Improving Neurodiversity with Universal Music Group

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1 in 10 people in the UK can be classified as neurodivergent; an umbrella term covering attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette’s syndrome and autism. However, according to the CIPD, only 10% of UK HR professionals say that their organisation’s people management practices include consideration of neurodiversity. This significant oversight leaves swathes of jobseekers and employees feeling misunderstood and overlooked in a career market designed for ‘neurotypicals’.

Universal Music Group, having recognised this issue, commissioned Flamingo to explore how the creative industries could adapt themselves to better accommodate neurodivergent members of staff. They were ready to adapt their processes to ensure all employees were catered for and to acknowledge the unique talents that come with neurocognitive variation.

Flamingo used a multi-stage approach to explore and understand this space. Firstly, we completed a review of existing research reports in this field. Then, we conducted 42 in-depth interviews with neurodivergent individuals, employers and experts. These interviews were carefully designed to suit the needs of participants. Interviewees could choose to be spoken to in person, over the phone or via webcam and excessive language and confusing colour combinations were avoided to prevent overwhelm.

This was followed by a survey encompassing 50 creative organisations. Combined, these methods provided comprehensive insight into the conversations, challenges and attitudes surrounding neurodiversity, giving us a nuanced view of the barriers and opportunities for the future workplace. This knowledge informed a set of strategic recommendations for Universal, which we discussed with the initial neurodivergent research participants and employers; checking that they would be effective in reality.

Our finalised recommendations were accompanied by a handbook for employers, which aim to guide Universal in improving the workplace for neurodivergent employees (and the workforce as a whole). The handbook includes advice for the complete employment journey – from recruitment and onboarding to management and mentorship to retention and progression – which will help to improve satisfaction across all facets of an employee’s tenure.

Universal Music Group have started to implement our recommendations, making strategic amendments to their people management processes to improve the experience of employees. Universal will be publishing a report in Autumn 2019, with the hope that other employees across the creative industries – and beyond – will be able to learn from it and create better working environments for neurodivergent individuals.

Milly Liechti