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Neurodiversity in Recruitment

 13th Apr 2022

It’s great to see many of our clients increasing their focus on diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I). The neurodivergent group is perhaps one of the most often overlooked in hiring efforts but the potential untapped value of hiring these workers could be part of the solution to today’s candidate-led market.

Furthermore, the ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking skillset brought by this group could add a competitive edge to organisations through innovation, creative thought and differing viewpoints. 

There is growing evidence to suggest that companies that hire and support a neurodiverse workforce perform better than their peers. 

So what is neurodiversity? 

Neurodivergence encompasses a wide range of mental orientations including but not limited to autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dysgraphia, dyspraxia, Tourette’s syndrome and Down’s syndrome.  Each of these can exist across a spectrum. 

Neurodivergent is a relatively new term and is defined as someone who thinks differently from the way the majority (referred to as neurotypical) expect. Valuing the contributions of neurodivergent people is known as neurodiversity. It is estimated that around 15% of the UK population is neurodivergent.

Neurodiversity is the recognition that people experience and interact with the world around them in different ways and there is no one ‘right’ way of thinking, learning and communicating. It is not an ‘illness’ to be cured but an area that requires support and accommodation. Neurological differences are the result of normal and natural variations in the human genome.

How can we consider this group in recruitment?

Traditional recruitment methods may not work particularly well for neurodivergent applicants. It is widely believed that there is an untapped pool of potential out there being filtered out through standard screening and interview methods.

Social skills, such as eye contact and handshaking, during typical face to face interviews, might well need to be challenged if not required for the specific position on offer.

Revisiting hiring processes to remove unconscious bias, considering reworking interviews to suit how the candidate wants to interact and perhaps even allowing trial working periods are all potential alternatives.

In certain instances, candidates may require to see questions in advance of interviews. If a role does not require someone to "think on their feet" then an interview process perhaps does not either.

There is no ‘"one size fits all approach" and the interview process needs to be flexible to accommodate and be tailored to individual needs.

Beyond recruitment

Once in a role, it is of course important that a culture is in place where neurodivergent individuals can thrive and this involves kindness, understanding and an open mind around what adjustments need to be made to communication and the working environment.

For example, hot desking can be particularly stressful for individuals who find changes in their environment hard to deal with. Reserving a seat is a potential workplace adjustment.

Other examples include specialised technology (e.g. colour filtering on screens to avoid visual strain) and considering temperature, sound and lighting.

Our working ‘norms’ have changed over the last two years and leaders can be mindful of different working hours and patterns and perhaps more time working from home if this is required.

What is most important is that individuals join an environment where they feel safe and not just that they are tolerated or accepted, but that they belong. It has been reported that companies piloting neurodiversity programmes have seen an increase in overall employee engagement while participation in them can make work more meaningful and morale higher for everyone.

Written by Andrea Green.

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