Top Ten Tips to become a Dyslexia Friendly Employer

Dyslexia Awareness Week is just around the corner. So, I have put together these top ten tips to becoming a dyslexia friendly employer.

Dyslexia often diagnosed at school or university, therefore spoken about in the education context. Support for dyslexic pupils and students in the form of SEN is commonplace. However, in the workplace not as much.

The majority of staff I supported when working at Imperial College London were in their 40s or 50s. A lack of historic support coupled with a ack of knowing what may have helped you reach your potential is a difficult road to travel.

No two people will experience dyslexia in exactly the same way.

Here are my top ten steps to being a dyslexia friendly employer.

1. Understand dyslexia in the workplace

For many adults, dyslexia extends beyond what is referred to as reading and writing difficulties. Dyslexia includes a number of ‘processing differences’ and can affect speed of processing, organisation, communication and memory. Understanding this as an employer and an organisation is the first step to starting the journey.

2. Raise awareness

Raise awareness to help staff understand how dyslexia in the workplace can impacts staff. This includes the positive aspects, in addition to barriers and how they can be removed. Dyslexia Awareness Week which takes place at the start of October is a great way to do this. You could ask a local dyslexia organisation, or the British Dyslexia Association to give a talk about workplace dyslexia.

3. Organise training

In my experience once you have raised awareness on the topic staff will be very interested in finding out more. Organising high-quality succinct training sessions is the next step in the journey. Training could include an overview of neurodivergent conditions and how they interlink. Highlighting what dyslexia in the workplace looks like and how to support staff. It doesn’t have to be too long, a 90 minute session can do a lot to educate people.

For more information listen to podcast episode #58 Neurodiversity, Race and Culture with Jannett Morgan.

4. Have a process to support staff who come forward

Once the steps above have been put into place, it is likely that staff will begin to come forward for support. This is a real milestone, demonstrating all the ground work is paying off! Therefore, it is essential to have a robust process of support in place. This will vary from organisation to organisation. You will need to work with your disabled staff network, affinity group or employee resource group. Support options include the Government’s Access to Work Scheme, clinical psychologists, specialist coaching and workplace needs assessors. A Workplace Needs Assessment is crucial for staff members to understand the options available to them. It also provides clear practical recommendations based on their specific needs in the workplace.

For more information listen to podcast episode #79 Neurodivergent Support with Janette Beetham.

5. Support line managers

As part of the workplace needs assessment, the assessor should meet with the line manager too. This ensures line managers have the time to ask any questions and find out how they support the team member in an appropriate and best way possible.

6. Ensure a timely process for workplace adjustments

It’s great to know what you need, but there’s nothing more frustrating than delays. Not having access to any equipment and recommendations put in place way too late. Ideally the turn-around should be two weeks. Adjustments aren’t usually expensive or time consuming. Especially considering the increased productivity and outputs from the staff member.

Read 9 Useful Apps to Support Dyslexia

7. Review what’s working well

As with any staff member, talk about what’s working well at regular 1-2-1s. It’s an opportunity to find out about equipment updates. As well as the support process or what may need adjusting further. Encourage managers not to shy away from the subject, but to embrace positive conversations following the support being put into place.

8. Draw on lived experience

Give staff who have been supported an opportunity to speak about the journey they have been on. If it’s going smoothly it should have empowered them in their role. Of course, this is if they feel they would like to! This could be at a team, divisional meeting or at a specific event. This aids understanding and encourages other staff to come forward for support.

9. Link to your organisation’s strategic mission for talent development and retention

Dyslexia is a strength and famous dyslexics such as Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Benjamin Zephaniah and Keira Knightley have used their strengths to build glittering careers. Realising dyslexic potential its positive impact makes business sense. It’s part of your talent management strategy and business as usual. You will reap the rewards and so will staff members.

10. Become a Dyslexia ChampionTM

Dyslexia Champions™ are guidance beacons for neurodivergence in the workplace. Dyslexia Champions™ are employees who contribute towards a dyslexia/neurodivergent friendly workplace culture. This specific training equips them to signpost individuals to appropriate workplace related support. They can provide guidance to line managers on how best to support neurodivergent staff members.

The Dyslexia Champions™ Programme is a two-day OCN Level 2 training programme endorsed by the British Dyslexia Association.

Janette Beetham and Leyla Okhai have co-authored a paper in the Open Journal of Social Sciences. You can read the full paper here: https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=76910

I hope you’ve found this article on how to become a dyslexia friendly employer useful.

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