Hiring Neurodiverse Talent in the Workplace

Supporting diversity in the workplace has become increasingly important, with many initiatives focusing on gender, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds when hiring new employees. The advancement of technology and automation has put pressure on businesses to ‘future-proof’ their workforces by employing a multitude of talent to maintain high performances in various areas, such as leadership, creativity and initiative. Now, increasing neurodiversity has also been added to that list, but how many employers are actually aware of what it means for their business?

Neurodiversity is a relatively new term that refers to the different ways the brain can work and interprets information. These are known as ‘spectrum’ conditions, that contains a wide range of characteristics that nevertheless share common features in terms of how a person learns and processes instructions. This includes people with Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD), Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

Approximately one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent, however there is still a lack of understanding and misconceptions surrounding neurodiversity. Moreover, its place in the work environment has often gone unacknowledged and few organisations are seeing the potential of fostering a neurodiverse talent pool.

Too much attention is focused on the challenges often associated with neurodivergence rather than on the skills such individuals demonstrate. For example, a person on the autism spectrum might struggle with social cues but may possess a high attention to detail and patterns, making them valuable assets for analysing data. Another employee with dyslexia may have a keen eye for marketing strategies despite making many spelling errors in their reports.

But that is not to say that you should be analysing candidates for a ‘superpower’; not every autistic employee will excel at solving mathematical problems, for instance. Each individual has their own individual skillset, meaning a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not going to work.

Neurodiversity is protected under the Equality Act 2010. Employers must make ‘reasonable changes’ to ensure their all staff feel valued and supported. Adjustments to the workplace will ensure that disabled job applicants and employees are able to overcome any disadvantages they may face when doing their jobs and to help them progress further in their career.

Communication is always key when encouraging neurodiversity into the workplace. As early as the recruitment stage, employers should consider factors such as how a job advertisement is worded. Role descriptions should be as clear as possible with minimal jargon. Conventional face-to-face interviews may also need to be assessed as certain candidates - particularly those with Asperger’s - may not like to maintain eye contact. This could be misinterpreted and put the candidate at a disadvantage, but that should not mean that their level of competence to carry out tasks is affected. It is important to be patient, supportive and listen carefully to each individual.

Some neurodivergents can be overwhelmed by too much visual or audio distractions. Lighting levels should be adjusted accordingly and any visual stimuli such as ‘post-it’ notes should be kept to a minimum or removed. Anxieties of the interview process can also be reduced by informing the candidate with detailed information ahead of time on when they will be interviewed, where and who they are meeting.

Assess your current hiring process to determine that it caters to each individual based on their level of skills and expertise. A neurodiverse workforce should not be overlooked and can hold many advantages for innovation and performance.

About the author

Jessica joined RWA in 2018, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Film Studies. Prior to this, she worked in a photography studio as a wedding album editor and also attended work experience at a local library.

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