Measuring  Neuroinclusivity with a Single Digit

14 September, 2023, 11:00 am GMT

Ian Tomlin profiel pic

By Ian Tomlin

diversity meeting

When it comes to achieving a ‘belonging culture’ to reinforce neurodiversity inclusion, the fundamental question that needs to be answered is this: ‘How does our organisation measure behavioural outcomes it sets out as being desirable?’  This paper seeks to explore that very question.

Measurement in neurodiversity

 Measuring the make-up of workforce Neurodiversity in your enterprise is not straightforward, given that, because of labour laws (and arguably for the right reasons), individuals are not obliged to impart this knowledge. There are nevertheless arguments in favour of encouraging individuals to self-identify their social groupings and personality traits to help leaders and managers to gain a richer appreciation of how their workforce thinks and their welfare needs.

To example this point, it’s a known fact that neurodivergent individuals struggle more with mental health. The ancient Greeks believed creative inspiration was achieved through altered states of mind such as “divine madness.”  In many respects, it can be argued that neurodiverse social groups harbour some of the most imaginative and creative minds.  But, these qualities, much in demand in the business world today, come with the necessary baggage of sensitivity, social anxieties, and a wide range of conditions that, if extreme, can result in medical states of mental and physical disorder.  For business leaders and departmental managers to appreciate what changes to culture are needed, understanding the scale of the challenge matters.

The focus of the Universal Workforce Institute (UWI) is to create an inclusive workforce culture that encourages a sense and belonging.  Perhaps, for this reason, we care little about the size of neurodiversity group quotients, and more on the progress of work to build belonging cultures.

Measuring progress towards a belonging culture

If there were one digit that spelt out the progress of organisations on their journey to forging a welcoming belonging culture for all, that would be something. Unfortunately, measuring behavioural change is one of the most challenging KPIs to originate!

What we know we need to qualify is:

  1. What to measure.
  2. How to measure it.
  3. How to capture data to measure.

Common sense suggests, the solution is to develop a measurement approach that is integrated into the operational behaviours of the enterprise.  To explain how this can work, we need to take a step back and talk about the critical role that middle managers play in business.

The pivotal role departmental and middle managers play in shaping attitudes, habits and behaviours

Middle managers form the interlayer between executive teams that are distanced from the business as usual, and workers charged with delivering outcomes.  They are the essential conduit for all policies and actions passed down from on high, and they are instrumental in shaping the people, process, data, systems and behaviours that augment business activity. 

Bluntly, if you want to impact on the culture of the business, the will to do so and budgets must originate from the top-down, but the place to prioritise investments in budget, time and effort is the middle management layer.

Challenges of educating middle managers

There are challenges to developing a change agenda that involves middle managers, the biggest of which is TIME.

While middle managers are the most influential of stakeholders of the organisation, they are also the busiest.  Pull your entire layer of middle management from the front-line of business to inject new knowledge and retrain brains, and this will leave a barren wasteland!   Middle managers get their time pulled on from leaders—who want them to report—from their team—who want some personal time to receive mentoring and coaching—and from policies, systems and processes that always need updating.

Thought needs to go into how change programs are designed to allow business as usual to proceed unfettered by investments in organisational improvement.

Like all behavioural change projects, participants must believe that any intervention is going to be good for them and isn’t simply ‘another one of those corporate hobbyhorse initiatives’ that takes them away from work that must be done before they can go home.