Four essentials to unlocking the potential of ADHD employees

By Tim Mart, careers coach and founder of Know You More

With the awareness of neurodiversity continuing to grow, it is becoming increasingly common for individuals with ADHD to be diagnosed or recruited into the workforce. Businesses are realising that in improving their understanding of neurodiversity they have the opportunity to unlock the unique strengths that ADHD employees have to offer.

The range of challenges that SME’s face is growing in both size and complexity. A prime example of this is the rapid pace of technology and, as a result, businesses having to have a greater focus on innovation to remain competitive. Competitive amongst increased competition at that.

To be able to address these challenges SME’s must leverage the full potential of their workforce including neurodiverse employees such as those with ADHD. Unlocking unique strengths and skills that can help them meet these challenges head on.

It is normal for individuals with ADHD to be equipped with creative problem-solving skills, adaptability and a high energy that can improve responsiveness to market changes.

For instance, an employee with ADHD at a marketing agency could quickly generate a wide range of campaign ideas in response to a new trend, helping the agency stay ahead of the curve and capture the attention of new clients.

A manufacturing SME could benefit from uncovering a novel approach to streamlining production processes and improving efficiency. An incredible ability in creative thinking can lead to breakthrough ideas and unconventional solutions that can set SMEs apart from their competitors.

I know this because it is exactly what I brought to my employers. People used to call me a breath of fresh air for my ability to quickly find a way forward when solving a problem at my company. One of my team called me ‘Alice’ because I was able to think up six ideas for a problem before breakfast. It was so easy for me and yet I found it strange that people were unable to do the same. From multimillion pound technology transformation to designing performance metrics, I had this brilliant ability to deliver change and bring people with me on the journey. It is only in the past couple of years, since being diagnosed ADHD, that I understand that these skills are related to my neurodiversity.

These skills are invaluable assets that SMEs just cannot afford to overlook. If they do SMEs risk missing a massive opportunity.

What are businesses doing to unlock their potential across their business? Here are four essentials that will help you harness the strengths of employees with ADHD

An inclusive culture of belonging

Belonging is a fundamental need for all employees, and even more so for those with ADHD. When people know that they are accepted and valued in the workplace, they feel safe and trusted. Fostering open dialogue, feedback and acceptance creates an inclusive and supportive environment that enables employees with ADHD to perform at their best. What does that best mean to the business? They can benefit from unique problem-solving abilities, creative thinking and critical analysis that can drive business growth and innovation.

Flexibility for maximum productivity

Flexible approaches to work such as remote work, flexible hours and job sharing are commonplace now the employee experience. For employees with ADHD, the aim is to successfully strike the balance between flexibility and structure. Too much flexibility can lead to disorder. A fixed structure will be stifling. A collaborative approach to implementing personalised ways of working will empower the employee, give them the ability to perform at their best and lead to both greater productivity and output.

Education and learning

If our goal is to have workplaces that are inclusive and supportive, then we need to better understand one another. Online training and resources will equip employees with a broad understanding of neurodiversity. Leadership development training will hone the skills of managers to effectively grow and support neurodiverse individuals. Yet the most impactful way is facilitating spaces where people can have open dialogue and learn about one another. Every person with ADHD is different. Their experience and the experience of each member of your team will also be different. The simplest way to bridge this is through curiosity and conversation. This level of understanding connection is a gateway to businesses creating high performing teams.

A personal approach to learning and development

High quality personal development is rarely found in a one-size-fits-all approach, and they are even less impactful for employees with ADHD. Personalised and targeted learning and development provisions, such as coaching and mentoring, are especially effective in growing individuals and providing them with human skills such as self-awareness, communication and decision making to help them navigate the workplace and reach their full potential. Businesses investing in personalised support will experience employees with ADHD excelling in their roles and consistently contributing in a meaningful way.

Embracing neurodiversity, including ADHD, in the workplace is now a strategic advantage for SMEs. By underpinning their company culture with inclusivity, flexibility, education and support, small businesses can unlock the full potential of their ADHD employees.

In my own experience, I was able to bring tremendous amounts of value in fleeting periods of time for the companies I worked for. That time was made shorter because, although I did not know it at the time, the culture, and frameworks where not supportive of my ADHD and made it impossible for me to stay for too long. In the work my own company now delivers, we are playing a part in creating those cultures within SMEs by harnessing the neurodiversity that our team is fortunate to have at its disposal.

Tim Mart is a careers coach and founder of Know You More, a socially driven coaching and training provider that helps improve the employee experience, including wellbeing and engagement. Tim and his team work with clients such as Ocado, Siemens and the NHS