Most of us see the majority of Information Technology (IT) departments consisting of individuals with similar skillsets and backgrounds. For example, they’re incredibly good with numbers and a range of technological devices. They also tend to be more introverted and highly analytical.
As great as these similarities can be, the lack of diversity impedes any IT department's creativity, productivity, and overall success. Having many different kinds of people in the department, particularly neurodivergent individuals, can bring much-needed creativity, collaboration, improvement, and solutions.
Before we look at some of the benefits neurodivergent employees bring to the IT department, let’s define what neurodivergence is.
What Does It Mean To Be Neurodivergent?
Around 15 to 20% of people around the globe exhibit some form of neurodivergence. Neurodivergence, also known as neurodiversity, is a way of thinking. It is an umbrella term for several similar diagnoses rather than a diagnosis itself. It describes individuals with a range of neurological differences that present in these various diagnoses.
For instance, autism, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), tourette syndrome, and general learning disabilities are examples of neurodivergent conditions.
Neurotypical individuals don’t have the above or other conditions under the neurodivergence umbrella. However, that doesn’t mean their brains function better than neurodivergent people. Every brain is different. It’s crucial for us to work toward a world where each person and brain is honored for their differences rather than condemned and mistreated for them.
Now that we have a clear definition of what it means to be neurodivergent, let’s dig into the benefits these individuals bring to the IT department.
The Benefits of Having Neurodivergent Employees in IT
In IT, recruiting and hiring neurodivergent people doesn’t distract or take away from the workforce. In fact, these employees can add so much to the team and fuel the entire department's success. Let’s look at the five benefits of having neurodivergent employees in the IT division.
1. Encourage diversity and inclusion
A primary advantage of welcoming neurodivergent individuals into the IT department is it encourages diversity and inclusion. Just as biodiversity and cultural diversity are integral to the success of any department, so is neurodiversity.
As we grow to appreciate differences in looks, ages, behaviors, and cultures, we should also add differences in the way our brains function to this list. Hiring neurodivergent people supports this effort.
It’s important to note that you can’t make someone respect diversity and inclusion. However, you can do things to help your employees along, like hosting regular anti-discrimination training meetings. These meetings will help you and your team confront discrimination in the workplace and foster a culture of inclusion.
2. Incorporate more active listening in the workplace
Neurodivergent individuals may have differing abilities, but that doesn’t mean those abilities are less exceptional or valuable than those in neurotypical individuals.
For example, a person living with dyslexia may have a challenging time with reading. At the same time, they can be exceptional listeners. They may not be able to read something off a piece of paper well, but they can hear, listen, and absorb information coming from their peers and managers in a way others without such a diagnosis can’t. Active listening is critical in communication and collaboration, both of which are necessary for a thriving IT department.
3. Provide creative solutions to challenging problems
Neurodivergent individuals have to find ways to flourish in a world that isn’t necessarily accepting of or built for them. They see and solve problems that a lot of people don’t. The ability to do this requires a lot of creativity.
It could be a situation that requires creative thinking for them to get through it. Or, it could be the simple fact that their brains are wired to think differently. Neurodivergent individuals are known to think outside the box.
Bringing that to an IT department can be incredibly beneficial because IT work presents its fair share of challenging problems daily. You need someone, or multiple people, in the workforce who don’t get flustered in the face of issues. Instead, they find creative solutions to them. Insert neurodivergent individuals here.
4. Add a fresh perspective to the team
Not only can neurodivergent employees provide creative solutions to challenging problems, but they can also add a fresh perspective to the team, in general. As mentioned above, neurodivergence is simply a difference in how someone’s brain functions.
As a result of that difference in how their brain functions, a neurodivergent employee can offer new ways of looking at IT, how to better serve customers, how to work better as a team, and so forth. They facilitate a level of diverse thought leadership that’s integral to an IT team’s success.
5. Pinpoint new opportunities to improve
Neurodivergent employees can pinpoint new opportunities to improve too. When everyone’s background and skillset are the same in an IT department, they’re likely to have similar outlooks on what should and shouldn’t be enhanced. This can be detrimental to the department’s ability to thrive because there’s always room for improvement — and there’s always room for improvement in different areas.
Neurodivergent individuals often see areas to improve that others don’t even consider. Leaning into their perspective can help your IT department build better software and hardware products for a diverse customer base. It can also help your internal team collaborate and communicate more promisingly.
Many people never consider a career in IT, especially those living with disabilities and conditions like those under the neurodivergent umbrella. These positions just don’t seem as accessible to them, nor are companies ensuring diversity and inclusion are a priority in their IT units.
However, if neurodivergent individuals can become a prominent force in IT departments worldwide, more diversity, inclusion, active listening, creative thinking, fresh perspectives, and productivity improvements will result.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.