Dyslexia could influence as many as one in five people and is a genetic difference in an individual’s ability to learn and process information. As a result, dyslexic individuals often have strengths in creative, problem-solving and communication skills but often face challenges with spelling, reading and memorising facts.
Just as it is essential to identify and support dyslexic children in schools, it is also vital that we recognise and work to the strengths of dyslexic adult minds in the workplace and create supportive environments for their extraordinary strengths to thrive.
Dyslexics are naturally curious and highly creative, with an incredible ability to think laterally
The value of dyslexic thinking
Dyslexic thinking has created some of the world’s greatest inventions, brands and art. From Roald Dahl to Richard Branson, inspiring dyslexic minds have shaped culture and commerce over the last century, with their brilliant qualities and unique strengths. But dyslexic thinking skills haven’t just shaped our past. They are ‘mission critical’ to our future, too.
LinkedIn, the world’s largest careers platform, recently added dyslexic thinking as a skill, offering their 810+ million members globally the option to add it as a skill on their profile. Dyslexic thinking has also been added as a skill on dictionary.com. This is a huge step forward in the recognition of the incredible strengths dyslexic thinkers bring to the workplace.
Dyslexic thinking skills of the future
Dyslexics are naturally curious and highly creative, with an incredible ability to think laterally, often possessing soft skills such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, reasoning, leadership, social influence and complex problem solving, which are all trending in terms of future competency demands.
Interestingly the skills that dyslexics find the most challenging, such as remembering facts and figures and elements of literacy are already in decline and may be automated in the future. These include tasks such as systems analysis, time management and managing resources, to name a few.
The fourth industrial revolution is seeing digitisation and AI transforming the skills required in the workplace of the future. According to 2023 research from investment bank Goldman Sachs, AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs by 2030.
In an era of automation, where facts can be Googled and spelling, punctuation and grammar can be corrected at the touch of a button, it is creativity, imagination and intuition that sets humans apart from machines. Dyslexics often possess many of the most valuable skills which can’t be replicated by machines.
In 2018, Made By Dyslexia asked EY to help us research the overlap between dyslexic thinking skills and the ‘skills for the future’, as outlined by the World Economic Forum (WEF). They produced two Value of Dyslexia reports one in 2018 and 2019. Four years on from this research and the majority of WEF's 2023 top ten skills of the future still make up the dysexic thinking skills list.
We need more dyslexia education
Research has found that only three per cent of people saw dyslexia as an advantage and seventy per cent of employees hide their dyslexia from their employers. This is not surprising, as the same survey reveals that only seventeen per cent of employers have a good understanding of dyslexic thinking skills, with fifty-five per cent of workplaces having poor or non-existent knowledge of them.
These statistics show clearly that the education surrounding dyslexia is inadequate, and that employers are missing a trick when they don’t acknowledge the positive skills, that their dyslexic employees possess. It also reveals that employees themselves are lacking in confidence and don’t view their dyslexia as a valuable attribute offering them a competitive edge.
My dyslexia is not a disability, but an ability to think differently, and if this world needs anything at this moment, it is people who think differently. We’ve learnt how to see around walls and spot the potential in something that others don’t - Jo Malone
How to support and nurture dyslexic thinking
No adult should ever have to hide the fact that they are dyslexic or see their dyslexia as a weakness that might compromise their success. Part of the stigma surrounding it needs to be actively challenged, and myths debunked, in the workplace. Employers should be clear that they accept and celebrate dyslexic minds, and should actively be trying to facilitate and foster dyslexic thinking.
There are easy steps that any workplace can take to empower dyslexic thinking, which will increase positive awareness and boost the confidence and productivity of their employees in the process.
- Define dyslexic thinking as a valuable thinking skill set
- Train everyone in your organisation, regardless of level or role, to understand its value in the workplace. This includes adopting the 21st-century definition of dyslexia
- Offer adjustments that help dyslexics to thrive, such as providing assistive technologies including speech-to-text programmes, tablets, or using automated meeting requests
- Encourage all employees who are, or think they may be dyslexic to take a test. The results will help them, and you to understand their dyslexic thinking skills and profile
- Foster a culture of openness and disclosure. Only by being open about being dyslexic and your strengths, challenges and needs, can managers and employees empower dyslexic thinking in everyone
- Tailor recruitment processes to spot dyslexics
- Show you value dyslexic thinking and ensure role profiles, recruitment material and job adverts specify dyslexic thinking skills too
- Offer the basics during the recruitment process – extra time, quiet rooms for tests, clear questions, and different ways of presenting. Look beyond typos and spelling to see ideas and innovative thinking
- Review existing methods of recruiting to ensure that dyslexic thinking is not being disadvantaged by your processes. For example, online applications and psychometric tests often play to dyslexic challenges
- Start affinity groups for openness and support and to feed the needs of dyslexic employees straight to the senior leadership team. Affinity groups are a positive catalyst for change and provide invaluable support including mentorship opportunities
- Engage with dyslexia networks to tap into the global dyslexic community, including organisations and affinity groups, to learn what they have found most effective in supporting their community and in driving positive change
Start affinity groups for openness and support and to feed the needs of dyslexic employees straight to the senior leadership team
Together, we can lead the charge in workplaces around the globe, as senior leaders, managers, colleagues and employees, redefining dyslexia and helping more people to understand it as a valuable and different way of thinking, which is an asset to every team.