Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the variations in human thinking, sociability, learning, and mood. Whilst neurological conditions such as dyslexia, autism and dyspraxia were once considered unusual, the introduction of the term “neurodiversity” aims to recognise that there are many different variations to the human brain, and no one is more “normal” than another. These conditions are just a different way of thinking, rather than being a weakness.
Unfortunately, many companies don’t recognise how embracing neurodiverse employees can actually benefit the organization, and they miss out on a huge range of talent. Thankfully, large companies such as SAP and Microsoft are leading the way when it comes to actively hiring and supporting neurodiverse talent, which will hopefully inspire change in the recruitment process. Here, we take a look at why embracing diversity gives companies a competitive advantage, and why it’s a positive step that goes far beyond fulfilling diversity quotas.
Widening the Talent Pool
Traditional application and interview processes fail to account for people who may struggle to express themselves on a written application, or who find it difficult to keep eye contact when being interviewed. These candidates will then be marked down and perhaps not get the job. If they instead were offered an application process that acknowledged their needs, they’d potentially have a better chance at employment.
As a result, many neurodiverse candidates miss out on jobs that they’d be a good fit for, purely because they’re being marked against generic scoring criteria. In fact, Working Nation estimates that 81% of adults with autism are unemployed, which is a huge amount of talent going to waste.
Adjusting your interview process and making accommodations can mean that you really get a sense of the all-round skill level of the candidate, rather than just their verbal skills. Whilst the requirements will depend on the job description, an adjusted interview process can help widen your talent pool, especially for roles that don’t require any customer interaction.
People with neurodiverse conditions often have specialist skills in a particular area, which can be a huge strength when you’re trying to build a diverse team. For example, people with dyslexia will find it harder to create written work, but they often excel at creative thinking and problem-solving. This means that they’ll bring a fresh perspective to their team and they’re more likely to think outside the box when it comes to improving processes.
In contrast, some people on the autism spectrum thrive on rules, which means that they are clear, logical thinkers. Whilst this might not suit roles that require flexibility, in logic-heavy roles like software engineering, they will likely provide highly accurate code, which is essential for the success of a tech project and will save time. They may also be able to cut through any debate around how to do something by naturally working out the most logical course of action, providing a clear sense of direction and purpose.
How to Support Neurodiverse Candidates
If you’re looking to improve your interview process in order to make it more accessible, then there are some steps that you can take to support neurodiverse candidates. One of the best adjustments is to make the process as transparent as possible, so that there are no surprises. This way, the candidate can prepare in a way that best suits them and they will get a fair assessment at the task or interview. This transparency should continue into the interview process with employers asking clear questions without hidden agendas.
Once hired, employers should ensure that they speak directly to the employee about how they can best support the employee’s needs. While this might mean adjusting certain aspects of work, a flexible approach will provide a comfortable environment for a productive and happy employee.
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Paul Brewer is a Digital Relations Consultant at 6XDMedia in the U.K.