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How Tech Companies are Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace

In the fiercely competitive world of tech, many companies are jockeying to gain the upper hand. One obvious way is by being first to market with groundbreaking technology. But to do that, you need the best people. So how do you get the best team?

Ed Thompson, founder and CEO of Uptimize, says it’s by embracing neurodiversity in the workplace. The company has helped top tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Salesforce harness the talents of all types of thinkers.

TN: Tell us what you mean by neurodiversity. You also draw a distinction here between neurodiversity and neurodivergence.

Ed Thompson: Neurodiversity refers to the simple fact that no two brains are the same. We all learn, communicate and work differently because of our unique brain wiring.

A neurodivergent person is somebody whose brain wiring differs, in the words of autistic writer and educator Nick Walker, ‘from societal expectations of “normal.”’ Some examples include autistic people, ADHDers and dyslexic people, among others.

It’s estimated that neurodivergent people may constitute as much as 15 to 20 percent of the general population.

TN: Why should tech corporations care about neurodiversity?

Ed Thompson: The tech world is insanely competitive.

Companies are always striving to outdo each other with better products, tighter deadlines, and consistent service.

If you want to have the highest chance of winning, you need to have the best team.

In order to have the best team, you have to make sure that you’re not missing out on top talent.

Embracing neurodiversity is what allows you to tap into the full potential of human talent.

Yet, when corporations don’t practice this, they’re unintentionally excluding up to 20% of the population.

The next Steve Jobs might be in that 20%, and you’ve just missed that person and missed out on everything they can bring to your team in terms of creativity, diversity of thought and so on.

TN: What are the tangible benefits when corporations embrace neurodiversity?

Ed Thompson: Companies that embrace neurodiversity gain a significant competitive advantage.

There are measurable increases in productivity.

We’ve helped realize 90+ percent retention rates and 50 to 90 percent increases in team productivity by working with tech companies on their neurodiversity programs.

Organizations that don’t harness the full spectrum of human talent are leaving a lot of potential on the table.

TN: How can organizations implement this?

Ed Thompson: A foundational principle at Uptimize is Universal Design, which means proactively including and leveraging everybody, whatever their neurotype.

Flexibility across the employee experience is one very simple way to get started, recognizing that a standard office 9-to-5 environment doesn’t allow everyone to do their best work.

For some, it can be as simple as access to noise-canceling headphones, for others, this could mean a remote working arrangement, as various neurotypes respond differently to varying sensory experiences.

It can also look like the application of intentional, educated hiring practices that recognize that not everyone presents and communicates the same way.