Apr 19, 2021 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer
Hiring for Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives and innovations to your organization, but such candidates are often undervalued and underutilized.
Nearly 80% of individuals on the autism spectrum are under or unemployed, but large companies such as SAP have successfully paved the way for successfully managing neurodiversity in the workplace, and their programs provide blueprints for other organizations to follow.
“The neurodivergent mind is one of the most creative minds,” says Tiffany Jameson, PHR, global neurodiversity speaker and managing partner at Grit & Flow. “They’re looking from another direction and seeing a completely different picture.”
By attracting and hiring neurodiverse talent, you can foster these benefits in your organization.
Prime Your Workforce for Neurodiversity
You must prepare your organization and existing employees to work alongside neurodiverse talent before making any moves to bring them in. “You should prepare leadership and future co-workers to receive people with different abilities,” says Cheryl Haynes, SPHR, founding Partner at Culture Solutions DEI. “If you don't, then you're actually going to be harming more than providing opportunities to neurodiverse talent.”
Training in neurodiversity and how it impacts job functioning can help employees become more aware of the needs of their co-workers, which improves diversity and inclusion for everyone. Without basic training and accommodations, new talent may not feel welcome or able to function at their highest capacity. “If you don’t have the ability to meet them where they are or get them where they need to be, you’re going to fail,” Jameson says. Ensure that you have the right environment and infrastructure in place to support neurodiversity.
Build Accommodations Into Your Processes
Mental health, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But not everyone has a formal diagnosis, and you can’t single out an individual for additional accommodations if they haven’t disclosed anything. “Provide the opportunity for reasonable accommodations for every single person,” Jameson suggests. Use the “I work best when …” framework to find out how everyone can optimize their workflow. Reasonable accommodations could include offering flexibility around scheduling or allowing people to wear headphones while working.
Attract neurodiverse candidates by building accommodations into your recruiting and hiring process. Post on job boards such as Inclusively or Neurodiverse Jobs. “Make accommodations around the types of questions that you ask, or offer to let them invite a supporter to go along with them,” Haynes suggests. Other simple accommodations include sending candidates interview questions in advance and taking volunteer experience into account, as neurodiverse talent may not have a steady employment record. More comprehensive accommodations include creating apprenticeship or internship programs to see candidates’ work in action.
Create a Space for Continued Learning
It’s important to acknowledge that you’ll never have all the answers. Attracting and accommodating neurodiverse talent is an ongoing process. Continue to ask your neurodiverse employees how you can improve their experiences and ability to work.
Allow individuals and teams to set their own rules for communicating. Someone who struggles to read social cues may not be able to communicate effectively in chaotic meetings, for instance. Create a space for employees who aren’t neurodiverse to ask questions about interacting with or supporting neurodivergent colleagues.
Ultimately, these changes do more than support your neurodivergent team members; they contribute toward an environment where everyone is able to work together toward their maximum potential.