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Forecasting the future of recruiting operations with Jeremy Lyons

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Neurodiversity hiring: Recruiter’s blueprint to attracting and retaining divergent minds

The future of work is Neurodiverse, and here is how you can actually make it a real deal for your company!

Did you know 15-20% of the global population is considered neurodiverse? 

And yet the unemployment for neurodivergent individuals runs at least as high as 30-40%, which is 3x the rate for people with disability and 8x the rate for people without disability. 

Don’t believe us? Take a look at the results of this survey of 500 companies:

While these statistics are massive, a good sign is that more and more companies are lately starting to get serious about neurodiversity hiring – and we hope you are one of them too. 

If not yet, start right away, no matter where your recruitment process is on the DEI journey!

How? First, answer this question:

Is your hiring process unintentionally excluding neurodiverse talents?

Though neurodiversity is high on most employers’ radar, it still remains misunderstood, generalized, and stereotyped in society as a whole, and as a result, in many workplaces. 

Why? Because existing hiring processes, management practices, and even overall company workflow is shaped almost exclusively for ‘neurotypicals,’ resulting in higher risks of unintentionally missing out on diverse and high-potential talent pipelines. (Even risking legal issues down the line!)

Not sure if your recruitment process is biased against neurodivergent talents? Keep an eye out for these telltale red flags:

  1. Your job adverts are lengthy, difficult to read, or maybe even misleading.
  2. Your application process is overly time-consuming.
  3. Your interview process doesn’t allow neurodivergent candidates to “sell” themselves fully.
  4. You don’t make it clear on your website or social media that you welcome and celebrate neurodiversity.
  5. You are recruiting through the same old sourcing channels.
  6. You are more focussed on the weakness of neurodivergent talents instead of their strengths.
  7. You don’t prioritize connected recruiting experience for each of your candidates.
  8. You are implementing a one-size-fit-all solution to evaluate and onboard every new hire.
  9. Your hiring assessments and tests may be too standardized that they work against neurodivergent talents.
  10. Your interviewers or hiring team, in general, aren’t trained enough to identify and nurture neurodiversity.
  11. You don’t offer flexible work arrangements for your future employees.
  12. Even if you have Employee Resource Groups at your company, they do not “go the extra mile” to support a neurodiverse workforce.

If you just thought we were somehow describing your company, it’s time to take some concrete steps!

5 ways to build a Neuro-inclusive workforce

It’s one thing to publicize that your company celebrates neurodiversity. The challenge comes by putting this into practice. 

Setting up an effective neurodiversity hiring program calls for reviewing every step of the process, before, during and after. And it doesn’t even stop just here. 

You need to focus all these five areas to promote neurodiversity hiring at your company:

1. Education

This step must be your priority – educate your hiring team and employees about neurodiversity and your vision to achieve it. Specify how exactly you expect them to contribute to your goal.

Encourage open discussions about DEIB to foster an environment where employees with neurological conditions and those without understand and appreciate the diverse talents and challenges that come with such conditions.

Be proactive. Provide resources, workshops, and training sessions to raise awareness and understanding of different neurodiverse conditions, their strengths, and the benefits of such inclusion. 

Mind that even some employees with neurological conditions may not be fully aware of how their condition can affect their performance on specific work tasks. 

This lack of awareness can further lead to frustration and missed opportunities. 

By providing clear and accessible information about neurodiversity, you can not only avoid these situations but also empower your employees to better understand their strengths, limitations, and accommodations available for them.

💡Quick tip: Host a “Neurodiversity 101” session for your recruiters and team members. Highlight the positive impact of neurodiverse individuals and debunk common myths. Make these sessions interactive, allowing participants to ask questions and share insights.

2. Job adverts

Once you are confident that you and your team are on the same page, start crafting the ideal job descriptions

Take a step back and assess which areas of your company could benefit most from the skills and perspectives a neurodivergent talent can bring to the table. 

For example, individuals on the autism spectrum often display exceptional attention to detail, making them excellent candidates for analysis or problem-solving roles.

Once you’ve identified the potential fit, evaluate whether you have an existing role that aligns with their abilities or if a tailored position can be crafted to maximize their contribution. 

If, for instance, the ideal role requires interpersonal skills that might be challenging, contemplate splitting the job description into two parts to leverage their unique abilities effectively. 

Lastly, ensure effective communication with your team, explaining how bringing a neurodiverse candidate on board will contribute to the team’s growth and success, fostering an environment where everyone thrives. 

This approach not only embraces neurodiversity but also harnesses its potential for the betterment of your company as a whole.

💡Quick tip: Use clear, concise language in job ads. (Avoid all kinds of fluff and jargon.) Highlight that your company welcomes candidates from diverse backgrounds, including neurodiverse individuals, and provide information about any accommodations you can offer during recruitment.

3. Application

A lengthy and time-consuming application process is a turn-off for every candidate, not to mention the neurodiverse workforce that seeks a streamlined and accessible application process that comes with minimum hurdles and can be applied to in an instant. 

And your goal is to provide them with just that!

Simplify the steps, eliminate redundant questions, and ensure your application is designed with inclusivity in mind. 

Offer alternative methods of applying, such as video submissions or skills assessments. Allow candidates to express their needs for accommodations and provide a platform for them to demonstrate their skills beyond traditional resume formats.

Also, set clear expectations regarding the time commitment. Let candidates know approximately how long the application process is likely to take. This information will help them plan their application submission and reduce anxiety caused by uncertainty.

Recognize that some candidates might prefer to work on their application in multiple sittings. So, better allow them to save their progress and return to it later.

You can even go a step further by ensuring that your online application forms are compatible with text-to-speech readers or software. This feature will allow candidates with visual impairments or reading difficulties to have the application content read aloud, creating a more inclusive experience.

💡Quick tips:

  1. Include a dedicated section in your online application form where candidates can request accommodations or specify preferred communication methods.
  2. Ensure the application platform is user-friendly, compatible with various devices, and adheres to accessibility standards.
  3. Test the application process with a diverse group of individuals to identify and address any potential barriers.

4. Evaluation

Without a physical reminder of the differences between neurodiverse and neurotypical candidates, it can be tempting to follow a standardized selection process for everyone. But is it good, or does it do more harm?

The latter, of course! You wouldn’t expect a person in a wheelchair to stand up and shake your hand, right? So why would you expect an autistic candidate to look into your eyes during interviews?

Dr. Jill Miller says, “Our traditional recruitment and development processes only weed out neurodiverse talents. And the only way to avoid it is by understanding the strengths they bring to the table instead of comparing them against a long wish list of capabilities.”

Here are just a few small things you can implement to make a big difference:

a. Give more time for completing assessments

Neurodiverse candidates may process information differently, and it’s essential to provide ample time for them to complete assessments. 

This extra time ensures that they can demonstrate their abilities without the pressure of rushing, leading to a more accurate evaluation.

b. Do project-based evaluations

A project-based evaluation can be an excellent way to assess candidates’ skills and capabilities in a more tangible manner. 

This approach shifts the focus from verbal communication to practical abilities, providing a fairer assessment for neurodiverse candidates who excel in hands-on tasks.

c. Share interview questions in advance

Neurodiverse candidates may experience heightened stress and anxiety when faced with unexpected situations. Providing the interview questions in advance allows them to prepare, reducing anxiety and promoting a more comfortable interview experience. 

Consider giving candidates a printout of the questions they’ll be asked, allowing them to refer to it if needed during the interview.

d. Offer a comfortable interview setting

Always prioritize your candidates’ comfort and preferences during the interview. Some individuals may find a “walk and talk” approach more suitable than a traditional desk interview. 

Ask them which setting they would feel more comfortable with, ensuring that the interview environment aligns with their needs.

e. Explore alternative skill demonstrations

Not all neurodiverse candidates may excel in the typical interview format. It’s crucial to find alternative ways for candidates to showcase their skills. 

Consider offering work trials or internship schemes as alternatives to traditional interviews. It will give you a more accurate representation of the candidate’s abilities and potential.

f. Designate a point of contact

Neurodiverse candidates, like all candidates, should feel supported throughout the recruitment process. Designate a point of contact whom candidates can reach out to if they have any questions or concerns. 

This support ensures that candidates feel valued and helps them navigate the recruitment process more comfortably.

💡Quick tips:

  • Train your interviewers to be patient, attentive, and adaptable.
  • Encourage them to evaluate candidates based on their skills, potential, and cultural fit rather than being overly focused on specific social cues.
  • Create a welcoming and supportive atmosphere during interviews, where candidates feel comfortable and empowered to showcase their unique talents.

5. Performance

Last but not least, walk your talk! Attracting neurodivergent talents won’t do much for your company if you can’t retain them. 

A commitment to workplace accommodations and creating an environment where all team members, including neurodiverse individuals, feel supported is essential. 

Here are some strategies to retain and empower neurodiverse employees:

  1. Conduct regular one-on-one meetings with neurodiverse team members. Encourage open dialogue, listen actively, and be responsive to their feedback. 
  2. Expand your accommodations beyond the initial onboarding phase. Continuously assess and adapt to the specific needs of your neurodiverse employees. Provide the necessary tools and resources, such as noise-canceling headphones for individuals with ADHD, ergonomic adjustments, or customized workspace arrangements. 
  3. Foster a sensory-friendly workplace environment. Ensure that lighting is not excessively bright to prevent sensory overload for neurodiverse individuals. Create designated quiet spaces for focused work, and provide options for sensory-friendly breaks.
  4. Shift the emphasis from tracking hours worked to focus on the quality of work output. Neurodiverse individuals may thrive in different work patterns, and offering flexible work options can create a more inclusive atmosphere. Prioritize results and recognize that diverse approaches can lead to exceptional outcomes.
  5. Provide training for managers and colleagues on neurodiversity and creating an inclusive workplace. Foster a culture of continuous learning, where everyone understands the value of diversity and collaborates effectively with neurodiverse team members.

💡Quick tip: Create a feedback loop where neurodiverse employees can express their needs and suggestions for improvement. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your accommodations and make necessary adjustments. 

5 examples of neurodiversity hiring programs you should take inspiration from

Go back to the survey where most companies were hesitant to hire neurodiverse talent. Yes, most really are! 

But that’s not the whole picture. Many employers (especially megabrands) nowadays are focusing on building a diverse or inclusive environment for all of their employees. 

For example,

1. SAP

As one of the first companies to begin recruiting autistic workers, German IT and software firm SAP is particularly well-known for its outstanding DEIB initiatives. 

Started in 2013, the company’s autism at work program aims to not only hire neurodiverse talents but also create a more welcoming environment for them. 

And the good news is – their efforts are paying off. SAP claimed to have a 90% retention rate of employees on the autism spectrum. Isn’t it freaking cool?

2. Microsoft

After SAP’s successful implementation of the neurodiversity hiring program, it wasn’t long before Microsoft followed suit by launching its Autism program with the belief that traditional recruitment doesn’t allow neurodivergent talents to showcase their strength. 

 “We believe there is an untapped potential in the marketplace and the roles that would set future employees up for success,” Microsoft stated. 

Designed to recruit and onboard talents on the autism spectrum, the company’s hiring program centers around building an inclusive application and interview process, focusing on workability, team projects, and skill assessments.

“Our process gives candidates the opportunity to showcase their unique talents while learning about Microsoft as an employer of choice.”

Microsoft has also made it easier for candidates with dyslexia – a language-based learning disability that affects almost 5-10% of the global population – by providing them with assistive technologies and resources.

In 2018, Microsoft even became the first company to sign the “Made by Dyslexia” pledge to support talents with dyslexic thinking. 

3. Goldman Sachs

With the commitment to increase diversity in their workforce by at least 1%, Goldman Sachs launched an 8-week paid internship program for neurodivergent talents in 2019.

This initiative aimed to empower and integrate neurodiverse people by putting them through robust training, mentoring, and coaching for full-time roles in Engineering, Operations, and Compliance. 

The bank even partnered with a non-profit organization, Specialisterne, to structure the program better and skyrocket its offer and acceptance rate. (They achieved it in 2020 – 100% increment)

Goldman Sachs also works with a company providing autistic employees on a contract basis, Aspiritech, to work on its manual QA testing. (They are going strong!)

4. Dell

Dell’s Autism hiring program, designed in collaboration with Neurodiversity in the workplace, aims to revolutionize their conventional interview process to ensure the elimination of any barriers limiting individuals from fully showcasing their true abilities. 

This means applicants are screened by both the Dell hiring team and the Neurodiversity in the workplace partner for 360-degree biased-free evaluation, with those qualified then invited to a two-weeks skill assessment.  

According to Bob Feiner, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Services, this initiative allows Dell to tap into a diverse range of skills and people that aligns with inclusion and talent goals. 

5. J.P. Morgan

Interviews are stressful for everyone, but it’s particularly nerve-wracking for candidates with ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and other neurological disorders. 

That’s why we believe J.P. Morgan, an investment bank, rolled out a series of pymetrics games to revamp their interview process and match candidates with the right roles. 

In fact, the launch of a four-person pilot program, Autism at work in 2015, has shown dramatic results, with autistic employees being 48% faster and 92% more productive than their non-autistic peers. 

This pilot program has grown to more than 150 employees in eight countries today and even boasts a 99% retention rate.

There you go! 

See just how far these companies have come by taking small steps at the right time. And, of course, you can do it too!

Remember: Neurodiversity isn’t something that should be shunned or “cured.” It should instead be incorporated, particularly in the workforce. And as a recruiter, it’s your responsibility to get started. 

So, implement the strategies we discussed in the article, and maybe next time, your company will also join the best examples of neurodiversity hiring programs. Fighting! 

Frequently asked questions

Q1- What is neurodiversity hiring?

Neurodiversity hiring is an approach that welcomes and leverages the unique strengths and abilities of neurodiverse talents, such as those with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurological conditions, aiming to promote workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Q2- Why should employers hire with neurodiversity in mind?

Hiring neurodiverse individuals brings fresh perspectives, creativity, and problem-solving to teams. It helps foster inclusive workplace culture leading to better employee morale, productivity, and a more supportive environment for all employees. Also, many regions have legal requirements and ethical expectations for equal employment opportunities, making it essential for employers to consider neurodiversity to avoid discrimination.

A3- What workplace accommodations are commonly provided for neurodiverse talents?

Workplace accommodations for neurodiverse employees can vary based on individual needs and job roles, but some common ones include flexible work arrangements, clear communication, quiet spaces, assistive technology, and structured feedback.

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