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The Value of Neurodiversity Hiring for a Diverse Workforce

A workforce with a variety of talents, skills, ideas, and perspectives will outperform its competitors and stand out as an employer of choice. Neurodiversity is one component of that competitive edge.

Neurodiversity describes the natural and different ways people learn, process information, interact with others, and perceive the world. 15-20% of the US population is neurodiverse. This includes differences such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia, and other neurological differences.

No two neurodiverse people are exactly alike, and they often do not self-identify as people with disabilities. In fact, most neurodiverse workers rarely choose to reveal their condition due to stigma, misunderstandings, and prejudices. Therefore, a workplace culture where all learning styles and different perspectives are recognized makes talent feel safe, accepted, and supported.

What is Neurodiversity in recruitment?

While neurodiverse candidates look for and apply to jobs using the same tools and techniques as other candidates, there are other ways employers can hire and recruit from this talent pool. Connecting with vocational rehabilitation agencies, workforce development boards, and nonprofit community organizations supporting neurodiverse workers is an excellent place to start. Apprenticeship programs or other mentorship programs aimed to support and build up neurodiverse workers have proven successful. You might also consider hosting hiring events focused on recruiting neurodiverse workers.

Neurodiverse workers may face hurdles along their path to employment. The challenges of understanding job descriptions and requirements, unfamiliar online systems or software, interviewing, social or communication barriers, and other aspects of the hiring process present them deter many from applying to positions they’re ideally suited for, and, as a result, many neurodiverse individuals are unemployed or underemployed.

In order to realize the great benefits neurodiverse individuals bring to the workplace, companies must adjust their recruitment selection and career development policies to include a broader representation of talent. Once hired, support groups, continued mentorship, and open conversations about helpful accommodations allow these workers to thrive.

What is the neurodiversity movement?

The neurodiversity movement emerged in the 1990s as an effort to increase the acceptance and inclusion of all people while also embracing neurological differences. While neurodiversity refers to all people and emphasizes that there’s no one right way of thinking, learning, or behaving, the term often refers to people with variations in brain structure and cognition, versus “neurotypical” people. Hiring neurodiverse individuals not only brings culture benefits but also gives businesses a competitive edge.

Why can neurodiversity hiring give you a competitive advantage?

Neurodiverse individuals tend to think differently than their peers, and this can prove advantageous in a workplace environment. Their skills and talents may include innovation and creativity, visual design, mathematics, pattern recognition, the ability to excel at work that is routine or repetitive in nature, technical or design strengths, problem-solving, reliability and persistence, accuracy, and the ability to detect errors, or strong information or detail recall. Providing the right accommodations and understanding helps companies empower a neurodiverse workforce to thrive.

What kind of workplace accommodations do neurodiverse employees sometimes need?

It’s important to foster an environment conducive to neurodiversity, recognizing individual strengths and talents and accommodating various needs. Every worker should be made to feel safe, accepted, and supported in their work environment. Types of accommodations include noise-canceling headphones for overstimulation, workspaces that limit sensory stimulation for sensitive individuals, frequent breaks, avoiding multitasking, and scheduling or productivity tools for those with ADHD.

Creating and implementing a neurodiversity inclusion plan isn’t just a good idea, it’s also the law. Neurodiverse workers have the right to request a specific accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and their employer must authorize the requested accommodation unless it creates an unreasonable hardship for the company. In that case, it’s a good idea to arrange an alternate solution that both meets the individual’s needs and is within the company’s reasonable capabilities.

What are the top Neurodiversity Hiring Programs?

An increasing number of companies are investing in neurodiversity hiring programs. Here are a few that are doing it well:

Goldman Sachs

The Goldman Sachs Neurodiversity Hiring Initiative (NHI) is a 10-week paid internship program for neurodiverse talent, with an opportunity to convert to full-time roles in fields such as engineering, compliance, and operations. Interns are coached and mentored to lay the foundation for a long-term career path. They partner with Specialisterne to identify and source candidates, as well as train and prepare them for Goldman Sachs internships.

Chevron

Chevron’s Neurodiversity Program boasts a 12-week paid internship matching neurodiverse talent to appropriate job roles. Participants receive role-specific training on job requirements and technical skills from assigned mentors, who are trained in managing and collaborating effectively with neurodiverse employees. Interns who successfully demonstrate their abilities may be offered full-time employment.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Neurodiversity Hiring Program centers around an inclusive application and interview process for neurodiverse talent, so that they can showcase their unique abilities and talents while learning about Microsoft as an employer of choice. This program has successfully hired neurodiverse talent into roles including consulting, content writing, customer engineer, data analytics manager, data scientist, finance analyst, IT service operations, product marketing manager, program manager, etc.

DXC Technology

The DXC Dandelion Program supports the talents and skills of neurodiverse workers, helping people with Autism, ADHD, and dyslexia build the skills necessary for a successful IT career. This program connects neurodiverse individuals with meaningful employment while also helping workplaces fill IT skill gaps.

JP Morgan Chase

JP Morgan Chase scouts for talent with their Autism at Work program, which arranged employment placement, high-touch training, and accommodations support for talent on the spectrum.

Ford Motor Company

The FordWorks Program is an inclusive hiring program that provides on-the-job training and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. FordWorks participants bring their strengths and insights to teams in IT, Product Development, Credit, and Manufacturing.

Freddie Mac

Freddy Mac’s Neurodiversity at Work programs helps those on the autism spectrum transition into full-time employment. Leaders mentor new talent beyond the initial hiring process, acting as a continual checkpoint for those on the spectrum throughout their careers. Future team members and managers are encouraged to go through neurodiversity training. Freddie Mac has also made strides in streamlining the job accommodation process for current and prospective employees.

Recruiting Neurodiverse Candidates

Neurodiversity hiring should be at the forefront of your business plan. Studies suggest that 50-75% of the 5.4 million autistic adults in the U.S. are underemployed or unemployed. In the broader neurodiverse category, adult unemployment runs at 30-40%, eight times higher than the rate for people without disabilities. Neurodiverse adults are often left out of the workforce or resigned to lower-skill jobs due to non-inclusive hiring and retention practices, lack of employer education and training, and the absence of support systems within the business.

Yet this talent pool has so much to offer– neurodiverse individuals approach problems differently and bring innovative ideas and solutions to the table. Implementing a neurodiversity hiring initiative will not only bring in loyal talent who will make your business more competitive, but it’ll also create a more dynamic and inclusive workplace culture.

Looking to connect with more diverse talent but unsure where to begin? Check out our HirePurpose Diversity Sourcing and Talent Attraction solution. We’ll connect you with diverse job seekers seeking employers that offer an inclusive workplace.

 

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