A vibrant eclectic workforce is the key to success

Published on
22 March 2024

Embracing neurodiversity is reaping rewards at The Cumberland where staff are being offered vital support to help them lead happier lives at work and home.

The Cumberland marked Neurodiversity Celebration Week with a series of workshops and training sessions.

In less enlightened times neurodiverse conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia might have been seen as a 'problem' at work.

But Cumberland development manager Sean Turney, who is helping to run the new monthly support group launched this week, says neurodiversity brings creativity, lateral thinking and innovation to any business.

Sean spent nearly 50 years wondering why he found life such a struggle. Now he is not only accepting of the fact that he is probably autistic - he is learning to embrace it.

"Neurodiverse colleagues are essential to any workforce," said Sean, whose methodical mind and problem solving skills are valued at The Cumberland. "The blue sky thinkers come up with the vision - but they need someone like me to work out the steps on how we get there. I see things that other people just don't see."

Sean is urging colleagues who are struggling to get in touch, whether they have a diagnosis or not.

"There is no shame in being neurodiverse," said Sean. "I just wish I had realised that sooner. I spent years struggling with change, communication and empathy. I learned how to mask my confusion and pretend that I was OK, but it was a constant struggle and I was exhausted. Then I went to a workshop at The Cumberland on understanding neurodiversity and it changed my life."

The Cumberland is working with Maryport non-profit organisation Owl Blue to run regular sessions, helping to raise vital awareness of a range of hidden disabilities from autism to ADHD, in a bid to create a workplace that is inclusive for all.

The work is underpinned by a Neurodiversity Toolkit, which includes stories of neurodiverse colleagues with a focus on the benefits of neurodiversity in the workplace and signposts to helpful organisations and resources.

A workforce with diverse viewpoints and approaches can boost engagement, positivity and productivity, said People Coordinator Abbie Curzon. But it can also appeal to a wider customer base and that is crucial.

"It's helpful to understand that neurodiversity can be both hugely enabling and disabling," said Abbie, who is promoting simple changes at work to support colleagues. "Standing desks are helpful for people with ADHD while noise-cancelling headphones or sitting people in corners rather than in the middle of a busy room can reassure someone who is autistic.

"This isn't about giving people extra - it's about creating an equal playing field."

This ethos has earned The Cumberland a nomination for the prestigious British HR Awards with the winners being announced this spring.

"Sean is inspiring," said Abbie. "He has found his voice and is so honest about his own struggles - which is helping others to come forward and ask for support. We're a business who really cares about our colleagues and I'm proud to be part of a nurturing environment where people are able to bring their whole selves to work."