This week (3-9 October 2022) is National Dyslexia week. According to research 3 in 4 employees currently hide their dyslexia at work. We need to change this. How can employers support and empower their “Dyslexic Thinkers” and broaden their recruitment drive to be more inclusive? Emma O’Connor and Katie Harris report.
Did you know?
“Dyslexic Thinkers” make brilliant spies? So much so, that in 2021 GCHQ had a recruitment drive aimed specifically at recruiting those with dyslexia. Those with dyslexia are often ideal analysts, able to sift and sort data and see the “bigger picture” when looking at a complex issue.
LinkedIn, also recognised ‘dyslexic thinking’ as a skill in itself offering its global members the opportunity to add this to their profile. Many in the technology sector are already adapting their recruitment processes to focus on those with dyslexia, seeing the benefits their talents can bring to their businesses.
The government’s website states that 6.3 million adults in the UK have dyslexia (1 in 6 adults). Whilst awareness is better, many people still say that early diagnosis and awareness is key.
What can be some of the challenges
Often an adult who has dyslexia will create routines or coping mechanisms for themselves to help them navigate tasks, including their job. For most managers, they would not know that a colleague has dyslexia. However, these mechanisms are great until something changes – a new routine, work pattern, new manager, a restructure or method of working. Even minor changes can have a huge impact. Employees may suffer from anxiety or a feeling that they cannot do their job. Employees may need more time to adapt to changes and may need more support. More time may need to be factored in when there are changes – as well as a listening ear and support.
There is a legal dimension as well. Dyslexia could be a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010. Dyslexia can have an adverse affect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities such as reading, concentrating and writing. In 2014 in the case of Meseret Kumulchew v Starbucks Coffee Company UK Limited an employee of Starbucks was successful in their claim for disability discrimination arising out of her dyslexia. The Employee made Starbucks aware of their disability; however, despite this the employee was disciplined for failing to record data accurately. This was found to have been discriminatory and also Starbucks failed to make reasonable adjustments.
How can businesses broaden and adapt their recruitment processes to encourage and support those who are dyslexic thinkers? Psychometric testing is nearly always going to put a dyslexic thinker at a disadvantage when compared to other applicants when often reading, writing and spelling can be a challenge. How can the process be changed to allow someone with dyslexia to show their skills? Presentations or public speaking may again not be beneficial for someone who has dyslexia.
Dyslexia is described as “super power” so think about how businesses can make the most of this unique talent!
Speak to your dyslexic employees – what do they find a challenge and how can businesses help or change their methods of working and recruiting to support? What are the strengths and weaknesses of someone with dyslexia? Seek feedback and act on it.
Work with charities or support groups to understand how your recruitment or working environment could be adapted to suit dyslexic thinkers.
Allow more time to complete tests or written work in the recruitment context.
Have open conversations and raise awareness of dyslexia in the workplace.
Dress codes as well may not help those who find buttons or other material uncomfortable or challenging.
Can the technology help? What about dictation software or making it easier for people to manage their email inboxes? Can we use less words and use more pictures or diagrams?
Never assume what someone can and cannot do or when someone does or does not need support.
Think about making reasonable adjustments – it is a requirement under the Equality Act.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.