What would happen if the world viewed neurodevelopmental differences like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, OCD, Tourette’s Syndrome, dysgraphia, and dyslexia differently? What if we recognized the strengths that come from these differences first, instead of the challenges?
By definition, neurodiversity means “individual differences in brain functioning.” Roughly one-third of the world’s population identifies as neurodivergent and these gifts allow us to think differently, creatively approach problem solving, and so much more.
In the workplace, embracing neurodiversity has benefits across the board. Harvard Business Review notes that a growing list of companies, including SAP, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and Microsoft, have reformed their HR processes to be more inclusive of neurodiverse talent – and are seeing productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities, and increased employee engagement as a result.
That’s why, at PTC, we’re working hard to imagine new ways of working while fostering a sense of belonging for our neurodiverse employee population. It’s what we mean when we say that we have the “power to create” a better tomorrow by re-imagining how we work together today. That’s our company purpose and it’s infused into all we do; it’s what leads to more innovative products and solutions and it’s what drives a more engaged and dynamic workforce.
Recently, PTC hosted our inaugural Neurodiversity Celebration Month, designed to recognize the diverse perspectives neurodivergent individuals bring to our company culture. The celebration, sponsored by PTC’s SMART neurodiversity employee resource group (ERG), coincided with National Disability Awareness Month in the U.S., as well as Dyslexia Awareness Month and ADHD Awareness Month.
I sat down recently with PTC Chief People Officer & EVP Jill Larsen, who serves as executive sponsor of our SMART ERG, to find out more about neurodiversity and how PTC is embracing the diverse identities, cultures, and perspectives we each bring to the organization. Let’s have a look:
Yes, absolutely. Neurodiversity refers to the different ways people process information. Historically, neurodivergence has been referred to as “disorders” or “disabilities.” However, negative stigmas about neurodivergent individuals ignore the positive perspectives and contributions of these individuals. You may be surprised at how many individuals you know who actually struggle with neurodiversity.
Approximately 33% of the population is neurodivergent, and yet this population tends to be underemployed due to work environments that cater to “neurotypical” individuals. Many of these biases are “hard coded” into HR practices such as recruiting, assessment, and performance management with an emphasis on “communication skills and cultural fit.” This presents obstacles that undervalue the unique perspectives and contributions that neurodivergent individuals can bring to a company.
As we look to redesign our talent processes at PTC, many are being simplified to ensure that we improve access and talent mobility across the organization. Removing these barriers and better supporting each of our colleagues ensures we are embodying our "PTC for All" company value. It’s how we get to a place where each and every employee feels a sense of belonging.
We were thrilled to host Neurodiversity Celebration Month for the first time ever – it was a month-long event dedicated to understanding neurodiversity and how we can be better allies for our neurodiverse friends and colleagues. Our SMART ERG works hard throughout the year to drive visibility and awareness of neurodiversity, and it was immensely gratifying to see the culmination of those efforts with featured learning opportunities, discussions, and more.
For example, the “Did You Know?” series provided weekly information – in the form of digital signage in PTC offices around the world and across digital platforms like Yammer – about neurodiversity and different types of neurodivergent employees. In addition, the Dyslexia Learning Panel explored what it means to be neurodiverse in the workplace, as well as the ways we can champion support and allyship for our neurodiverse employee population.
These are just a couple of examples of the ways we explored neurodiversity throughout the month, with our SMART ERG taking a proactive approach to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace culture by providing support, structure, and a welcoming space for employees of all neuroabilities.
What I think it really comes down to is creating a sense of belonging for everyone – and that means understanding that not everyone approaches work or receives information in the same way.
Both of my children identify as neurodiverse and I’ve learned a lot about the challenges that they face in a traditional neurotypical world. So I am dedicated to creating access for neurodiverse individuals both within my professional career and in my personal life in my community commitments.
For years, I’ve worked with my school system, with the parent advisory council, helping other parents write IEPs – I’ve navigated this personally and that’s why I’m such an advocate for neurodiversity in the workplace. As these students enter the workforce, our HR systems and talent approaches should be agile enough to accommodate them and create access and opportunities. With a talent shortage and the ability now in many companies to work in a virtual and hybrid environment, neurodiverse populations create a massive pool of talent for companies! So we need to disrupt ourselves to ensure our hiring and talent practices open doors to these candidates.
I believe by embracing neurodiversity, we can amplify the potential of everyone. But we need to give people the tools – as well as the support and the allyship – they need to succeed in an environment where they can be their true, authentic selves. That’s really what we mean when we say we’re creating “PTC for All” – that diversity, equity, and inclusion are all core to our company culture.
I’m proud of the passionate employees in our SMART ERG and at PTC who are working to drive awareness and make a positive impact across our company.
It is believed that about one-third of the global population identifies as neurodiverse. From an inclusion and belonging perspective, that means it impacts our employees, candidates, customers and shareholders. That’s why PTC is recognizing and celebrating the diverse perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to the workplace.