Diversity and inclusion in the global workplace go beyond gender and race.
It is about recognising and valuing individuals. It is about including differences and understanding how everyone contributes to the workplace. Diversity and inclusion are ultimately about building a culture where everyone feels involved and respected.
Recognising atypical employees’ preferred working styles and needs is the key to engagement, but first, it’s critical to confirm what we mean by ‘atypical’.
Understanding Atypical Employees
Atypical employees form part of every team to a greater or lesser degree. You may notice subtle indications about their preferred way of working that provide insight into their challenges, or they may have a physical disability that requires managing to enable them to have a fulfilling career.
A good starting point is to recognise that everyone is different. Gathering data on your team and starting conversations, where appropriate, on the current culture of your workplace can help build bridges to inclusion.
After all, your company culture is the set of behaviours and attitudes created by those who work within it – working with atypical individuals will inevitably make your culture inclusive and reap the benefits that difference brings.
By creating an inclusive workplace, you will engage all employees, see higher productivity and create greater accountability for behaviour. But first, what do we mean by ‘atypical’?
What Are Atypical Workers?
Atypical workers are many and varied.
In this article, I will concentrate on three types of atypical employees to illustrate how you can ensure these individuals are integrated into your team successfully and can enjoy a productive and fulfilling career with your organisation.
So, who are these people, what motivates them, and how can you engage them?
Working with a colleague or employee on the autistic spectrum can be challenging, but also very rewarding.
Many individuals with autism have a variety of exceptional skills that enable them to thrive in particular roles. They may have outstanding attention to detail and excel in process-based roles, or be skilled at observing routines and timetables and therefore be ideal for positions in logistics.
Difficulties with social communication and interaction can hold them back, alongside sensory issues, and because they are often misunderstood. But if you can take the time to understand their motivation and skills, they will enrich your team.
Autism is an invisible condition, and often others misconstrue behaviour as rude, insensitive or unfriendly – this is unintentional and due to communication difficulties. Individuals can suffer from anxiety over small issues such as a computer programme fails to load, so some lateral thinking may be required on your part.
The National Autistic Society advises taking some simple steps to support autistic employees, including:
Clear guidance: including etiquette and unwritten workplace rules.
Training and monitoring: providing clear and structured training
Precise and specific instructions: so rather than saying “Can you photocopy this and give everyone a copy” frame it as “Can you make three photocopies of this paper, and give one each to John, Kate and Julie.”
Structured workload: tasks should be timetabled, and larger jobs are broken down into more manageable components
Workplace environment: Autistic employees sometimes benefit from things like screens around their desk, noise-cancelling headphones, or having their desk placed in the corner of the office.
2. Physical Disability
‘Disabled individuals in Britain are less likely to be employed than their non-disabled counterparts and, on average, earn less when in work’. (Disability and Perceptions of Work and Management, Melanie K. Jones, Department of Economics, Swansea University)
Those with a physical disability but no mental impairment can make excellent members of your team, and yet many companies are resistant to making reasonable adjustments to building and work practice to accommodate these individuals.
Understanding their physical and emotional needs is critical in engaging and working with those who have a physical disability. Many employers find that with the right support, those with a physical disability develop into productive and engaged employees when supported with acceptance and cooperation.
Those with disabilities should enjoy equal rights and responsibilities as others. Technological advances have removed many of the obstacles for disabled people in their aspirations to pursue their career aspirations, with many visual, hearing and physically impaired individuals excelling in their chosen field.
In the past, ignorance and stereotypes have caused people with disabilities to be unfairly discriminated against with regards to employment, but mindsets are changing.
Alongside the Equality Act 2010, which promotes equality in the workplace, those with disabilities are increasingly recognised as bringing added value and new insights to a team. One of the greatest inspirations of our time, Stephen Hawking, freely admitted that he had reached the top in his field because of, not in spite of, his disability.
Introversion is often not fully comprehended in the workplace, but for the introvert themselves, the condition can have far-reaching consequences in their working lives if not fully appreciated by their employer.
The world is full of introverts. Some are (or were) amongst the most powerful and influential people in history. Famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sir Isaac Newton and JK Rowling.
Currently, evidence suggests that between a third and fifty per cent of the population are introverts. Consequently, it's highly likely that introverts will form part of your workplace.
It's crucial to understand the makeup of an introvert and the value they contribute to an organisation. To be introverted is not the same as being shy or reticent. Introverts don’t fear social disapproval; they prefer calmer, quieter environments than their extravert counterparts.
A critical aspect of the introvert’s makeup is that they regain their energy by spending time alone; so after a particularly intense, boisterous, brainstorming session with the sales and marketing team, they will prefer to retreat to a quiet place to recharge their batteries.
Their reserved thoughtfulness means they are skilled at problem-solving, having the patience to analyse a situation and think about possible answers. They are, therefore, ideal for managing in-depth projects where making careful and considered decisions are vital.
In her book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,’ Susan Cain highlights the various skills and strengths introverts bring such as the ability to:
think first, process and then act
stay calm in tense situations
be both insightful and empathetic
How much more beneficial would it be to have introverts with these competencies working on your purchasing, procurement and sourcing project than to rush the decision-making process based on minimal data?
Managing atypical employees can be challenging, but ultimately, diversity and inclusion are about respecting what makes people different and finding ways to get the best out of your diverse team.
Increasingly, employers across all sectors are recognising the business benefits of improving diversity and inclusion levels within their organisation. New ways of thinking make for a melting pot of ideas that has the potential to bring in new ideas and unique skills, and from which innovation is born.
If you are an HR or other manager working with atypical employees, or you are seeking to attract a diverse workforce to your company, there are some simple adjustments you can make to achieve a physically and psychologically safe environment.
From modifications to physical buildings and working practices to all-staff training to help everyone understand individual’s needs, treating your atypical employees fairly will nurture talent and instil your corporate culture with true inclusiveness and equality.
Also, these improvements will bring together a diverse team where people feel valued, they function at full capacity and feel part of the organisation’s mission: creating a high-performing, motivated team.
If you are are looking to scale your team, or you an executive who is thinking about a change of role, we can help. With many years’ experience placing executive level candidates in their ideal job role, we can help create a smooth transition.
So, if you would like to work with an experienced recruiting partner, call us on 01905 381320 or get in contact here.
About Martin Veasey Talent Solutions
At Martin Veasey, we have been working with blue-chip and SME businesses for over 35 years, both in the UK and around the world.
We are an independent consultancy company with a highly qualified staff, including many degree and Masters educated consultants, with memberships of professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the British Psychological Society.
We have unique expertise in hiring for senior roles in Board & Senior, Supply Chain & Logistics, Purchasing & Procurement, Manufacturing & Engineering, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences, Sales, Human Resources, plus many more.
If you are looking to work with a highly accomplished recruiting partner, you can call us on 01905 381320 or get in contact today.