It’s widely accepted that the more diverse your workplace, the better your business will likely perform in the long run. But if - as is often the case - your diversity and inclusion policy doesn’t extend to neurodiversity, your business could be missing a trick. Read on to find out how every organisation can update its hiring processes to build a more diverse, resilient and innovative workforce.
Broadening the scope of diversity and inclusion policies
Many employers have been slow to extend diversity to differently-abled brains, despite persuasive evidence from businesses that have already made progress in this area. Like at SAP, where four years into a reformed HR program to increase neurodiversity, managers reported productivity gains, quality improvement, boosts in innovative capabilities and overall increases in employee engagement. Other companies have reported similar improvements. These advantages could make all the difference in today’s highly competitive business environment. One way to start the journey is to examine your company’s recruitment processes and identify ways to make it fairer and more attractive to somebody who is neurodivergent.
What is neurodivergence?
According to Salvesen Mindroom, a charity whose vision is to help create a world in which no mind is left behind, “someone with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, developmental coordination disorder or Tourette syndrome could be described as neurodivergent.”
As a human population, we are neurodiverse - there is no ‘normal’. But sometimes an individual’s experiences and behaviours differ enough from the majority of the population’s that they correspond with a label such as autism or ADHD. It’s estimated that between 10% and 20% of the world population are neurodivergent. Not only does this represent an untapped opportunity in recruitment terms for forward-thinking organisations, but it also suggests that a significant proportion of existing employees, suppliers and customers are likely to be neurodivergent. Only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment, according to the National Autistic Society. However, their research also shows that a significant majority (77%) of unemployed autistic people say they want to work.
Making recruitment better for all
We’ve put together five ways to ensure your organisation isn’t unconsciously discouraging applications from neurodivergent people.
Look at your employer brand. Do you actively talk about neurodiversity, with specific examples of what your company does to support it? This will support existing employees as well as attracting new ones.
Revisit job descriptions. Make it easy for people to identify the core skills required for a role, and avoid making statements such as ‘good communication skills essential’ if they’re not.Neurodivergent people may have a narrower yet deeper set of skills, so turning every role into a generalist one is unlikely to attract applications from people with diverse thinking styles.
Check how candidates are filtered. Ensuring that you have blind recruitment processes at the top of the funnel is important, as is examining prejudices in the hiring team against things such as a patchy work history (the candidate may not have had a supportive environment before) or spelling mistakes, which might be made by a talented candidate who has dyslexia.
Consider whether interviews are necessary. These can often be a test of social skills rather than competence, and could penalise candidates who don’t make eye contact easily or who lack confidence. A work trial or practical assessment might be a better gauge.
Review onboarding processes. Workplace inductions are often designed with neurotypicals in mind. Tailoring onboarding to the individual is a good start, such as providing information in advance and in a variety of formats, offering alternatives to mass face-to-face introductions and supplying a ‘workplace preference’ questionnaire.
Hiring is only the beginning
Putting these five measures in place is just one of the ways to encourage neurodiversity in the workplace. One of the most important things organisations can do is simply open up the conversation. Talking about neurodivergence gives everyone in the company permission to discuss a subject that many avoid for fear of causing offence, as well as giving them the vocabulary with which to do it. Educating all employees about neurodiversity is key, as is using the right terminology, avoiding stereotypes and focusing on the positive contribution that neurodivergent people can make at work rather than any negatives (which until now has often been the norm). Taking it a step further, companies could choose to put in place support and mentoring strategies for people who identify as being neurodivergent. Many companies that have taken steps to encourage applications from neurodivergent people have found it benefits all employees, including neurotypical people.
Over 20 years ago, Harvey Blume wrote a now well-known article for The Atlantic, in which he said, “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will be best at any given moment?”. If your company is ready to find out, examining the recruitment process is a good place to start the journey.