From education to employment

Over a third of 16-24-year-olds identify as neurodivergent

group of students chatting outside

Research from CYPHER Learning highlights why a personalized approach to staff development is needed, with almost a third of neurodivergent workers reporting training doesn’t meet their needs.

A striking new study into workers has found that more than a third (38%) of 16–24-year-olds self-identify with neurodivergent conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia. The findings suggest current one-size-fits-all approaches to workplace training and development could form a barrier to success for many more workers than previously thought.

Indeed, more than one in four (21%) of neurodivergent workers reported that the workplace training they receive does not meet their needs – a figure that rises to 26% for those aged 16-24. With some 28,000 graduates within this age group expected to enter the workforce this September, businesses are being urged to make sure their development plans are suitable for all workers.

“An untapped well of potential is about to enter the workforce, and HR teams should welcome the challenge of levelling up their L&D programmes to get the most out of their new employees,” said Graham Glass, CEO and Founder, CYPHER Learning.

“This is where personalized training comes in – if an employee knows they’re receiving the best training for them, they’re being set up to succeed. The power of AI can help with the move towards bespoke learning. With this, businesses stand to gain a more engaged workforce with supercharged skills.”

When all ages are considered, one in five workers identify as neurodivergent (Figure 1). These figures align with the increased diagnoses of autism, ADHD and dyslexia in recent years – with diagnosis of ADHD in adult men under 30 having increased twenty-fold between 2000-2018.


Figure 1 Percentage of general workers who self-identify with neurodivergent conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia by age group. Source: CYPHER Learning survey

Yet workplace barriers remain.

  • It is estimated that unemployment in neurodivergent adults is as high as 30-40%.
  • Neurodivergent persons in employment are likely to face challenges in the form of reading and writing, social interaction and communication, coordination and motor skills and learning disabilities, compared with their neurotypical peers.
  • For example, with core symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity, employees with ADHD are 30% more likely to have chronic employment issues and are 60% more likely to be fired from a job.

Many companies who have reformed HR processes to access neurodiverse talent, have benefited from productivity gains, boosts in innovative capabilities, and increased employee engagement. CYPHER Learning is calling for businesses to provide better tools to support neurodiverse workers and unlock this pool of talent.

“It has been reported that neurodiverse groups are better at creative and unconventional thinking, pattern recognition, stronger observational skills and the ability to stay focused. Adapting the workplace to suit their needs isn’t just a nice to do – it’s a smart business decision. And training and development is a huge part of that,” continues Glass.

“While previous generations, L&D teams had little choice but to create one size fits all programs, with AI that is no longer the case. In the new AI era of L&D, personalized learning is achievable. This will help to make the workplace more inclusive, while driving benefits to the bottom line – everyone wins.”

Laura Watkins, Chief Executive at The Donaldson Trust, said,

“A truly personalised approach to supporting and developing neurodivergent employees is closer to realisation with the use of AI platforms. These platforms will have significant impact in supporting current neurodivergent employees, developing more inclusive cultures, encouraging potential talent by reducing stress and anxiety, and by recognising and celebrating individual differences.”

Survey Methodology

CYPHER Learning worked with independent surveyor Censuswide to survey 4,000 workers – from owners and C-level executives to entry level employees. Censuswide surveyed 2,000 employees from the United States and 2,000 from the United Kingdom to better understand their attitudes toward workplace training and learning development.

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