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Getting The Most From Neurodiverse Thinkers

How do workplaces attract, and retain workers who think, learn, and behave differently?

That was the focus of a recent workshop for employers and HR representatives, hosted by ChristchurchNZ in partnership with Canterbury Tech. The workshop was the second in a series of three aimed to help businesses attract talent from diverse backgrounds.

Participants learned about different types of neurodiversity – including Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism – and the actions businesses can take to support and get the best out of their neurodivergent employees, who make up about 20% of the workforce.

Workshop host Suran Dickson from Flipside Consulting discussed strategies for fostering a workplace culture of belonging and inclusivity, emphasising the importance of understanding and addressing unique challenges faced by neurodiverse people.

Some key takeaways:

  • Psychological safety in the workplace is of high importance to neurodivergent people: a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.
  • Leadership matters. Leaders help create a culture where employees feel heard and valued. They have the power to exponentially increase or decrease their team’s psychological safety.
  • Inclusivity. What works for neurodivergent people, is good for everyone.

Chris Cole from Unlock Innovation spoke about the challenges and opportunities provided by dyslexia – which affects as many as one in five people. She noted that:

  • Dyslexia is often misunderstood, and that people with it often have strengths in creativity, problem-solving and big picture thinking.
  • Visual aids and dyslexia-friendly formats, can be used to improve learning and retention.
  • Like other forms of neurodivergence, people with Dyslexia often find strategies to mask it.
  • Encouraging openness about neurodiversity means that businesses can greatly benefit from the considerable strengths that neurodivergence people bring.

Workshop participant Irene Xin, an HR practitioner originally from China, said she thought the workshop series was an excellent way to increase awareness around diversity in the workplace. 


Woman facing camera

“I see it as a very good way to raise awareness and knowledge. For someone like me, who is from a mainstream background, and not neurodiverse, it’s very educational. How can I welcome, embrace and make people feel safe? In what ways can I take responsibility and contribute to make others feel valued?