Many companies have opened their doors to neurodiversity recruitment, then bemoaned their lack of success in finding candidates. One study found that 88% of neuroatypical candidates felt discouraged from applying for a position. Out of those who did apply, 52% felt discriminated against during the hiring process.
Businesses may adopt the right mindset in hiring neurodiverse employees, but many fail to make the process work in practice.
Given the skill-sets available within the neurodiverse employment pool, both firms and candidates are missing out. And as the above statistics suggest, it’s often the hiring process itself that’s to blame.
Neurodiverse hiring – or neurodiversity recruitment – embraces the talents of individuals who are considered to think differently from the majority. This may be down to a host of neurological conditions, including autism or dyslexia.
Put simply, refusing to hire staff on the grounds of neurodiversity is self-limiting – you’re shrinking the potential talent pool available. With different thought processes and original approaches to problem-solving, many neurodiverse people are greatly-skilled in areas that some neurotypical employees struggle with. And global financial services firm JP Morgan has found that neurodiverse hiring brings both social and business benefits.
Neurodiversity in employment necessitates a more creative culture within the workplace. All have to adapt their communication skills to ensure that no one is excluded. Greater clarity is required to ensure that processes can be followed, leading to more openness and flexibility.
Neurodiversity recruitment is also an asset for any brand’s reputation. In an ultra-competitive global market, it’s not enough for firms to compete on price-point and product range anymore. Showing your business to be fair and all-embracing is a point of difference between you and your competitors. Those employers hiring neurodiversity are not only open to the best talent, but such a move can influence those considering doing business with you.
It’s one thing to make it clear that your business welcomes neurodiverse employees. The challenge comes by putting this into practice. Having an effective neurodiversity recruitment program means reviewing every step of the hiring process, before, during and after. Focus on the following areas to bring your own program in line with the needs of neurodiverse people.
Hiring shouldn’t start with a job advert. The perception of your brand to potential employees will influence how many even consider reading your advert. Revise your brand philosophy, and be sure to include diversity statements on your website’s ‘About Us’ and career pages. You could also include any success stories your firm currently has in hiring neurodiverse employees, as global brand Microsoft do on their neurodiversity hiring page.
Make the message accessible to all. There’s no point including too much detail across your digital and printed materials, or in utilising a host of pop-ups or screen-flashes. Some neurodiverse people may be put-off by such devices, and equally put off by your brand as a result.
Having a neurodiversity recruitment program doesn’t mean throwing your doors open at random to neurodiverse talent. Identify the right skill-sets needed and the kind of employees you’re looking for. It’s not about hiring neurodiverse people for the sake of doing so – it’s about hiring the very best person for each position.
Make sure your workplace is flexible enough to meet the needs of all potential employees. Successful neurodiversity recruitment can hinge on the work environment alone. Some areas of an office may be brighter, louder or more chaotic than others. Offering choice can make all the difference to overall performance.
Achieving neurodiversity in recruitment is impossible unless a whole business is moving in the same direction. Your existing workforce needs to become aware of neurodiversity issues, and this should include training alongside regular reviews of all business processes.
Applying for jobs has become a skill in itself, and sometimes the best talent simply can’t play the ‘application game’. Ensure your job adverts are jargon-free, and focus on the skill-sets you’re looking to fill. Avoid adding unnecessary requirements such as ‘team player’, ‘sense of humour’, or ‘good presentation skills’ at this stage. Such requirements can easily put neurodiverse people off applying in the first place.
As with assessing the overall work environment, assess your interview facilities. Consider the ways in which you can adapt your interview process to meet the needs of all interviewees and allow them to perform at their best. Adopting a good neurodiversity recruitment program means being flexible across all stages of the process.
Many modern-day work interviews have descended into studies of body language, trick questions, or clichés. As with the application process, experts at playing the ‘interview game’ may not always be the best talent for the job you’re looking to fill. Take any ambiguity out of the process, and focus again on skill-sets. Keep things as informal as possible – you’re far more likely to get an open conversation if both parties are relaxed.
Be clear and detailed with any application or interview feedback. Provide genuine points for progress and areas where improvement is needed. Such attention to detail not only benefits your brand but should encourage people to apply again in future. It also gives your neurodiverse candidates full visibility over the interview process and hopefully inspires progress.
Embracing neurodiversity in employment means having a good support ecosystem set-up. You should have an on-boarding process in place for all new employees. Be flexible, and after introducing the process, discuss it with your new starters. Changes may need to be made to ensure the process is successful for both sides. Continually review your on-boarding process and seek regular feedback on how to improve it.
Adopting neurodiversity in recruitment is a two-pronged approach. Firstly, you’ll need to review the overall culture of your brand, its workplace and current roster. Secondly, you’ll need to revise all of your day-to-day processes and ensure they meet the potential needs of neurodiverse employees.
Although there may be challenges in doing so, creating a working environment in which all individuals can thrive is perfectly achievable, and a major stepping stone to building a more inclusive society overall. And as we’ve seen, adopting a more diverse workforce can make all the difference between business success and its unthinkable alternative.
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