About 10% of the population has dyslexia – and this week is Dyslexia Awareness Week 2014 – the focus being not just about awareness raising but celebrating the achievements of those with dyslexia.
Most organisations want to source talented teams, so it makes sense not to narrow the pool from which you make your search, by making erroneous assumptions about the impact of certain conditions on an employee’s ability and potential to achieve.
There isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ to achieve a good track record in successfully recruiting, retaining and engaging with staff, but isn’t that what we want as employers? We can develop flexible and inclusive approaches and strategies to support staff at work who have a disability (as defined within the Equality Act). There is more to embracing a diverse workforce than just legal compliance – it’s about focusing on ability, ambition and achievement to empower everyone to make a contribution!
I have known employers ready to change their perceptions and work towards a dyslexia-friendly working environment – and others who are less willing to make that commitment. My own top 5 tips are:
- Have a look at your selection processes – often these are surprisingly removed from the real skills and abilities needed in a role – I would recommend a ‘refresh’ of their relevancy and make the often minor adjustments to ensure that those with dyslexia are not disadvantaged at the outset
- When new staff join your organisation, it’s common sense to invest in on-boarding and ensure that the mutual commitment between employer and staff members beds in from day one onwards. Take time to treat employees as individuals with needs and preferences – many people with dyslexia are highly intelligent and creative and often score highly on tests which assess analytical and problem-solving skills – but remember that each person with dyslexia is different – avoid stereotyping!
- Plan for external support if appropriate – the British Dyslexia Association http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk has great resources to support employers. Access to Work offer workplace assessments and some funding to implement workplace adjustments and technological developments, of course, offer a wealth of support now compared with just a few years ago.
- Involve managers and team members – a tricky one at times, but worth making the effort to encourage and educate staff. I have found this to be the most challenging but rewarding aspect of supporting businesses. Keep it simple, clear and part of a broader approach to developing a culture where the focus is on strengthening the ability of all to make a contribution to the organisation.
- Finally… if there are problems or misunderstandings between an employee and their manager, make sure that they are not swept under the carpet – try involving HR and/or occupational health to facilitate resolution of issues. Often a simple change to the way things are done, can enable a dyslexic employee to work to their full potential – and that’s really what we want for all of our staff.
Barbara Fisher PG Dip HRM, B.A. (Hons), M.C.I.P.D
Head of Human Resources