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are you prejudiced or 'dyscriminatory?' how unconscious bias against dyslexic thinking is holding your business back.

Dyslexia Awareness Month - closing the skills gap with Dyslexic Thinking

Today sees the start of Dyslexia Awareness Month, and we aim to shine a light on what we believe could be one of the major cures to the skills gap and the talent scarcity issues plaguing businesses worldwide

Around six months ago, I had the privilege of joining Kate Griggs and her Made By Dyslexia team on stage at the World Dyslexia Assembly in New York. It's been a fantastic journey with significant progress made. Over the coming month, we have some exciting updates to share. As Dyslexia Awareness Day on October 8 approaches, I encourage you to stay tuned for more insights on how your organization can engage Dyslexic Thinkers.

The skills that are needed in today’s fast-changing, tech-led workplace are changing all the time. But this isn't another article on skills and talent scarcity. There is a common thread between the skills believed to be most in demand by 2025 and an attribute possessed by upwards of at least one in five people on the planet.

The skills list I'm referring to is part of the Future of Jobs report produced by the World Economic Forum.  According to the report, the top five skills are: analytical thinking and innovation, complex problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis, learning strategies, and leadership. While these skills are in high demand, they are in short supply. The commonality between all these skills? They are a direct match for Dyslexics.

Dyslexia is commonplace, but the understanding of it is less so. Around 1 in 5 people worldwide are dyslexic, but astoundingly, 97% of the world views dyslexia negatively, either as a disability or a learning disorder. We began working with Made By Dyslexia to help change just that.

there isn't just one way to achieve an outcome

Albert Einstein once said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." It's incredible to see 20% of workers written off because they are dyslexic when the data and truth are there for all to see.

Dyslexia is not a disability; it is a cutting-edge, and as Richard Branson explained, "a secret superpower" that allowed him to approach situations in business with a different mindset to others.

Some of the world's brightest minds and entertainers are dyslexic, 40% to be precise. These include Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Muhammad Ali, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Orlando Bloom, Magic Johnson and Keira Knightley. So many people possessing dyslexic skills are hugely successful. But, there’s a problem.

the world of work isn’t dyslexia-friendly. still.

Our own In-Demand Skills research shows a steady evolution of what skills are now required, and Dyslexics match very well with that and the future state. Dyslexic Thinking is, therefore, essential to the future of work.

When surveyed earlier this year, hundreds of HR leaders across the globe believe their companies are progressing toward a dyslexic-friendly workplace. However, compared to the real-life experiences of more than 1,500 dyslexic employees, there is a significant gap between the two groups.

When asked if their organization’s recruiting process can identify people with Dyslexic Thinking skills, 64% of HR leaders say “yes,” but only 4% of Dyslexic Thinkers agree — a difference of 60 points.

I’m not often staggered these days, but this one stopped me in my tracks. But let's break down that reaction from Dyslexics, because while the gap is significant, what is being said directly is that although Dyslexics have the sought-after soft skills or "power skills" that employers are looking for, 96% feel that the recruitment process fails to identify their valuable Dyslexic Thinking skills. Wow.

When I relay this to business leaders, the next question is usually, "How?"

making your workplace more attractive to dyslexics

As I’ve outlined, there is an urgent need for a better understanding of dyslexic talent. And, for many organizations, an unconscious bias will prevent dyslexic talent from applying to work with you, which starts as soon as the recruitment process begins. To empower dyslexic talent in the workplace, employers must offer adjustments that enable them to thrive.

The first steps to make your organization more attractive are critical; we will build on this further over the next month. At a high level, you first need to define dyslexia as a valuable thinking skill in your organization. Dyslexic strengths align with different skills that are needed now, and will be needed more in the future too.

This involves recognizing it as a unique cognitive perspective that brings strengths like creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. Among leadership, agreement must be sought to ensure a hiring strategy is built to include this, emphasizing dyslexia’s role in diversifying thought processes and enriching your team's problem-solving abilities.

Then, adjustments and accommodations need to be made for existing dyslexic employees, to ensure they are supported throughout employment, before then looking to change the hiring practices. This will mean implementing strategies to accommodate dyslexic individuals, such as flexible communication methods and training programs to harness their strengths effectively, reducing the reliance on text-heavy presentations and communications, making video calls or face-to-face meetings a readily accessible alternative, or even the first choice.

These are some practical tips, but as a custodian of culture for your organization, you must encourage an inclusive culture that values diverse thinking styles and fosters collaboration among all team members. By doing so, dyslexia can be embraced as a valuable thinking skill that contributes to your organization's success.

In the next post, this Dyslexia Awareness Month, we will discuss how unconscious bias in your job adverts is limiting your attractiveness to Dyslexic Thinking, and how the interview processes and testing can further prevent barriers and be intimidating for Dyslexics.

Learn more about how you can unlock the power of Dyslexic Thinking at your organization.

about the author

As chief executive of Randstad Enterprise, Mike Smith intentionally drives a culture of innovation and collaboration across our Enterprise businesses to build long-term client relationships with the world’s largest corporations. He consistently brings Randstad's “tech and touch” thinking to client conversations to solve complex talent challenges and create sustainable business value and agility.

Profile Photo of Mike Smith