Embracing neurodiversity in the creative industries

Universal Music UK has published the first handbook for embracing neurodiversity.  Whilst it is aimed at the creative industries it has some great advice for all employers.

Neurodiverse (ND) and neurodiversity refer to the infinite variation in cognitive functioning that can lead to differences in thinking, attention and memory. The handbook, which is titled Creative Differences, explores the experiences of people with specific facets of neurodiversity such as ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and Tourette Syndrome. It has been guided throughout by people with lived experiences and key organisations working in the field.

The handbook highlights that while nearly all creative companies recognise the value of neurodiversity in the workplace only very few have ND-friendly policies and practices in place. It goes on to provide a range of practical solutions companies can adopt to make their workforces more accessible in areas including recruitment, mentorship and career progression. Specific recommendations include neurodiversity awareness education for all employees, providing flexibility around the job application process and also some less obvious suggestions such as a buddy system to help new recruits better understand unwritten social rules.

David Joseph, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music UK said,
“We believe the best way to flourish in our ever-changing industry is to create a team that truly reflects the incredible diversity of our artist roster and society.
While progress has been made in many areas there has been little exploration around the importance of neurodiversity. We looked for a practical guide to help us do what was needed. When we couldn’t find one, we decided to create one and share it, and that’s why we launched the Creative Differences project.
Our overall conclusion is that making your organisation ND-friendly is to the benefit of your entire workforce. Everyone should feel comfortable in bringing their whole selves to work. A huge thanks to all of the organisations and especially the many individuals who have shared with us their experiences and wisdom in the process of putting the handbook together”.

Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who spoke at the launch said, “As a dyslexic myself, I think that each and every member of our society has a contribution to make. For too long we have only focused on what people with neurodiverse brains struggle with rather than their myriad strengths. Increasingly in the future we will need to harness what neurodiverse people tend to be good at: creativity, thinking laterally, and looking at problems differently. We will need these skills in abundance as the world of work changes and if we want to address major challenges like climate change. Employers must adapt to and encourage different ways of thinking and working within their workforce. Universal Music’s lead is a brilliant example of how embracing diversity is good for staff wellbeing and good for business.”

Dr Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England who also attended said, “This guide is a powerful moral argument for everyone being able to achieve their personal potential at work; it’s also eloquent in making the business case for more inclusive ways of operating. If the advice shared across Universal Music’s handbook is adopted across the creative industries, more people will be able to flourish more often in more workplaces. That’s good for business, but it’s good for our people too, enabling more of us to enjoy the happy and fulfilled lives that we all deserve”.

A series of animations and a podcast are amongst the materials which are being released to complement the handbook. You can access the handbook here.