↑ Dyslexia-friendly Colours
← Dyslexia-friendly Colours

2 ways to unlock the dyslexic potential on your payroll

2 ways you can unlock the dyslexic potential on your payroll

Across all industries, 10% of the UK adult workforce is dyslexic. However, in some industries much more than 10% of workplace trainees are dyslexic.

Many companies in these industries are unaware of their high proportion of staff with dyslexia and, with no additional adjustments taking place for this, their training courses are not delivering knowledge as effectively as they think they are.

Some of these companies are quietly thinking “why should I adjust things?” and, more often, “how do I adjust things?”

The interaction described below between two colleagues in a meeting can answer the first question, and lead you to an answer for the second one.

Patterns of dyslexia at work

When able to make a career choice, dyslexics can be seen to gravitate towards particular industries:

Industries demanding practical and creative skills are much more attractive to dyslexics than administrative management roles, which they actively avoid. So trainers who train paperwork-based middle managers face distinct teaching challenges from trainers who train hands-on engineers, designers and construction workers. The latter group’s visual thinking skills, processing and memory issues testify to the need for more dyslexia-friendly training programs within their training culture than among middle managers.

Yet across all sizes and sectors of industry, regardless of their incidence of dyslexia, there remains a mystique about dyslexia and its role in the innovation process that is so necessary for industry. This mystique persists despite the thousands of awkward encounters at work every day between dyslexics and their non-dyslexic colleagues in all industries. Their working relationship can often progress something like this:

The Scene: Colleagues are gathered around a table discussing how to develop a new industrial tool.

The following thoughts occur to two colleagues working in separate departments of the project:

Project Middle Manager: Why can’t this engineer remember the limited budget figures I scrolled through at the last meeting two weeks ago?

Dyslexic Engineer: Why can’t that middle manager see in their head that, by screwing on this new gizmo I’ve invented, the whole contraption will now work properly?

Both of them think: Is my colleague doing their job properly?


The middle manager’s problem: they are unaware that the visual-thinking dyslexic engineer has an aptitude for seeing the working solution in their mind’s eye.

The dyslexic engineer’s problem: they are unaware that their ability to create an innovative working solution is at the expense of their ability to effectively absorb company budget figures and rules as well.

Their employer’s problem: Colleagues often don’t “get” each other’s thinking because neither of them has been given the opportunity by the company to “get” what dyslexia is, and become aware of how it can influence performance at work.

Result: The colleagues remain unaware that dyslexia is partly shaping their actions and interactions, so they cannot be expected to understand how to change their performance. When this cycle inhibits personal performance, companies take a hit on productivity, morale, absenteeism and profitability.

Deloitte (2014) estimate that this adds up to billions lost to the UK economy every year, just in public sector productivity alone.

This need not be so. Here’s two ways to progress from it:

1. Employers embrace dyslexia at work

Dyslexia is rarely discussed out in the open at work by employers with their employees. Therefore neither party gets the inspiration of learning about its distinct psychological strengths at work, and the contributions dyslexics make to industry (Gates, Sugar, Roddick, Branson et al).

To discuss dyslexia openly would break it free from its worn out cliché as ‘a reading problem’ for the individual worker to deal with in private. Nobody wants to be seen as a ‘problem’ at work, so when employers start actively showing that they recognise dyslexia as something more positive, relationships between workers and employers will progress.

Many dyslexic workers have made this point themselves, saying that they are wary of consequences for them at work in terms of promotion and training opportunities, which they fear may falter with a negative label of ‘dyslexic’ attached to them.

This reluctance to be open at work is born from the lack of positive awareness of dyslexia among their employers and their colleagues.

What would work be like if the opposite was the case?:

Company results when a positive view is presented:

  • dyslexic staff would discuss their skills more at work;
  • company awareness of hidden talents would increase;
  • understanding how to improve productivity would deepen.

Dyslexic staff would also be more likely to:

  • declare and address their distinct learning needs;
  • access the training and support best suited to help them acquire work-related knowledge and skills.

Solution: Employers take action

  • raise awareness of dyslexia among directors and staff;
  • show that you recognise and value its strengths;
  • indicate how you will facilitate it;
  • train staff in a dyslexia-friendly way.

2. Dyslexics also need to learn more about dyslexia

As well as dyslexia being a hush hush subject at work, very many dyslexic workers do not even know they have a dyslexic learning style. They regularly attribute their issues to something else – being slow, being stupid, just ‘not getting it’.

Even many dyslexic adults only know the tired stereotype of dyslexia as a reading and spelling problem, and are unaware that memory and processing issues are the root components of this condition. Such low self-awareness among dyslexics themselves places limits on what action trainees or their trainers can take.

Solution: Employers take action

  • raise awareness of dyslexia among directors and staff;
  • help them to know where to learn more about it;
  • show them how you will facilitate it;
  • create an approachable dyslexia-friendly workplace;
  • offer dyslexia-friendly training opportunities. 

Company results:

  • better skilled workforce;
  • better working relationships;
  • greater company loyalty;
  • improved company image.

(Employment Research Institute 2013)

Your minimum company result:

Your company gains a better-informed middle manager and engineer, who understand dyslexia in their workplace, and can both say with confidence: ‘I know my colleague is doing their job properly”.

What more can any company ask for?

The training you need to achieve this is available now.

Jan Halfpenny in a dyslexia specialist who trains businesses and individuals in dyslexia.

Please like our course Facebook page for Understanding and Supporting Dyslexia in Business


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