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Universal Music release a handbook for embracing neurodiversity in the creative industries

With their Creative Differences handbook, Universal Music is providing an example of a company acting rather than talking; creating a solution for a space where they couldn’t see one, and sharing that solution across the industry.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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It is said that around 25% of all CEOs are dyslexic; but that only 16% of autistic people are in full-time paid work according to autism.org. When confronted with such stats, it seems as the world does not allow for difference, in any shape or form; that workplaces aren’t set up for it and employers shy away from it.

But if companies, leadership teams and workplaces can create environments that suit everyone; every type of difference, the world of work will be a much more vibrant, brilliant place for everyone.

When Universal Music started exploring how best to engage with neurodiversity in their offices, they couldn’t find a practical guide to help them. So, they created one themselves. Creative Differences is a handbook for embracing neurodiversity in the creative industries. It has been designed to both raise awareness and demonstrate simple, practical solutions that companies can adopt for their workforce. These solutions encompass areas like recruitment, mentorship and career progression.

Universal defined neurodiversity as referring to the infinite variation in cognitive functioning that can lead to differences in thinking, attention and memory. The handbook highlights that while most organisations in the creative industries acknowledge the value of neurodiversity in the workplace, very few have actual policies and structure in place to support this.

A few points of recommendation include providing flexibility around the job application process, neurodiversity awareness education for all employees, as well as a buddy system to help new employees navigate unwritten social rules. The handbook has been created alongside people with lived experiences and organisations working in that field, including those with experience of ADHD, dyslexia and Tourette’s syndrome among others.

People would talk as if my songs, my achievements, my career, etc. had been achieved despite things like my dyslexia. But I was thinking, might it not be because of those things?

Florence Welch

Creative Differences highlights the need for neurodiverse policies and practices in the workplace to allow everyone to flourish and perform to the best of their abilities. It’s not interested in pointing out where neuro-diverse people struggle, but is rather celebrating where they are strongest, and helping companies create a structure in which they can be just that. Different minds see different solutions to different problems; we need as much diversity in our workplaces as we can get to solve the societal and cultural challenges we face.

“We believe the best way to flourish in our ever-changing industry is to create a team that truly reflects the incredible diversity of our artist roster and society,” said David Joseph CBE, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music UK. “While progress has been made in many areas, there has been little exploration around the importance of neurodiversity. We looked for a practical guide to help us do what was needed. When we couldn’t find one, we decided to create one and share it.”

The musician Florence Welch wrote the introduction to the handbook in which she highlighted how difficult it was to navigate the world when words like neurodiversity didn’t exist. People made assumptions based on the thought that her dyslexia held her back. But, as she says, she believes her success came as a result of her neurodiverse experiences: “People would talk as if my songs, my achievements, my career, etc. had been achieved despite things like my dyslexia. But I was thinking, might it not be because of those things?”

With their Creative Differences handbook, Universal Music is providing an example of a company acting rather than talking; creating a solution for a space where they couldn’t see one, and sharing that solution across the industry. They recognise that if a workplace is good for the individual, it’s good for the business too.

Universal Music collaborated with illustrator Megan Rhiannon to create the imagery used throughout the handbook. To download the Creative Differences handbook, visit Universal Music’s website.

Illustrations © Megan Rhiannon

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