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Embracing Neurodiversity In The Workplace

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by Joshua Konkle, Vice-President and Chief of Staff at Consensys Health

Organizations are made up of people. That is why it makes a lot of sense to find and hire the best people for your organization. While we have made a lot of progress towards finding the right people to fill in the right roles, outdated hiring practices do still exist. Outdated practices cause your best candidates to fall through the cracks, and deprive your organization the advantages associated with having a neurodiverse workplace.

Neurodiverse employees add value to organizations and are accretive to organizational culture, However, traditional recruitment and selection policies often include automated personality tests that are designed for the neurotypical. These tests keep neurodiversity out of your organization by sieving candidates you can’t see – applicants on the autism spectrum or other neurocognitive gifts – who have the potential to be your best hire for specific roles.

These people have unique skill sets and bring fresh perspectives to the workplace. Elevating neurodiversity in our workplaces benefits everyone, from the people you hire to the people who achieve a stretch mindset working with the neurodiverse.

Neurodiversity: An Overview

To sum up a deep and complicated subject for the purpose of our article, Neurodiversity relates to the way our brains are wired differently. The term covers autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and other neurological gifts. Many neurodiverse people have incredible talent, work ethics and other superior attributes, they remain misunderstood and stereotyped, leading to increased rates of unemployment or underemployment.

The behaviors of neurodiverse candidates run counter to the common notions of what makes for a good job interview and a successful hire. Strong communication skills, convincing and confident body language, and attachment to social cues are expectations that systematically screen out neurodiverse applicants from interviewing formats. It is not just their loss, often, this also equates to the organization losing out on an incredibly talented individual because of something as trivial as not making longer eye contact.

The Neurodiversity Advantage

In a global business landscape, being different elevates a team’s creativity and empathy. According to an Accenture study, organizations that hire workers with disabilities outperformed their competitors while generating on an average 28% higher revenues. Diverse workplaces are statistically likely to have increased employee retention, engagement, quality, and innovation.

People with differently wired brains have higher than average abilities and numerous talents that perfectly fit and complement roles ranging from software engineering and data analytics to animal science, accounting, content writing and manufacturing. For instance, people with dyslexia have strong problem-solving skills, exceptional reasoning capabilities, and score well on creativity tests. Autistic and other neurodivergent people do well in areas that involve pattern recognition, memory and mathematics.

Update Practices To Embrace Diversity

Outdated hiring practices rely on a leader’s gut feeling. This leads to bias as it is a natural instinct to hire people like you or who have similar experiences and backgrounds. The usual hiring process depends on behavioral and social communication questions. Those questions are not the best indicator of potential, hard to answer, and anxiety-inducing for neurodiverse people.

Workplace inclusion initiatives including actively reforming your hiring formats can help attract a healthy mix of relevant, neurodiverse and neurotypical minds. Some of the actions that make a good starting point for an organization looking to reinvent its hiring framework include:

  • Make it clear that your organization welcomes and values diverse applicants in your branding and messaging. Include case studies on your recruitment pages.
  • Review job descriptions so they are inclusive and clear on important skills each position requires, many nice-to-have attributes such as great conversational skills may not be crucial, say, in a data entry job.
  • Simplify your application forms and interview questions to eliminate confusion. Share the interview course with the candidates including potential questions ahead of the interview. Keep communication smooth and transparent across the entire process.
  • Let them show you what they can do. Rework your interview process to include different, candidate-driven evaluations.

Neurodivergent Hiring is The Future

Forward-looking companies such as EY, SAP, Dell, and Microsoft are revolutionizing neurodivergent hiring by sharing their best practices with anyone who will listen. They are doing this not just because giving neurodivergent individuals access to equal opportunities is the right thing to do, but because it also makes good business sense.

EY’s neurodiversity initiatives operate on the belief that the world works better when everyone is included. Their Neuro-Diverse Centers of Excellence (NCoE) include professionals across differences in capabilities and world-views. EY’s first step was to move away from the traditional behavioral-based interview process to a performance-based one, that allowed them to build a direct sense of trust and eliminate the “surprise” factor from the typical interviews.

EY’s neurodiversity hiring program finds hires through a customized week-long season called “Super Week” which involves observing, applying, and coaching candidates.

Conclusion

Neurodiversity provides gifts to an organization’s teams, by bringing in new views, and sets a baseline to build a stretch mindset.

Neurodiversity focused initiatives are also well aligned with the GIVES (Grow, Improve, Value, Experience, Stretch) model I have spoken about in some of my other articles. The model is all about growing oneself as an individual and improving others, all the while valuing diversity and immersively experiencing new cultures and situations to create a stretch mindset. By adding neurodiverse individuals to the workforce, enterprises not only do the right thing by providing them with equal opportunities, but also create new avenues of growth for their entire workforce.

 

Joshua Konkle is a Vice-President and Chief of Staff at Consensys Health. As a senior operations leader and mentor at various accelerator programs, Joshua has been associated with multiple businesses, including early-stage startups as well as multi-million dollar businesses. A prolific author, Joshua has been featured on several publications including Thrive Global, Los Angeles Tribune etc.