Hiring people with diverse experiences, including neurodiversity, allows you to serve more people with targeted services that meet their unique needs. A diverse staff can also help you combat groupthink and create innovative solutions.
The term neurodiversity was first used by psychologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s. Neurodiversity suggests that diverse conditions appear as a result of normal variations in the human genome. Neurodiverse conditions include autism, ADHD, and social anxiety disorders.
Neurodiverse individuals represent at least 20 percent of the adult population in the United States. More than half of these folks are underemployed or unemployed. Up to 85 percent of college graduates on the autism spectrum are underemployed or unemployed. This presents vast, untapped opportunity for employers. Below we describe how to approach hiring and working with neurodiverse individuals for increased organizational capability.
Fill your skills gaps
Focusing on positive differences, not deficits, is key to a hiring strategy that embraces neurodiverse employees. What are the skills gaps you are hiring for, and how can neurodiverse individuals help to fill them? For example, people with ADHD may bring spontaneity, empathy, and hyper-focus to certain tasks. Many tech companies are hiring more people with autism because they see complex details and have strong memories. The engineering industry is learning that some employees with dyslexia can perceive visual information better than those without.
Build competitive advantage
Your company’s value proposition is only as good as the people who work for you. Employees are coming up with the big ideas and completing the necessary tasks that drive organizational performance. The more diverse the brains at work behind the scenes, the more innovation potential you have. Today, when foresight and scenario planning is necessary for a company to thrive, it makes good business sense to hire neurodiverse individuals who can help you solve complex problems and see new possibilities you may otherwise miss.
Create a phased plan
Now that you’ve identified how neurodiverse individuals can add unique value to your skills portfolio and value proposition, consider an intentional approach for engaging with this population. A couple of years ago EY set out to hire more neurodiverse individuals through its Neurodiversity Centers of Excellence model, uncovering best practices for hiring, supporting, and tracking success with its neurodiversity workforce.
Use a vendor to source neurodiverse talent or manage the process yourself with the help of employee referrals, parent and advocacy groups, and local universities. First screen candidates through interviews. Then, incorporate in-person meetings that help to assess the individual’s critical thinking and technical skills on the job, and interpersonal skills in a team context.
2. Training and support.
Because the selection process includes team interaction components, peers will know the new employee before they start. This helps build familiarity and comfort for both neurodiverse new hires and their colleagues. Managers overseeing neurodiverse individuals must be prepared to effectively teach, coach, and support these new employees. For example, require managers working with people who have autism to take formal autism training.
3. Tracking results.
Set goals for your company’s neurodiversity initiatives that track how new hires provide unique capabilities and drive new performance. Nothing speaks louder than results. Your Board of Directors and senior leaders will be interested in how your hiring strategy is paying off. You are providing new access to an untapped segment of the workforce, and helping your organization more effectively achieve its goals.
People are your organization’s greatest asset. When they are working to their full potential, your entire organization wins. At Brighter Strategies partner with dozens of organizations that are planning for the future by maximizing their people capabilities.