The Benefits of Neurodiversity Talent in Engineering

Article by James Cusack

To mark World Autism Acceptance Month, James Cusack highlights the many benefits of neurodivergent employees, explaining why an inclusive workplace culture may be the key to unlocking their untapped potential

James Cusack was appointed the first autistic CEO of a major national UK charity

AN ESTIMATED one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent, a term which encompasses a range of conditions including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and tic disorders like Tourette’s. Yet many neurodivergent people struggle to get into jobs or progress in employment. For example, just three in ten of autistic people are in employment, with many of these jobs unstable or below their skill level. In the engineering sector, the call to recognise and harness the unique capabilities of neurodivergent talent has never been more pressing. 

Research has consistently demonstrated that neurodiverse teams are more effective, bringing a range of benefits to their organisations.1,2,3,4 For engineering companies, the advantages of employing neurodivergent talent are manifold:

  • Innovative problem-solving: Neurodivergent individuals often approach problems from unique angles, leading to innovative solutions that might elude neurotypical thinkers
  • Attention to detail: Many neurodivergent individuals exhibit heightened attention to detail, which is crucial in engineering where precision is paramount
  • Pattern recognition: Skills such as pattern recognition can be especially beneficial in identifying trends and anomalies in data, a common requirement in engineering tasks
  • Sustained concentration: The capacity for intense concentration can significantly boost productivity and progress in complex engineering tasks

Despite these clear advantages, a survey conducted by The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) revealed that even though 19% of UK respondents identified as neurodivergent, they report largely negative experiences in the workplace.  This disconnect suggests that engineering firms may be inadvertently sidelining a vital resource for growth and innovation.

World Austism Acceptance Month runs throughout April

Further compounding the issue, a 2020 survey by the Institute of Leadership indicated that industries such as engineering, manufacturing and construction are among the least likely to have neurodivergent individuals openly discussing their neurodiversity. This silence can be seen as symptomatic of a broader issue – a work culture throughout the country that has yet to fully embrace and foster neurodivergent talent.

There are ways businesses and government leaders have been looking at building neurodiversity inclusion across the workforce in the UK; the recent Buckland Review of Autism Employment from Sir Robert Buckland KC MP and the Department for Work and Pensions sets out a range of recommendations for employers. One of these recommendations urges companies to join the Neurodiversity Employers Index (NDEI), an initiative we have developed, to promote inclusive employment practices and capitalise on the strengths of neurodivergent workers.

The NDEI provides insights and tools for companies, not about making reasonable adjustments for a small number of people, but in making changes that benefit everyone, both in terms of the economy and as a society.

For the engineering sector, the integration of neurodivergent talent is not merely a matter of corporate social responsibility – it is a strategic imperative. By fostering an inclusive culture and valuing the contributions of neurodivergent employees, engineering firms only seek to benefit from unlocking this pool of creativity, precision, and problem-solving abilities that will propel them to new heights in this competitive global market.


  1. BF Jones & BA Weinberg. Age and productivity: Evidence from linked employer-employee data. National Bureau of Economic Research (2017)
  2. The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths. Deloitte Insights (2018)
  3. The business case for neurodiversity. Harvard Business Review. HBR Ascend (2019)
  4. Autism at Work: The groundbreaking program that’s putting neurodiversity to work. SAP (2017)

Article by James Cusack

CEO at Autistica, the UK's autism research charity

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