With estimates suggesting that 15% of the population have some form of learning difference, it’s very likely that one of your colleagues will have dyslexia. In recent years employers have become increasingly aware of and vocal about neurodiversity to be more inclusive and accommodate differences. This has led to learning conditions such as dyslexia becoming more valued in the workplace. Yet, there is still work to do to make employment more dyslexia-friendly.
Being dyslexia-friendly makes good business sense, and workplace inclusion ultimately benefits everyone. Neurodiversity offers significant advantages to employers, bringing a diﬀerent dimension to problem-solving or creativity. Moreover, in today’s world of increasing pressures and the battle for staff, it can also reduce stress, increase morale and motivation. In turn, this can reduce staff turnover and absences.
There’s also a legal imperative to embrace dyslexia in the workplace; the UK Equality Act 2010 places a duty on employers in the UK to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled job applicants, employees and even former employees in certain circumstances.
But nurturing a dyslexia-friendly workplace doesn’t necessarily require costly and far-reaching process overhauls. Often, it is simply a question of awareness and minor changes in areas such as recruitment advertising or interviewing techniques. Mostly it requires a shift in mindset and improved communication, which ideally should be led from the top of the organisations, rather than major physical adjustments.
Employers can make a simple, yet immediate adjustment in the language they use in job advertising. Avoiding jargon, using plain English and explicit job expectations often help. Organisations can also change their recruitment process by sending interview questions to a prospective candidate prior to an interview to avoid just testing short-term memory and an ability to process information quickly. There is no evidence to suggest doing well in interviews equates to succeeding in a job.
In 2019, the Big Four’s UK firms – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – signed up to disability inclusion campaign The Valuable 500, which aims to encourage business leaders and companies to put disability on their board agendas. It marked the first ever collaboration on disability inclusion in business between all four leading accountancy firms. Since then, myriad other UK firms of all sizes such as RSM and Mazars have also joined the campaign.
Alison Kay, EY’s UK Managing Partner for Client Services, says: “EY recognises the value that dyslexic individuals can bring to our business. Dyslexic abilities, such as logical reasoning, complex problem solving and critical thinking, are important skills that will help our clients navigate the future.”
In 2018 and 2019, EY collaborated with the charity Made by Dyslexia to produce two reports that focused on the value dyslexic minds can bring to organisations. With automation on the rise, the reports predicted that dyslexic individuals have the exact skills needed for the workplace of the future.
“EY is a long-standing supportive employer for individuals with dyslexia. We define dyslexia as a valuable thinking skill set and we offer adjustments to ensure our dyslexic employees thrive in the workplace,” Kay says.
Other leading accountancy firms, including Grant Thornton are also improving their focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I). GT’s D&I team recently updated its “reasonable adjustments” process, making it easier for employees with a disability to obtain the relevant adjustments they need. Indeed, nowadays most large and medium firms now have some form of disability network.
Accountancy firms of all sizes have signed up to the government’s Disability Confident voluntary scheme, which aims to help employers take advantage of the opportunities provided by employing disabled people.
However, it’s not just existing employees that need help. Firms also need to focus on how they attract employees and whether their processes are inclusive.
In 2021, EY UK firm opened its first Neurodiversity Centre of Excellence (NCOE) in Manchester, which is a supportive working environment for neurodivergent individuals to help them apply their strengths and meet clients’ business needs in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics.
“We tailor our recruitment processes to ensure we are accessible to all diverse talent, and we can make practical adjustments to give candidates enough time and opportunity to showcase their strengths,” Kay says.
The law has required employers to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled job applicants for over a decade now, but it’s time employers went beyond legislation to understand the benefits of employing people with widely different abilities. Now more than ever, with the struggle to recruit, employers should be considering adjusting recruitment and retention practices, as well as making a shift in mindset to improve diversity and inclusion.
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