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Management, Peer Training and Mentoring

Train managers and peers to improve the workplace experiences of neurodivergent employees.

Neurodivergent workers need strong support from leadership in their workplaces, particularly from their managers, as well as their peers, to thrive. 

This support depends upon workplace fit and comfort. All workers, including people who are neurodivergent, should feel comfortable with voluntarily disclosing their disabilities when they choose to do so. Creating and supporting this type of supportive and inclusive workplace culture necessitates efforts to expand and enhance training for all staff, especially managers.

Managers should receive training on how to interact, supervise and work with neurodivergent people. This training should optimally include engagement with and input from neurodivergent workers and allies. Managers will need to learn about neurodivergent people’s ways of thinking and learning and how to assess workers’ individual needs. No one practice will work for all neurodivergent workers, and some practices benefit neurotypical employees, too. Managers should work with neurodivergent employees to identify their skills and needs to make the most of their contributions—just as they should do with all employees. HR departments should provide support to managers and connect them with resources that can help.

HR staff should make themselves available to managers and staff for consultations, questions and support, both during onboarding and after the employee has started work. If possible, it is helpful to identify a leader or leaders within your organization who can champion efforts to ensure neurodivergent workers, their managers and allies feel included and supported at work. This practice makes it easier to report key challenges and questions and find timely solutions to barriers that may arise. All HR staff should receive focused training to enhance their skills and knowledge in this area. However, the champions or point people for the neurodiversity inclusion efforts should receive a higher level of training. Ideally, they should have lived experience or possess a significant degree of experience, knowledge and skills in working with neurodivergent people.

Organizations should offer a broader level of training on neurodiversity to all their workers, regardless of their duties and job functions. This training should include both professional knowledge and input from neurodivergent people. In addition, employers should solicit this input when adopting training standards for a workplace. In this way, all employees can learn how to better empower and support their neurodivergent colleagues.

Managers can also share expectations and discuss how to support access needs for neurodivergent workers and connect with them as colleagues and friends. Organizations must take into account the extent to which neurodivergent workers feel comfortable and have given permission for others at work to discuss their personal experiences and access needs. In addition, social communications training can help all employees feel more comfortable and interact more effectively with one another at work.

Mentoring programs may help many neurodivergent people adjust to and thrive in modern workplaces. Some companies run specific mentoring programs for neurodivergent workers to help them handle workplace challenges, work/life balance and community living. Other businesses encourage neurodivergent workers to participate in mentoring programs that all workers use.

Peer mentors can help many neurodivergent workers adjust to the workplace and find key resources, and they may especially value mentors who are neurodivergent too. These mentors can also help neurodivergent workers navigate the workplace culture and complex challenges in the workplace. When starting or supporting a mentorship program, set clear expectations and guidelines for the mentorship program so that both mentors and mentees can feel comfortable with participating. You can learn more on EARN’s Mentoring page.

As mentioned elsewhere in this toolkit, employee resource groups (ERGs) for people with disabilities in general, or neurodivergent workers specifically, and their allies can also provide many benefits. These ERGs, which are sometimes called “affinity groups,” can partner to help develop materials, provide training programs and identify additional needs or areas of interest to neurodivergent employees. In addition, ERGs can provide support and ongoing opportunities for networking for members. Learn more on EARN’s ERGs page.