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
Feeling safe to take the first step has commonly been a barrier to dyslexic/neuro-divergent adults accessing the support they need within the workplace. However, a new initiative, piloted at Imperial College London earlier this year, now means there is an information & guidance conduit which is safe, professional and confidential.
For far too long adults with dyslexia and other neuro-divergent ‘conditions’ have been reluctant to speak out when they experience challenges with their work tasks. This can be due to a variety of reasons including; fear of discrimination & prejudice, the potential risk of it affecting their professional credibility as well as a lack of confidence & low self-esteem due to having tried to cope on their own for a long period of time. (Plus, many people may not realise their challenges could be associated with a ‘processing difference’ such as dyslexia, as literacy may not be a major problem for them).
The impact of not speaking to someone about their problems and not accessing appropriate support can be far-reaching, often resulting in them not achieving to their full potential …and not being able to fully utilise the strengths they may have which are associated with their ‘processing difference’. Sadly, the longer-term picture is that this can have a negative impact on overall wellbeing and, for some, it can also have a negative effect on mental health.
Whilst there are an increasing number of proactive and well-informed employers providing appropriate tailored support for their dyslexic/neuro-divergent employees, even in these workplaces there has, until now, been a vital ‘missing link’ in the chain of workplace support. A place of safety, someone they can speak to, someone who is approachable, knowledgeable & impartial … someone who has undergone a course of specialist training in order to ensure they provide accurate information and appropriate signposting.
It is now possible to have these invaluable colleagues in every type of organisation. These graduates of the Dyslexia Champions™ training & accreditation programme are volunteers who augment the organisation’s existing dyslexia/neuro-divergence support provisions and work alongside current HR processes thus helping provide a seamless, accessible process of workplace dyslexia/neuro-divergence support.
For more information please visit www.dyslexia-champions.org
An HR Manager's experience of workplace dyslexia support.
At the start of my career there was a single defining moment that pretty much over shadowed everything. I was invited to attend a two-day assessment centre for a graduate management traineeship. I was apprehensive but hopeful. The first tasks were aptitude tests. I can remember the numbers and letters swimming in front of my eyes. I just couldn’t think how to answer the questions. I could barely understand them. I went through the rest of the assessment centre feeling very despondent.
At these events, they give you feedback at the end of the second day. I remember sitting in front of these two HR Managers (how ironic, since I wanted to be an HR specialist). They looked very uncomfortable. I assumed they were going to tell me that I wasn’t going any further. They had my aptitude tests in front of them. One of those HR managers said my scores were the worst they had ever seen and if they had their way I would not proceed to the next round of interviews because they essentially predicted potential to succeed. However, however I had scored above average in the other eight tests and the operational managers who had been observing me throughout the two-day assessment were overruling them and wanted to interview me. I will never forget what one of those managers said next “how can you be so very bad and completely outstanding all at the same time? It doesn’t make sense”. They were suspicious and intrigued all at the same time.
I got the job and then spent the next two years in a frenzy trying to prove myself. I worked 80 hour weeks. I hardly slept or ate. All I did was work and produce very mediocre results. I was haunted by my experience. I thought I was a lazy, slacker who wasn’t really clever enough to hold down the job or get herself together. I was so frightened of being caught out as a fraud. I became very ill. Every job I’ve held I’ve had to put in far more hours just to keep on top of the work. Hours and hours spent reading and rereading reports. Days spent checking and rechecking or getting other people to recheck my work. Agonizing over emails. The frustration at not being able to understand the simplest process. The embarrassment of constantly forgetting people’s names. The self-deprecating jokes I would make at my own expense, ha, ha yes what an idiot I am. I’ve lost my phone/keys/purse/car keys again. I was dying inside. I could never go for more responsible jobs or promotion. The anxiety was the worst. The depression worse still.
And then I find out that I am dyslexic and slowly things started making sense. Working with my Strategy Coach Janette has been a revelation. I’ve been working on more effective ways to organise my work and prioritise. The best session for me was when she helped me structure my ideas into a presentation. That was my aha moment. Pictures and symbols and colour that was the key for me. Something that would have taken weeks took less than two hours. I went home smiling. Finding a way to work, that worked for me was wonderful.
I’m beginning to embrace some of my strengths. I am a problem solver. If you need a quick and ingenious solution to an immediate problem, I’ll usually come up with something. I’m good at building rapport with people. I am trustworthy and conscientious, especially with people’s feelings. I only need a few bits of the jigsaw to be able to make sense of the picture. I like my job and don’t wake up in dread. For the first time in a long time I’m hopeful.
I've got my dyslexia strategy coach to thank for that.
For more information on workplace dyslexia support please contact us.
The way to a better working life .....
Often people wonder whether it's worth finding out about dyslexia support in later life, with many not realising that challenges they are facing are actually associated with dyslexia. Recently I received this email from Matt, someone I had the pleasure of working with early last year. He said he wanted to share his story to encourage others to take the first step in finding out about dyslexia workplace support. I am extremely grateful to him for these kind words. This is what he had to say:
After many years of living with dyslexia and it giving me little to no problems (I had run my own company for a number of years and was very involved with various local groups) and as I'd never let my dyslexia get in the way, it was never really a problem. It was only after I had a change in career and to be fair, I spent a lot more time sending emails and having to write to people, that I had a massive loss of confidence. I thought that I was losing my memory - among many other issues that I could not understand. However, I was sure that this was related to my dyslexia and started to think about what I should do.
The answer to this question came quite quickly, I was looking though LinkedIn for people and found Janette Beetham. After reading about Janette's work helping people in the workplace with issues similar to mine, I sent a message asking if she could help me (after all, being in my 40's I was feeling unsure and wondered whether I would be a helpless case). I soon had a call back and we spoke on the phone. I explained my problems and the difficulties I was experiencing - and that I was sure I was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, dementia or something worse! In our conversation I was reassured that this experience was not at all uncommon for people with dyslexia when having a change of career or even just a change in working environment. Janette suggested that I had a workplace needs assessment and with this she would be able to suggest some tools and strategies which might help me cope more effectively. She explained the assessment would take place in my working environment and I would need to involve my line manager (in this case my MD). I said that I would need to get back to her after speaking to said person.
Well, it took a while for me to get the confidence to have the conversation. In time it happened, Janette came and we spoke for a couple of hours. Digging in to my history from school and my different places of work to my current employment. We also had a walk around the office and the environment I was working in. Following this there was a talk with my MD to discuss the problems I was experiencing and things the company could do to help. I was shocked and so grateful at this point that all of my issues were normal and quite easy to solve. No, she was never going to be able to get me to spell complicated words or even write amazing email, but what was to follow was incredible. With the aid of the talking function on my laptop and a pair of head phones, I was able to compose emails that made sense. Having previously asked colleagues to check my emails I was producing messages that didn't need to be checked and when they were coming back unchanged my confidence grew - and with new found self awareness and new strategies, in no time I was back to the person I had previously been.
I could go on saying how much Janette changed my working life. I would encourage anybody who has a company, who feels they could have staff that are struggling, to make contact with her. You will not only have more productive members of staff but confident ones too. Likewise, if you are a 'me', it doesn't matter what your age, it’s never too late to start the ball rolling to a better working life.
It’s the best thing I ever did!
If you would like more information about how we might be able to help you or a member of your team please do contact us. You can do this either via Facebook or by using the contact form.
What employers can do to help their dyslexic employees.
Dyslexia is a ‘hidden disability’ and due to a lack of awareness it is widely believed to simply affect an individual’s ability to read & write. As the result of this, many adults who are experiencing challenges with their tasks within the workplace may not necessarily consider it could dyslexia that is causing them to struggle. Added to this, the stigma and prejudice which is also associated with dyslexia, many of these individuals may be reluctant to seek help as they are fearful that this may have negative outcomes. Commonly these individuals have concerns about how they are perceived by others, how this may affect their credibility and the potential wider and long term impact on their career.
The types of challenges the dyslexic individual experiences in the workplace will vary dependent upon their own unique challenges, their role and the environment they work in. However, some of the more common challenges include; time management, organisation, planning, structuring written communication and presenting information. If these challenges are affecting their ability to meet targets and the quality of their work is not up to a desired standard, line managers who have no understanding of dyslexia (and the associated neuro-divergent ‘conditions’) are likely to see this as a performance issue and may erroneously initiate a formal performance management procedure rather than signpost the individual towards a source of information and screening. Therefore it is imperative line managers and HR personnel have an awareness of what dyslexia actually is so they can appropriately support all employees. Also it can be invaluable to have Accredited Dyslexia Champions within the organisation as these knowledgeable, impartial colleagues can answer questions and signpost individuals and/or their managers towards the organisation's recognised process of support.
This post contains an excerpt from the recently published research paper:
Open Journal of Social Sciences
Vol.05 No.06(2017), Article ID:76910,23 pages
Workplace Dyslexia & Specific Learning Difficulties―Productivity, Engagement and Well-Being
An Oxfordshire-based engineer has developed an exciting new software application which saves time and simplifies a set of tasks which plumbers can often find challenging and time consuming.
Rich Cartwright, who studied Marine Engineering at Plymouth University, realised there was a ‘need’ for an effective tool for this type of work because he was being approached by countless plumbers asking him to carry out these tasks on their behalf.
The tasks being referred to are related to conducting room by room heat loss calculations as required to comply with the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) The Domestic Heating Design Guide EN 12831. These calculations are important for plumbers, heating engineers and surveyors yet they can be a real ‘headache’ to calculate and present to clients and this can be especially so for those who have ‘processing differences’ such as dyslexia and dyscalculia.
Rich has been able to utilise his vast practical work experience and his dyslexia related strengths of problem solving, creativity and ‘big picture’ thinking to undertake the research, design and development of this new plumber’s tool which he has simply called ‘Heat Engineer’ software.
Whilst the features of the software include:
It would appear this innovative piece of software is actually one of the first industry focused, ‘dyslexia friendly’ work tools - and it is particularly relevant that it is related to engineering. The engineering profession is known to be a particularly attractive career path for those with dyslexia and other associated ‘processing differences’ – and many of these individuals will not be aware that their, often not literacy related, challenges are associated with them being amongst the 15 – 18% of the workforce who are ‘neurodiverse’.
There are countless ‘literate dyslexics’ working in every type of workplace yet many may not be in a position to confidently explore their dyslexia related strengths. Many may be experiencing challenges which have the potential of affecting their wellbeing as well as their productivity - due to lack of awareness, appropriate support or useful ‘tools’.
Rich Cartwright says he has put a lot of ‘blood and sweat’ into developing this new tool and he passionately believes this will make a real difference to those who have struggled with undertaking heat loss calculations until now.
To find out more about the software please visit:
Or to find out more about Dyslexia in the Workplace please visit:
Janette Beetham MIC FRSA - Workplace Dyslexia Consultant
Please follow on Twitter @JanetteBeetham @neuro_diversity