KPMG Case study: helping neurodivergent colleagues thrive

OTTAWA, CANADA - NOVEMBER 11, 2018: KPMG logo on their main office for Ottawa, Ontario, in a business district. KPMG is one of the main audit firms in the world, within the Big Four Group

Picture of KPMG logo on a skyscraper in the afternoon in Ottawa downtown CBD, Onario, Canada. KPMG is a professional service company and one of the Big Four auditors

Creating an environment where neurodivergent colleagues can be themselves and thrive is a priority to accountancy firm KPMG, mindful that ‘masking’ their conditions – where they try to repress their tendencies to fit in better – is exhausting; it’s one reason why mental health issues are more common amongst the neurodivergent population.

Currently, from a legal perspective, neurodiversity is included under the banner of ‘disability’ which UK digital accessibility manager Neil Eustice says doesn’t necessarily go down well. “Many neurodiverse colleagues wouldn’t consider themselves disabled,” he says, adding that he sees his mission as to create a fully equitable workplace where everyone can be themselves and bring their whole selves to work.

Pick your words carefully when it comes to neurodiversity

Indeed, language has proved to be one of the most important powerful tools in Eunice’s armoury to start the conversation about neurodiversity, resulting in many more people ‘disclosing’ (the common terminology) their neurodiverse condition.

“The word ‘disclose’ isn’t liked by a lot of people either,” explains Eustice. “We’ve actually changed a lot of the wording in our HR and internal documents. For example, we don’t just talk about ‘disability’, we now talk about’ long-term conditions’ including neurodiversity and explain what these are in our HR pages.”

This tweak to language could partly explain why in the last four years many more people are now disclosing they have a disability or long-term condition – which KPMG reports on and publishes figures annually as part of their Inclusion, Diversity and Equity targets.

“We want to encourage people to tell us about their conditions in the hope we can learn from them and improve what we’re doing as a business,” he says. “Not only to help people we already employ to progress their careers but also to help us recruit more people who have specific conditions.”

Involve senior leadership

One way KPMG has encouraged colleagues to speak up more is through making sure leadership is involved and talking about neurodiversity. There are also targets to increase the number of leaders with a disability (including neurodiversity) from its current 7% level to 15% by 2030.

Another powerful step that KPMG has taken is to talk to people with different neurodiversity conditions about their experiences and what can help them bring their ‘whole selves’ to work more.

“Take a particular condition like dyslexia. We’ll talk to colleagues who have told us they have dyslexia and ask them how it affects them, asking them questions like the sort of things people should stop doing that don’t help, and the things that do help,” says Eustice.

Creating guides to raise awareness about different neurodiverse conditions

This anonymised feedback is then collated into a ‘personal perspective’ which is published online to raise awareness of what it’s like for individuals living with these traits. But Eustice stresses that the idea is to give a general idea with the caveat that there is no ‘one size fits all’ and many people, even with the same condition, present very differently.

“The saying that ‘once you’ve met one person with a disability, you’ve met one person with a disability’ is true, which is why we’ve built these personal perspectives based on lots of people’s experiences,” he says.

Large cross over between neurodiversity and mental health conditions

These personal perspectives – entitled ‘This is Me’ – are not only useful for colleagues who aren’t neurodiverse to increase their empathy, but they’re also useful for those who may not realise that they are neurodivergent and are undiagnosed. They also make clear the “large crossover” between neurodiverse and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

In fact, through working in this area and raising awareness of neurodiversity, Eustice actually realised that he is neurodiverse. Knowing this has really boosted his sense of wellbeing:

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“I’m a lot happier because I understand why I am like I am and feel better about myself. I’m in my 60s now and I don’t see the need for a diagnosis. All the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle have come together and I don’t feel I need a medical diagnosis.”

If you’re interested in how personalisation can underpin successful wellbeing strategies, including approaches to appreciating neurodiversity and our uniqueness in thought and learning, you can join the workshop which Virgin Pulse is running at this year’s MAD World Summit on 11 October in Central London. Full details about the event are here.

If you’re an EMPLOYER, you can sign up for 3 x 15 minute 1-2-1 meetings with exhibitors at the Summit. This will also entitle you to a FREE DELEGATE PASS WORTH £595.00 and access to all sessions. Terms and conditions apply, view here.

You might also like:

Managing neurodiversity: look beyond the label to the individual

Rethinking Your Job Descriptions – A Way to Promote Inclusivity in the Workplace


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