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Including Neurodivergent Workers: Evaluation

Neurodivergent employees, just like all employees, want to build skills and advance in their careers.

Employers should thoughtfully plan out performance management measures to help support the career growth and success of neurodivergent workers.

Most supervisors have a general idea of their employees’ strengths and challenges, and should consider this context when preparing an evaluation plan for an employee. They should also work with their employees to develop performance goals.

In this way, supervisors and employees can determine work-based performance goals, and also consider goals that do not involve core work duties. Metrics should be as clear as possible and include specific expectations. For example, a supervisor could choose to describe a type of report to create and note their frequency and associated deadlines, rather than simply state “produce regular reports.”  Many neurodivergent people, and others too, find specific performance or development plans helpful, especially when starting a new job.

Commonly, neurodiversity hiring programs have their neurodivergent employees go through the same evaluations for work performance on the job as other employees do. However, these programs also ensure that their managers work within parameters that meet or address their neurodivergent employees’ needs. Ultimately, neurodivergent employees should still be evaluated on their work performance success. However, the manner in which an employer might choose to evaluate their employees can vary.

Some employers may run more frequent one-on-one meetings with an employee to review their performance on a regular basis and provide tailored feedback or suggestions. These brief, frequent meetings can sometimes serve as a helpful accommodation for neurodivergent employees. Others may allow for feedback to be stated aloud, written down or otherwise shared in a manner in which the employee feels most comfortable. This process can occur within an agreed upon timeframe, such as no more than two hours after an in-person meeting. In this way, the employee has the information they need to process the feedback they received and make effective use of it.

Above all else, provide clear, constructive and direct feedback. Managers should not allude to or imply concerns or issues. Many neurodivergent people may find it challenging to gauge their work performance or completion of job tasks because of unclear feedback. Instead, managers should tactfully and directly describe in detail both key areas of success and areas for improvement. They should then ask clarifying questions to help ensure understanding and provide clear next steps. Managers should use this same approach when providing positive feedback as well.

Where appropriate, managers should also make sure to provide explicit positive feedback on a frequent basis to acknowledge and encourage work successes of their neurodivergent workers. Many employees, both neurodivergent workers and others, find that strong encouragement can be helpful to enhance their work performance and productivity and boost their confidence. Many neurodivergent people also have difficulty reading subtle cues or nuances that indicate positive feedback; explicit feedback helps in this regard.