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Improving neurodiversity in the industry to bring a fresh perspective
15 November 2021

Improving neurodiversity in the industry to bring a fresh perspective

Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. In the workplace that can mean differences in race, ethnicity, gender; something that can easily be visually assessed. However, there are also several other aspects such as religion, sexual orientation and neurodiversity that can bring positive and diverse thinking into an organisation.

With the rise in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing and increased regulatory strength across the pensions and investments industry, the focus on diversity and inclusion has never been greater. Understanding how a business can attract, and more importantly, retain talent, could be key to the future growth of an organisation.

Neurodiversity describes people who experience the world differently to others in social, education and workplace environments. It can include people with autism, dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia. It is likely that many of us will know a friend or family member who is neurodiverse and will be familiar with the challenges that individual can face. In the UK, it is estimated that one in 100 people1 have an autism diagnosis, but it is thought the number could actually be much higher since many may have gone undiagnosed. Neurodiversity covers a broad spectrum of abilities and characteristics and it is important that organisations recognise the value that individuals can bring across a variety of roles.

The Equality Act 2010, which replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. However, we know there is more that can be done to make our workplaces truly inclusive. We know that diverse organisations that reflect society make more informed decisions, leading to better outcomes for our customers and our employees. Inclusion is about ensuring that all employees feel a sense of belonging and support from the organisation and, for those with neurodiversity, that can sometimes be a challenge. Being neurodiverse can affect an individual’s interaction on a day-to-day basis and, unfortunately, it can also have a significant impact on their employment prospects. Neurodiverse individuals are under-represented in the workplace, and just 22% of autistic adults1 are in any kind of employment. This lack of representation impacts neurodiverse individuals themselves, but it also means employers are missing out on a largely untapped source of talent.

Office environments can prove challenging to neurodiverse individuals. Open plan offices can be noisy and distracting, and navigating the unwritten rules of the office can also be confusing to neurodiverse employees. Most workplaces are set up without neurodiversity taken into consideration. Neurodiversity can provide a competitive advantage when the individuals are in a supportive environment; an environment that makes use of their strengths, instead of constantly trying to overcome challenges.

Until now, employment support for neurodiverse people has been limited but, thankfully, industry and organisations are waking up to the need for greater action in this area.

Forward-thinking organisations are working to create these inclusive workspaces as they recognise that neurodiverse people can bring particular skills to the workplace, including strong technical skills, problem solving and pattern recognition. These inclusive workspaces enable learning and reduce disabling factors.

At Aviva, we have recently launched a placement programme, specifically designed to attract neurodiverse individuals to the organisation. The programme was developed by a group of data scientists, HR representatives and neurodiverse employees who worked with the University of Cambridge’s Think Lab to help attract and support neurodiverse people at Aviva. The interns were recruited into 12-month placements in high quality, skilled roles in our quantum data science practice. The placement programme was designed with neuroinclusivity at its heart; from adapting the recruitment process, interview format and assessment, to developing an ongoing coaching programme that supports career development and allows neurodiverse people to demonstrate their skills.

“At Aviva, we have gathered some invaluable feedback and insight from our placement programme which we will use to improve the ways we recruit, onboard and performance manage employees. This includes making sure our recruitment advertisements, colour schemes and fonts are clear for dyslexic people to read. We have adapted our interview process, providing more information ahead of an interview, and adjusted the way we measure a candidate’s engagement. Ongoing support is also vital. A coach or mentor can be particularly helpful to neurodiverse individuals to provide on-the-job assistance as new employees navigate the world of work, and to provide support for their future career development.” Owen Morris, MD, Personal Lines, Aviva General Insurance

This autumn has seen the launch of the Group for Autism, Insurance and Neurodiversity (GAIN), which aims to highlight the advantages and opportunities of a neurodiverse workplace, of which Aviva is proud to be a founding member. This should lead to some simple but fundamental changes that need to be made to recruitment and interview processes across the industry, and to raise awareness, particularly among leaders, of neurodiverse conditions.

Creating neuro-inclusive workplaces across the industry that better reflect our diverse society will improve outcomes and opportunities for those who are neurodiverse. But it will benefit all employees and allow us to provide better products and services to the communities we serve.

By working collaboratively, sharing knowledge, and taking some important steps, we can make the insurance industry an attractive place to work for everyone.


This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine November/December edition

back to Pensions Aspects Magazine

Last update: 12 November 2021

Laura Stewart-Smith
Laura Stewart-Smith
Head of Workplace Savings & Retirement

Pensions Administrator (SIPP)

Salary: £25000 - £32000 pa

Location: Glasgow

Head of Pension Fund

Salary: £70000 - £100000 pa

Location: Ellesmere Port (Cheshire)

Pensions Client Manager

Salary: £50000 - £60000 pa

Location: Glasgow, hybrid working

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