By Tiffany Sunday
Starting a new job is stressful. For most of us, the process brings back memories of starting new schools having to navigate an unfamiliar territory with no established friendships or office network.
For neurodiverse professionals, starting a new job can present additional challenges as we work to access and quickly adapt to a new working environment. My dyslexic brain has a difficult time remembering people’s names. Half the time, I am unable to phonically hear the sounds to even pronounce their name.
The first becomes an interesting obstacle course of encountering challenges and then quickly creating an adaption or work around. My brain switches into survival mode to remember key information and people, similar to traveling to foreign country.
While our dyslexic brains switch into hyper adaption mode, we also notice subtle interpersonal dynamics, create in our minds a visual system overview of how the processes work in the office and creating a quick assessment of strategic team members. In a nutshell, we quickly assess the lay of the land to devise workplace strategies to match our new environment.
When I worked in corporate, I rarely thought about the process because it naturally occurred after years of developing these adaptive strategies. Think creative problem-solving on steroids.
As we complete the final edits for How Dyslexics Will Rule the Future, I’ve added two short chapters for HR professionals. These chapters include tips and strategies for creating smooth and productive Onboarding First Day, etc. for new hires who are dyslexic.
Three Key Tips for Making a Great First Day – Dyslexia Style
Accessibility Settings for Computer and Office Equipment
If your department does not have a technology request checklist for neurodiverse employees – create one. No need for a fancy form – just a list of settings the new hire would like engaged on their computer, company phone, and office equipment that they will frequently use.
Having access to internal grammar and spell check software programs is a necessity for most individuals with dyslexia. My all-time favorite program – Grammarly requires access to external servers which presents problems for most companies. Keeping my fingers crossed Grammarly will create a corporate software option.
Important – send the checklist to the new hire a week or two before their start date to allow IT time to create their settings and test the software.
Having access to company computer, email and internal systems on the first day is crucial.
In 2015, Shawn Rogers wrote about how to have a great First Day of work. One of the actions listed was completing the employment paperwork before the employee starts work.
One week before the start date, email the required paperwork so that all the forms can be completed prior to starting work.
For professionals with dyslexia, having extra time to complete this laborious task without feeling rushed, enables them to focus on meeting their team members and learning the company’s systems.
Company Welcome Mat
For a while, on LinkedIn, everyone was positing their First Day office swag photos. During the first day on the job, employees are accessing the company as much as fellow team members are checking out the new hire.
Businesses that make an effort to welcome all new hires and have team members available for help have lower turnover rates. No one likes walking into a new place and feeling unwelcome.
Prior to the first day, assign a team buddy or someone from HR to meet the new hire and then help them during the day.
Set up their workstation with a computer, login information, and supplies. For dyslexics, a stack of different color Post-It notes, whiteboard and Sharpies are helpful tools.
Also, create an infographic of the team with their photos and a short bio. More visual information – think charts, workflows, and etc. are always helpful. For example, on the team infographic Lauren – the guru of marketing, dog name is Champ, likes to eat Indian food on Fridays. Josh – tech of the group, bikes every day, loves to hike.
Infographics help us to create visual connections to remember names and job functions, plus give us information for small talk topics.
Creating a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for all hires is essential. Adding these extra tweaks for neurodiverse new hires can help reduce First Day stress so they can focus on what matters most – their new jobs