Nancy Doyle is a Chartered Psychologist with varied experience in developing coaching interventions at individual group and organisational level, which she has applied to the Welfare to Work sector, disability and employment, secondary and higher education, corporate training and as open access training courses accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management. Her social enterprise, Genius Within, supports thousands of clients each year to improve their productivity at work through diagnosis, assessment and coaching of ‘neurodiverse’ conditions – for example, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder and more. She recently featured on the BBC Two series, Employable Me, where she supported a group of extraordinary job seekers to unlock their own unique talents and abilities in order to secure employment.
“…I want my clients to find their genius within, the thing they CAN do, that they feel competent at, and then facilitate them to do it well…”
Passionate about helping people into the ‘right’ roles
I’ve worked in inclusion since 1998 – my first job was support worker for adults with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. I became frustrated at the lack of psychologically appropriate services for my clients and decided to study psychology, during which time I worked for and became a manager within the recruitment industry, providing temporary and bank staff for social care.
This took me on a tangent into training, learning and development and career management, which lead to a Master’s degree in Occupational Psychology. I became passionate about people being in the ‘right’ role, working to our strengths and also about how much day to day stress and anxiety comes from being unfulfilled or in the wrong role, vs how glorious it is to see someone in their stride, doing what they were born to do.
This then brought me back full circle to consulting for employability companies, providing assessments, coaching and training for people who have disabilities and neurodiversity. I set up Genius Within CIC up in 2011, an extension of my own consultancy and discovered there was a real appetite for practical solutions and a ‘glass half full’ approach to assessment and hidden disability.
We now have a team of over 100 associates, 35 staff working in prisons, workplaces and communities and what you saw on BBC2’s Employable Me is what my colleagues at Genius Within do every day. I couldn’t be prouder of them.
My role on a day to day basis
On a day to day basis, my role involves financial oversight, line management, creative problem solving, presentations and networking, policy development and much more. Genius Within has a chief operating officer, an internal promotion of Fiona Barrett, a colleague who has run our social inclusion team since 2015. Fiona is helping me move from operational oversight to more strategy and policy development work – this is where I am at my best.
Working on Employable Me
The production company contacted me at an early stage in research. They’d observed the press about companies deliberately hiring autistic people and wanted to know if there was any science or practical truth behind the frustrated genius narrative. We researched and piloted together and the BBC commissioned two series, which have been brilliant.
I was really keen to ensure that the programme showed the true picture, which is that people have genuine talent and ability, but are often also genuinely disabled and thwarted by a lack of understanding or for want of a few practical reasonable adjustments.
Helping my clients find their genius within, the thing they CAN do
90% of my clients keep their job, the remaining 10% move into work that suits. This reduces stress and improves productivity – line managers’ feedback indicates a 40% improvement in productivity after just four coaching sessions. 24% of my clients are promoted within a year, and we have strong employment results for our social inclusion clients.
Essentially, I want my clients to find their genius within, the thing they CAN do, that they feel competent at, and then facilitate them to do it well.
Using techniques like strengths based recruitment to help highlight individuals’ talents and match them with appropriate jobs
We need to get better at understanding what skills are required for the role, and less pernickety about our cultural norms. For example, in the programme Alan (with autism) completed several tasks requiring high accuracy (election vote checking, data analysis) and performed to an exceedingly high standard. Yet he received feedback about his direct communication style, his tie and his hair. Who cares, really?
If you have someone who can work that quickly and accurately, can’t we focus on that? Couldn’t most companies benefit from someone who doesn’t make mistakes and finds ALL the errors in other people’s spreadsheets, documents etc.? And with a little bit of flexibility and kindness, like we observed with Erica who did a job trial with Marks and Spencer, we see that once she was relaxed, and felt valued, her communication skills became much more open and natural, she really blossomed.
So proud of Erica from our Liverpool store who starred in last night’s #EmployableMe completing our Marks & Start programme with @remploy – an amazing show from @OptomenTV #inspirational https://t.co/qcFCVIINVc
— M&S News (@MandSnews) December 19, 2017
So, I guess what I am saying is to remember that not everyone who can perform on the spot will be a good employee, and that some require time to adjust before becoming highly effective, reliable and loyal. Recruiters need to start looking for rough diamonds, and not just top slicing the polished stones.
Advice to employers
My advice to employers who would like to offer employment opportunities to job seekers with different abilities, but aren’t sure how to go about this is to start with paid, well thought out work trials. Give people a chance to relax into a role over a few weeks and feel comfortable in their environment and make sure there is a genuine job opportunity for them to follow up. Get Access to Work in early or call a company like Genius Within for swift, effective reasonable adjustment recommendations.
Workplaces of the future
I think people with neurodiversity stand a good chance of having the ‘edge’ in the workplaces of the future. At the moment, difficulty with reading, numeracy, concentration or verbal communication means you are disabled in school systems and entry level roles. However, modern technology means that we write, add, concentrate and communicate differently and this is evolving quickly.
It might be that people with a strong preference for linear, sequential, focused attention thinking need support in the future! Creatively challenged, we might call them, with linear limitation disorder, sensory underwhelm condition … I could go on.
Coming up next
I need to finish my Ph.D.! And run a marathon! I am fundraising for Tourette’s Action, who do a fantastic job with a condition that is as common as autism but receives only 1% of the same research funding. I think it’s really important to increase awareness of and options for this condition.
— Nancy Doyle (@NancyDoylePsych) December 30, 2017
Genius Within has also just launched our Blooming Genius department – focusing on neurodiverse children and their supporters. We’ve recognised that SEN [special educational needs] provision is limited and needs augmenting, so we need to move children and parents away from the ‘glass half empty’ viewpoint that is needed to acquire funding. We want them to start thinking about what their charges can do well, what options remain open and instil some hope. That’s the mission and the Good Ship Genius sails on…