Starting a new job is stressful. For most of us, the first day brings back memories of starting new schools and having to navigate unfamiliar territories.
For neurodiverse professionals, starting a new job can present additional challenges as we work to quickly access and 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 or even pronounce a team member’s name.
The first day is an obstacle of workarounds. The dyslexic brain shifts into a survival mode, to remember key information and people, similar to traveling in a foreign country.
During the initial hours of orientation and meet and greet, our brains are hyper-focused. We notice subtle interpersonal dynamics, draw in our minds, a visual image of the how the company works and who are the strategic team members. We’re mentally building an informal team who can provide help when needed.
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 occurred after years of developing these adaptive strategies. Think creative problem-solving on steroids.
As I complete the final edits for How Dyslexics Will Rule the Future, I’ve added two short chapters for HR professionals. These chapters include information for creating smooth and productive Onboarding First Days and Workplace Strategies for professionals 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 an accessibility technology request checklist for neurodiverse employees – create one. A simple list of accessibility settings the new hire would like selected on their computer, company phone, and office equipment.
Having access to internal grammar and spell check software programs is a necessity for most dyslexics. My all-time favorite program is Grammarly. However, the software requires access to external servers which presents problems for most companies. A workaround for Grammarly is web based Editor application. I exchanged emails with
Important – send the checklist to the new hire a week or two before their start date to allow the IT department time to set up their computer and assistive tech software.
Having access to the company computer, email and internal systems on the first day is crucial.
In 2015, Shawn Rogers, talent acquisition expert, 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 before starting work. For professionals with dyslexia, having extra time to complete this laborious task without feeling rushed is an added benefit. With the completed paperwork completed, new hires can focus on meeting with team members and learning about the company’s systems instead of filling out paperwork.
Company Welcome Mat
For a while, on LinkedIn, posting their First Day office swag photos was popular. 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 to help have lower turnover rates. No one likes walking into a new place and feeling unwelcomed.
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 which include a stack of different colored Post-It Notes, whiteboards and Sharpies.
Also, create an infographic of the team with their photos and a short bio. More visual information the better – think charts, workflows, and etc. For example, on the team infographic Lauren – the guru of marketing, dog name is Champ, likes to eat Indian food on Fridays. Josh – techie of the group, bikes every day, loves to hike.
Infographics help us create visual connections to remember names, job functions, and information for small talk topics for building interpersonal work relationships.
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.