By Sheri Brake
Managing Director, AccessHR
I think we’re missing something when it comes to attracting employees to our organizations.
As Human Resources professionals, we are constantly on the lookout for “top talent” but if we are not creating workplaces that are attractive to and supportive of neurodiverse individuals then we are eliminating 15% of the talent pool!
According to WorkDesign magazine, one in eight people are considered neurodiverse.
This blog relies heavily on the expertise of others. While I am not an expert in neurodiversity, I am committed to learning and understanding more. Please join me on the journey!
I came across an article by Kelly Grainer, Co-Founder of Perfectly Autistic, who stated: “The dictionary definition of neurodiversity is ‘the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.’ ”
It has only been in the last century that science has helped us to better understand our brains and their uniqueness. You are likely familiar with neurodiversity in the form of dyslexia, attention deficit disorders, and autism spectrum disorder but there are myriad more ways an individual can be neurodiverse. As science deepens our knowledge about how the brain works, we also learn more about how we can improve workplaces to set neurodiverse people, and the organizations they work for, up for success.
Mental Health at Work
According to Mental Health at Work, “there are many direct benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce. These can include a fresh perspective, hyper focus, attention to detail, absorbing facts and retaining information, loyalty and honesty, creativity and innovation. These are all key traits you would want when building a great team at work and can provide you with a competitive advantage.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the most widely known form of neurodiversity. As the name implies, it occurs on a spectrum, which means two people with the same diagnosis can present, function and contribute, in completely different ways.
As more is learned about ASD, better assessment tools and intervention strategies are becoming readily available. Even though more people diagnosed with ASD are highly capable of entering the workforce, the statistics tell us that the neurodiverse population remains an untapped talent pool. As Human Resources experts, it is our job to identify ways we can attract and retain this valuable talent pool.
Below are a few ideas to help you get started.
Update your Hiring Processes
The onus to adapt to or create an effective hiring experience is on the person doing the recruiting, not the candidate.
- Take time to get familiar with how people with ASD might prefer to interact and ensure that your own biases or expectations don’t eliminate them from the running;
- Reformulate your interview questions so that they are more direct and less abstract; and
- Ensure your postings emphasize that diverse candidates are welcome.
Review Your Day-to-Day Operations
Organizational culture is defined by day-to-day actions and priorities; it is much more than a mission statement or a set of values posted on the wall. There are several ways you can revise operations to ensure that the workplace culture is truly supportive of neurodiversity.
4. Draft and abide by an inclusive hiring statement that is highlighted on all company recruitment-related materials;
5. Ensure that all company-produced communication is written in plain language;
6. Ensure that employees know accommodations are available and who to talk to about it;
7. Keep background music low and in open workspaces consider using white noise to reduce background noise;
8. Replace flickering lights; and
9. Review your signage, policies and processes: do they mean what they say or could they be confusing to a person who interprets language literally?
Diverse talent can become a true asset to your organization, but you need to do the work to ensure the workplace provides supports and adjustments that enable success.
In my experience, the main concerns employers have about supporting a diverse workplace is that they will do it wrong and they simply don’t know where to start. Let’s figure it out together! Are you interested in learning more? Me too. I’d love to hear about any resources you use or ways you support neurodiversity in your workplace. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information and tools, check out Success in the Workplace Employer Toolkit: Strategies from Autistic Employees, an amazing resource designed to help employers embrace neurodiversity in the workplace.