful business outcomes. Dyslexic thinkers have many unique qualities which they can bring to an organisation if they are given the freedom and the space to be themselves. I don’t want to generalise because all dyslexic people are unique. We’ve all learned to adapt in different ways, homing in on different skills to do so. However, quite often, dyslexic thinkers have highly developed visualisation skills which enables us to think laterally about issues and suggest unique solutions. We can be very creative, have the ability to read people and situations easily (which comes in very handy, particularly in my role!) and have high levels of motivation and perseverance.
It is estimated that around 3.3 million adults in the UK workplace have Dyslexia, although the numbers could be much higher due to under diagnosis. In light of this it’s crucial for all organisations to create an environment where:
- The recruitment and selection processes are inclusive and attract candidates from a wide sector of society;
- Managers are trained appropriately to support neurodiversity and harness the unique skillsets;
- Awareness training is provided to all employees to inform, bust myths and champion neurodiversity;
- Utilise Assistive Technology to support individuals on a practical level (e.g., Grammarly, SpeechPad);
- Note to managers – be clear and concise with actions and request and give timescales for completion. Spot individuals strengths and support them to flourish.
The charity Made By Dyslexia’s Chief Executive, Kate Griggs said that “… dyslexic thinking is a perfect co-pilot with AI [Artificial Intelligence]. AI can’t replace soft skills or power skills that every organisation needs, like innovation, lateral thinking, complex problem solving and interpersonal skills... these are dyslexic thinking skills.”
This would suggest that the skills of dyslexic thinkers will become sort after as society adapts to AI. In an era where many sectors are suffering from a skills shortage and lower levels of productivity due to resourcing challenges, it’s time to adapt recruitment and selection processes, review job roles and requirements and make opportunities available and inclusive to all.
Personally, I like to look beyond the CV and focus in on the nuggets of information that stand out and I find out more. This tends to lead to interesting conversations with a diverse range of people, looking at skills and behaviours not just experience, often resulting in successful hires.
I would encourage organisations to widen their viewpoint, truly embrace diversity and harness the many benefits that inclusivity will bring to your business – in the process future proofing your workforce and positively impacting the bottom line. There’s still a way to go, but there is a huge amount to celebrate. I raise my mug of tea to everyone finding their way on their own neurodiverse path. Keep being #UniquelyYou!