A recently published briefing paper states that UK productivity is ‘in stagnation’ and has been so for a period of 10 years. Although the root of this is varied and complex, I would suggest that if workplace support for neuro-divergent individuals were to be available in all workplaces this could potentially have a positive multifaceted impact.
The briefing paper, Productivity in the UK, July 2017 states this reported ‘stagnation’ has puzzled economists and the following theories are listed within this paper to try to help explain the situation:
• falling productivity in the oil and gas, and financial sectors;
• weakness in investment that has reduced the quality of equipment employees are working with;
• the banking crisis leading to a lack of lending to more productive firms;
• employees within firms being moved to less productive roles;
• slowing rates of innovation and discovery;
• an ageing population;
• inaccuracies in the data.
However, as also stated in the paper none of these is sufficient on its own to explain entirely what has happened. For obvious reasons, everyone concerned is keen to be able to predict when the weakness in productivity growth will come to an end and how this might best be brought about.
Although this post may be seen to be taking a simplistic approach toward increasing productivity, I believe it is important to firstly look at this on a ‘grass roots’ / micro level – from the perspective of the individual employee. In particular, it would appear there is a dearth of information available about the missed opportunity of increasing the engagement and productivity of neuro-divergent individuals by ensuring they can access appropriate support within the workplace. (We are potentially looking at 1 in 7 people).
A dyslexic employee after accessing support: ‘I am completing and achieving more …..I am prioritising better and am more efficient at completing tasks to deadlines.’
Of course, there are numerous reasons why some individuals may be underproductive including lack of training, health, appropriateness of the work environment, poor management, smoking breaks, inefficient systems etc. However, by ensuring those with dyslexia, dyscalculia and other neuro-divergent ‘conditions’ feel safe to access appropriate support this could be a ‘win-win’ for everyone concerned regardless of these factors - plus these individuals could help bring about positive change in these areas listed.
The benefits of providing this type of support are many-fold in that an increased number of these individuals will become more able & more likely to utilise their widely acknowledged atypical problem-solving skills, creativity and innovative thinking which could help organisations with new products & services as well as them being more successful & productive at a macro level.
‘It has helped me build relationships and identify strategies for dealing with delivery of multiple projects’.
As there is an ongoing drive towards encouraging people to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) in education & careers (all of which are subjects known to have a ‘pull-factor’ for neuro-divergent individuals) by providing support and informing individuals that organisations are dyslexia/’neurodivergence’-friendly may aid recruitment into the sector.
Unfortunately, there is still a lack of understanding about dyslexia and co-occurring neuro-divergent conditions which has meant that the subject has largely been overlooked in relation to the workplace – with most of the focus being on children & education. However, there are currently an increasing number of enlightened organisations providing a streamlined process of support for their neuro-divergent employees and viewing this as an important opportunity.
It is suggested that this is a subject which should now be taken seriously and would ideally be included within the list of focus areas for increasing UK productivity. If we review this list from the briefing paper above, we can pull out at least two areas which this has some relevance (in addition to increased individual productivity) and these are; inaccuracies in data & slowing rates of innovation and discovery.
Recent work with staff at a globally recognised university (which has a speciality in STEM and business subjects) has shown that providing an accessible process of support to neuro-divergent staff can increase engagement and improve individual productivity - as well it having a positive impact on career wellbeing.
If you would like to find out more about this you can find the full research paper here:
Vol.05 No.06(2017), Article ID:76910,23 pages
Workplace Dyslexia & Specific Learning Difficulties―Productivity, Engagement and Well-Being