Neurodiverse employees are creative, innovative and highly intelligent.
Ubisoft, the French gaming giant, has been at the forefront of an industry-wide push to embrace neurodiversity. It has instituted policies and initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining neurodiverse talent, while also promoting a culture of inclusivity within its workforce.
Neurodiversity refers to natural variations in the human brain which can manifest as differences in a way an individual’s brain processes information, thinks, perceives, and engages in social interaction. These variations are not to be seen as bad or problematic or as an illness but rather should be viewed as simply thinking differently from neurotypical individuals.
Neurodivergent individuals may exhibit behaviors that are considered atypical. The spectrum can go from mild differences to those more noticeable. Autism, ADHD, dyslexia all fall under the spectrum of neurodiversity. However, an individual does not have to have a diagnosis to be neurodivergent and there is also recent that shows trauma can change the brain in a way to make it atypical.
According to a census held by United Kingdom trade group, UKIE, about 18% of game developers are neurodivergent, and Ubisoft sees this as a huge asset to its workforce.
At a session at the Game Developers Conference, Ubisoft spoke on the benefits of neurodiversity in the workplace. The company recognizes that neurodiverse individuals can bring unique strengths and perspectives to the table, especially in creative fields like game development. They usually have above average capabilities in the areas of intelligence, creativity, innovation, awareness, and a number of other sought-after skills.
“This special ability can be seen for example in individuals with ADHD who possess skills such as hyperfocus, a characteristic seen in intense gaming,” explained Esciach, Ubisoft’s Pierre Escaich, director of the neurodiversity talent program. With the brain’s dopamine levels elevated while an individual with ADHD is focused on a task, their focus can kick into hyperdrive.
Ubisoft has embraced neurodiversity through its dedicated Neurodiversity Initiative. The initiative, which was launched in 2021, included the formation of a Diversity and Inclusion department and the establishment of a Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group (ERG). This was targeted at identifying and supporting neurodiverse employees, while also raising awareness about neurodiversity in the gaming sector in general and reducing stigma in the workplace.
The initiative includes a number of programs, such as targeted recruitment efforts, accommodations for neurodiverse employees, and training options for managers and coworkers. The ERG now has over 400 members spanning about 20 countries.
But perhaps the most innovative aspect of Ubisoft’s Neurodiversity Initiative is its use of special development teams made up entirely of neurodiverse employees. These teams, which operate under the company’s Strategic Innovation Lab, are tasked with developing new game concepts and prototypes that draw on the unique strengths of neurodiverse individuals. These strengths can include a high attention to detail, a talent for pattern recognition, and a unique perspective on narrative and storytelling.
Esciach calls for more advocacy that would see a number of neurodivergent talents harnessed leading to widespread innovation that is driven by a pool of unmined skills and talent. As the world continues to recognize the unique strengths and perspectives of neurodiverse individuals, we can expect to see more companies following in Ubisoft’s footsteps and embracing neurodiversity as a key driver of success.