Professional Practices Alliance Webinar: Neurodiversity in Professional Services Firm Leadership
The importance of neurodiverstiy
What is neurodiversity/neurodivergence? It is acceptance, celebration and value of the fact that we all think differently. Against that backdrop, it is appropriate to use a range of terminology (e.g. neurodiversity and/or neurodivergence).
If you have people who think differently, you will get a competitive advantage: professional firms really need to understand their clients and workforce. GCHQ recognises openly that it wouldn’t be the organisation it is without neurodiversity.
- So difficult to differentiate in today’s hyper-competitive world. Harnessing neurodiversity may be key to this, but you need to ensure you know how make the most of the neurodiversity.
- No research has shown that homogeneity is good for decision making.
- Vital that there is room for disagreement in the process of group decision-making, but important to avoid personal conflict.
Promoting neurodiversity in practice
- 15% of workforce could be neurodiverse, but recent survey only 1/10 HR professionals focus on neurodiversity.
- Being formally diagnosed as neurodiverse can involve being ‘labelled’, which may be daunting if the individual is concerned that the people interacting with them do not understand the implications and benefits associated with that label.
- Everyone should look at themselves and identify what their brain can do, and what they’re good at (or not good at).
- Not everyone views their neurodiversity as a disability (often it can be a superpower!), but some may. If they do, firms have an obligation under the Equality Act to avoid disability discrimination, make reasonable adjustments and not to treat someone unfavourably.
- In practice, how can firms make reasonable adjustments? It depends. Engaging with them and understanding their outlook is a good starting point.
- Some people with autism dislike uncertainty, so something simple like guaranteeing them a car parking space or desk (as opposed to imposing a hot desk arrangement) could make a huge difference.
- If someone struggles with organisation, provide good PA support (even if they might otherwise be too junior to be eligible for this level of support).
- How can firms raise awareness and support neurodiverse individuals?
- Advocacy from the top is huge: it allows and encourages others to be open about their neurodiversity (as we have seen with people being open about mental health issues, which over time has led to significant progress on transparency and acceptance).
- Training – 86% of managers feel they don’t have a proper understanding, which is a concern if 15% of the workforce is neurodiverse. Don’t overlook training for the rest of the team too, to avoid ostracization of neurodiverse individuals and/or bullying or victimisation.
- Statements in E&D policies, on website and in job adverts that neurodiversity is a benefit and welcome.
- Consider potential barriers to entry. For example, psychometric tests may block some neurodiverse individuals who would be an asset to the firm if entry-level testing recognised their strengths.
Next Alliance webinar : 7 July 2021 at 9.30 am (BST)
Some useful links:
Join the Professional Practices Alliance LinkedIn group here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13930936/
With thanks to the excellent panel, Daniel Aherne, Caroline Ramsay and Rob Millard and brilliantly chaired by Emma Bartlett (none of whom have reviewed or approved Corinne's summary above – Corinne takes sole responsibility for any errors).
Corinne Staves is a Partner and Head of Professional Practices at Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this note, please contact her or your usual MTG contact.
Related in brief posts
The Association of Partnership Practitioners webinar on 12 May 2021 explored the role of NEDs in professional practices. The following is a summary of some key themes and ideas.
The Professional Practices Alliance panel comprising Claire Watkins, David Shufflebotham, Fernando Pelaez-Pier and Zulon Begum and chaired by Robert Millard. explored the transition from founder-led models to perpetual governance models.
The Professional Practices Alliance hosted an interactive discussion on the future of working arrangements and professional firm space chaired by Corinne Staves, with panelists Oliver Richards, Beth Hale and Rob Millard.