Neurodiversity is becoming a topic of focus for organisations and in the recruitment space – and rightly so. So, what is neurodiversity exactly, and why is it integral for organisations to ensure they are adopting best practice hiring processes to support neurodiversity in the workplace?
Neurodiversity encompasses the concept that people experience and interact with the world around them in many ways. While the term Neurodiversity refers to diversity of all people, it refers to a range of conditions including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia and Tourette's syndrome. The way in which Neurodiverse individuals experience/interact differs to that of a Neurotypical person (where Neurotypical refers to those with typical development and intellectual/cognitive functioning).
There is no one "right" way of thinking, learning and behaving; yet workplaces and organisations can often be inaccessible for Neurodivergent employees as they are often structured to only accommodate neurotypical ways of thinking and doing. It is important to acknowledge this creates gaps and barriers to hiring and differences are not to be viewed as deficits but as strengths.
Neurodiversity is becoming more understood, and many organisations are taking positive steps to understand the benefit of offering freedom and flexibility to their employees, leading to organisational innovation and new and fresh ways of thinking that better businesses overall.
Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness in the employment and hiring world and a lot of ‘unlearning’ is needed within workplaces that may not be considering how to support their wider teams and harness the strengths of neurodivergent hiring.
For those who are neurodivergent, unemployment is as high as 80%. It is concerning to note that highly skilled neurodiverse people are often underemployed. When we hear about talent and skills shortages, businesses must take stock of whether they are embracing diversified hiring practices, as the neurodiverse population remains a largely untapped talent pool of highly skilled professionals eager to add their unique value to the workforce.
When it comes to traditional recruitment and interview processes to attract and hire talent and the benefits of neurodiverse talent, companies need to adjust their recruitment, selection and career development policies to reflect a broader definition of ‘talent’.
Hiring neurodiverse talent may require adjustments to common practice hiring processes to acquire and attract neurodiverse talent. A growing number of reputable companies are keeping their finger on the pulse and have taken steps to overhaul their HR processes to create accessible opportunities for neurodiverse talent.
It is important to consider commonplace processes that are a barrier to candidates in recruitment processes by adjusting interview processes to better support talent and their unique needs. For example:
Rigid eligibility and assessment criteria mean neurodiverse people aren’t always set up for success and may not have the opportunity to highlight their skills and strengths in comparison to neurotypical talent.
Typical measures of success in terms of personality traits including communication skills, being a good team player or the ability to network can at times eliminate great talent and discredit their skills in other areas. We need to understand that these benchmarks of suitability are not the only way to add value.
Innovation plays a major part in business planning. Neurodiverse people have strengths in seeking creative and innovative solutions and specialise in out of the box thinking. Neurodivergent people have strong entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial tendencies. It is always a great advantage to have someone who can see things differently and add in fresh and creative ideas in the mix.
ENABLE A NEURODIVERSE ENVIRONMENT:
It is important to foster an environment that is conducive to neurodiversity, and to recognise and emphasise each person’s individual strengths and talents while also providing support for their differences and needs.
Simple workplace accommodations can ensure neurodiverse employees are supported in the workplace through simple adjustments such as:
noise cancelling headphones to prevent auditory overstimulation;
quiet breakaway spaces;
providing a sensory-friendly environment;
making communication style adjustments to suit individual needs;
providing ample notice and preparation time in advance of meetings or events; and
presenting employees with options and alternatives to meeting styles and locations.
In many cases the accommodations and challenges are minor and manageable for organisations, and the potential returns are great.
Neurodiversity programs are important in creating advocacy and awareness to support neurodiversity in the workplace and entice companies and their leaders to adopt a style of management that emphasises placing each person in a context that maximises their contributions.
Steps to achieve the neurodiverse program in your organisation could include:
When employees feel supported and valued, there is an increase in staff retention and loyalty;
When organisations see diversity as an essential building block for their teams, it makes them more attractive to applicants; and
Inclusive organisations are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.
Hima is a Specialist Consultant in Parity Consulting, a doting mum, a wife, shopping enthusiast and a passionate blogger. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion and how she can champion candidates with specialist needs. With a Computer Science Engineering background, Hima is our (and your!) go-to specialist for Data and Analytics recruitment! To get in touch with Hima, contact her on +61 452 089 967 or firstname.lastname@example.org.