Neglecting neurodiverse a waste of talent

Australia could be sitting on a stadium full of wasted talent, according to an Australian Catholic University study into the influence of workplace neurodiversity management.

Published in the international journal Employee Relations, the research is the first to establish a positive link between neurodiversity policies, neurodiversity awareness and employees' attachment to their organisation (affective commitment).

Increased commitment leads to lower turnover, a prized target for employment sectors dealing with post-pandemic labor shortages.

The implications for management are profound according to study co-author Dr Marzena Baker from ACU's Peter Faber Business School.

Globally, 15-20 per cent of the world's population is neurodivergent, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and dyslexia. Still, the employment participation rate remains low.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 94,600 people of working age (15-64 years) living with autism spectrum disorders. Of those, 34.1 per cent are unemployed, compared with an unemployment rate of about 4.1 per cent in the general population.

"That's talent that could fill a stadium," said Dr Baker who collaborated on the project with Queensland University of Technology's Associate Professor Muhammed Ali and Dr Mirit K Grabarski from Lakehead University, Canada. "It doesn't have to be that way.

"Developing policies around task design, adaptations to the workplace or even start and finish times could generate greater buy-in from potential recruits or employees living with neurological conditions."

The study focused on the Australian retail sector - the second-largest employer in the country - and included the survey responses of more than 500 supervisors and employees.

Results indicated the positive impact of neurodiversity policies extended further than people living with neurological conditions.

"The positive impact of those policies and practices is seen from all employees, not just the neurodiverse," Dr Baker said.

"Visibility of those initiatives help shape a positive and desirable image of an organisation as a diverse workplace."

Dr Marzena Baker is available for interviews.

Media Contact: Damien Stannard, 0484 387349,

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