It probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone that there are more neuro-divergent people in the actuarial world than other workplaces but I think the days of the old actuarial jokes are well and truly over! We’ve all heard the one about knowing the difference between an actuary and an accountant – actuaries look at their own shoes rather than yours….

But as someone who has spoken to thousands of actuaries in my 20 years of recruiting them, the profile of the ‘average actuary’ nowadays has totally changed. But employers still have to be mindful of people with differences.

In the ever-changing landscape of today’s workplace, diversity and inclusion have emerged as key drivers of innovation and success. Harnessing those differences and providing good leadership is the difference between a high performing team and an unhappy camp.

In the UK, neurodivergent individuals make up a large portion of the population, at approximately 15-20% of people – I’m not sure what the proportion is within the actuarial profession but we know that they bring unique perspectives and skills to the table, making them valuable contributors to any organisation.

However, supporting neurodivergent employees requires a thoughtful approach from managers. Neurodiversity encompasses a broad spectrum of conditions, including autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, language disorders and many others.

Though these conditions bring individual strengths, such as pattern recognition, out-of-the-box thinking or being meticulous, they can also pose challenges within the workplace. Recognising and accommodating these differences is crucial for creating an inclusive and productive environment.

Research conducted by City & Guilds Foundation and Do-IT Solutions revealed that 41% of employers in the UK and globally have adapted their recruitment practices to accommodate neurodivergent traits. While this is a positive step, there is still a significant gap in neurodiversity training for HR professionals and senior leaders.

With only 23% of HR professionals and 29% of leaders receiving neurodiversity training in the past year, this gap shows that despite good intentions, many managers may lack the knowledge and skills to effectively support neurodivergent employees.

For example, the issue of an office space.

Inclusive Employers wrote about how offices aren’t typically inclusive for neurodivergent employees, as the fluorescent lights, constant buzzing, and the expectation to maintain small talk can be overwhelming for those with sensory issues.

Further training could show employers how this could be where a hybrid or flexible working arrangement may be beneficial to those who find the standard office environment to be difficult to work in.

As many employers in the UK have a legal duty to provide reasonable accommodations to neurodivergent workers, it should be more commonplace to know where these accommodations could be made.

In general, managers might:

  • Adopt more inclusive hiring practices – focus on the technical priorities.
  • Provide reasonable adjustments which are specific to the employee.
  • Encourage awareness of neurodiversity and neurodivergence across the organisation.
  • Provide flexible working hours.
  • Arrange dedicated desks in areas that are quiet.
  • Have clear written communications and processes.

All of these examples are great ways to provide a better environment for neurodivergent employees, where reasonable adjustments have been made to better accommodate those with additional needs.

In any workplace, it’s important to create a culture of learning and understanding, where every employee feels as though they can speak up and share their ideas or struggles regardless of whether neurodiverse or not.

If managers are able to accommodate their neurodivergent employees, they might unlock the best productivity and collaboration within their team thanks to building a supportive environment.