Too often the narrative around disability is a cost to business. However, as the Dyslexic Dynamic report demonstrates, the exact opposite can be true.
The future is already here
It has been estimated that by 2025 humans and machines will split work 50/50. The pandemic has turbo-charged the progress of digitization and automation. What have been described for years as “jobs of the future” and “the workplace of the future” has suddenly become the “post-pandemic” workplace, and it is the emerging reality today.
The World Economic Forum (WEF), which has studied the changing needs of the global economy, has revealed the core work-related skills and abilities that will be in demand in the era of digitization and automation. A 2018 study, the “Value of Dyslexia” report by Made By Dyslexia and the global business consultancy EY, built on the WEF “Future of Jobs” research to show that:
- Dyslexics have a range of natural strengths that make them “hard wired” to meet the needs of this digitized and automated economy.
- In the future, enhanced tasks and new roles will be created that match closely to the strengths of dyslexic thinking.
- Trending demand for competencies such as leadership and social influence, creativity and initiative, and analytical thinking and innovation, are associated with typical dyslexic strengths.
The value of dyslexia
The “Dyslexic Dynamic” report found a dyslexic talent pool of 700m people is being overlooked and undervalued, with most dyslexic employees feeling employers have a poor or non-existent understanding of the dyslexic skillset. The top skills employers are looking for closely correspond to those who have dyslexic thinking skills — yet many employers remain unaware of these dyslexic skills.
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Tasks dyslexic people typically find more challenging, such as spelling, reading and memorising, are increasingly being done by machines. The soft skills that are most valued in today’s workplaces, communication, creativity, complex problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, are the very skills that people with dyslexia excel at and machines cannot do.
The ‘Dyslexic Dynamic’ report reveals that the top skills employers are looking for correspond closely to the skills of dyslexic thinkers, including accountability, resilience, initiative taking, reasoning, social influence, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and curiosity.
Up to 1 in 5 (20%) of the adult population are dyslexic, yet 79% of dyslexic people think the recruitment process doesn’t enable dyslexics to show their true abilities. A similar number (75%) think recruitment practices put dyslexic people at a disadvantage. It is this perception that is a barrier to harnessing dyslexic talent.
More than half (55%) of employers have a poor or non-existent understanding of dyslexic strengths. Almost half (47%) of employers say they don’t consider dyslexia when recruiting and don’t believe it’s relevant.
The context of dyslexia in work
Dyslexia is a disability, but that’s not the full story. Each person’s dyslexia is different and a closer analysis of the challenges it brings reveal impediments in our systems of education and work that simply don’t need to be there.
While dyslexia brings challenges to many people, it is widely understood also to bring strengths to many. Dyslexic people are highly sought after in certain workplaces – British intelligence agencies such as GCHQ particularly value dyslexic thinking in areas such as pattern recognition and using intuition and insight to be able to join dots at a strategic level.
The Chief Nursing Officer in NHS England is dyslexic and dyslexia is seen to bring many strengths to the job of nursing, particularly in areas where emotional intelligence plays a role.
But, in order for more workplaces to value dyslexia and unlock the potential benefits for both employees and employers – not to mention the wider economy – the first step is to make sure that managers and management processes are designed so that dyslexic employees and job candidates can reveal their strengths and shine. They should not be held back by relatively minor issues, such as spelling, memorising, and assimilating large amounts of information.
Technology is helping to harness the skills of those with dyslexia, and it could also prove valuable in transforming the way candidates are assessed. Both ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions and Made By Dyslexia are working together to explore how gamification, and shorter, more engaging user experiences can be used in assessment to identify ability and remove biases.
What should employers do?
If employers recognize, value, and attract dyslexic talent, they can harness the skills they need for post-pandemic recovery. To remove barriers, employers should consider three simple actions:
- Offer the basics – extra time, quiet rooms for tests, clear questions. Forgive typos and spelling – they are not a reflection of commitment or ability.
- Revise traditional tests – understand that traditional tests may not always showcase dyslexic thinkers’ full talents. Help them to show their abilities in different ways with a mix of skills-based assessment and interviews.
- Encourage declaration – show you value dyslexic thinking. Don’t insist on a formal assessment to trigger reasonable adjustments, a self-declaration of dyslexia should be enough.
It’s time for employers to see the strengths of a diverse workforce. Embracing dyslexic talent isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense.