Everyone is to some degree differently-abled since we are born different, raised, and grow differently. We are defined by our inherent nature and the external experiences shaping and programming us.
There has been a growing understanding of this concept, and most people now understand that some individuals (the neurodiverse) aren't disabled per se but are simply differently-abled. While they may have challenges with social skills, they usually have above-average capabilities for information processing, analysis, and pattern recognition.
Nevertheless, the neurodivergent population remains an untapped talent pool in the employment sector. Despite most companies and hiring managers' increasing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, the neurodiverse group is often neglected in the diversity topic, and consequently hiring process. As a result, these people are often faced with higher rates of underemployment and unemployment than the general population.
Because neurodiverse individuals are wired differently from the neurotypical group, their benefits are more direct. They may bring new perspectives to a workplace to help create and achieve sustainable goals.
Therefore, learning about neurodiversity and understanding the diversity recruiting strategy can help you focus more on everyone's different abilities rather than their impairments.
The term "neurodiverse" was coined in 1998 by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, and it is estimated that about 10 to 20 percent of the global population are neurodiverse.
Neurodiversity conveys the idea that neurological and developmental differences naturally create normal variations in our brains, shaping how we think and interact with others. It results in both unique strengths and differences. Therefore, neurodiversity isn't something that needs "fixing" but understanding and accommodation.
The neurodivergent population includes individuals on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD, dyslexia, bipolar, Tourette, and several other learning, intellectual, and developmental disabilities as opposed to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
Challenges of neurodiverse in the workplace
The capabilities of the neurodiverse often vary considerably from gifted to severely challenged. While some individuals are nonverbal and entirely dependent on caregivers, others possess unique abilities such as memory, analysis, mathematics, or pattern recognition.
Unfortunately, even those with exceptional talents often find it challenging to get and retain a job, mainly due to an unsuitable work environment. But the significant challenge these individuals face is companies, human resource managers, and other people assuming that they are less capable and that it will be difficult to work with them.
While precise unemployment estimates regarding the neurodiverse group are lacking, the apparent disparity suggests that people with these conditions are rarely accepted in the working world.
For instance, research shows that about 15-20% of the global population are neurodiverse yet in the United States alone, "it is estimated that 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed, compared to 4.2% of the overall population."
In other words, without understanding, accommodation, and flexible work culture, the neurodiverse population cannot reach their potential and be recognized as similarly highly valuable employees.
Benefits of hiring and supporting neurodiversity in the workplace
Neurodiverse people exist in all sectors and industries, and they come from all walks of life. There are high chances that you are already gaining from the valuable input of neurodiverse staff, whether you know them or not.
Companies worldwide that embrace neurodiversity in the workplace can gain a competitive edge in various areas, including productivity, culture, innovation, and talent retention.
Having different perspectives and backgrounds in a company's team will result in newer and more diverse opinions and ideas to help in problem-solving and drive innovation.
Here are some top benefits of hiring and supporting the neurodiverse population:
- Neurodiverse workers bring exceptional experiences and skills to the team, helping you build effective strategies and diversify your mindset on critical things such as engaging your audience.
- Diversity in a workplace contributes to innovation, creativity, and competitiveness. A greater diversity, including neurodiversity, of your workforce, leads to increased unique ideas and perspectives that you can use for various situations.
- Neurodiverse individuals think differently. They receive processes and analyze or interpret information differently, allowing them to solve problems in unconventional ways or consider strategies, possibilities, and approaches that other people might not.
- Organizations with neurodiverse staff possess a greater chance of attaining a broader and deeper perspective translating into better-designed products and services.
- Neurodiverse employees are often loyal to their employers and tend to stay in one job for a long time. Provided the work environment is suitable, accepting, supportive, and inclusive, your neurodiverse workers will most likely stay. This helps reduce constant recruitment expenses, which can affect productivity.
- Your neurodiverse hire will smoothly fit into your company culture. Since they have lived a life of difference themselves, they often find it easier to relate, accept and support other human differences, neurological or not.
- Working with a neurodiverse team gives employees incredible opportunities to learn from various workplace skills. High inclusiveness in a workplace is estimated to be about four times more likely to enhance personal growth than a team with low inclusiveness.
Building a neurodiverse team is highly advantageous in the modern technological world, and many businesses are experiencing numerous benefits from hiring individuals with such strengths in their workforces. Most neurodivergent applicants have the necessary skills in the artificial intelligence, STEM, and robotic fields and other industries where the demand is high for such talents.
How to create a neurodiverse workforce
A neurodiverse workplace embraces individuals with various neurological differences in learning, working, and processing information. These differences are a part of normal variation in the workplace population and an advantage in innovation and productivity.
Neurodiversity in a work environment is not just a nice concept, it adds significant business value. With adequate support, neurodivergent individuals can be more efficient, productive, and less distracted compared to their neurotypical peers.
You can use these strategies to build a neurodiverse workforce in your company successfully.
- Change your interview process
In addition to attracting and sourcing for more neurodiverse employees and getting them into the applicants' line, hiring managers must learn how to conduct an effective interview for neurodiverse candidates. These people may present themselves very differently from others, and simple accommodations such as not expecting eye contact or allowing a therapy or service dog company may be needed during the hiring process.
Additionally, you need to ask critical questions such as when they work best, how they like to receive feedback, or how they are most productive. These questions are more specific and show that you want to work with them and care about tailoring the work conditions for them to achieve their best potential.
- Update your job descriptions
When considering including neurodiverse individuals as candidates during the hiring process, HR and other recruiters should first ensure the job description sent out uses inclusive language to make it clear that the company welcomes neurodiversity.
If something is not essential and does not contribute to accomplishing the job, recruiters should make it clear or not include it. Companies should aim to provide distinctions between what is "required" or what is "preferred."
Hiring managers should also make job descriptions and requirements easier to understand for individuals with neurocognitive conditions. For instance, they could offer alternative approaches, such as video clips in addition to text-based job descriptions.
- Modify your workplace to support neurodiverse employees
Generally, neurodiverse people can sometimes have different and not very common needs. Therefore, the potential company should create accommodations such as flexible work schedules, tolerance, and understanding for those who have difficulty with nonverbal communication, quiet and private workspace, among other things. This allows them to reach their full potential without distractions and improve productivity.
Today, businesses are under immense pressure to create a diverse workforce that encourages out-of-the-box thinking to enhance the chances of gaining a competitive edge and dealing with the workers' market. But the topic of neurodiversity extends beyond just business performance and results. It is a noble cause for any thriving business to strive for.
Hiring neurodivergent employees could be a crucial part of the solution to integral circumstances, and building a workforce from qualified candidates regardless of their natural developmental or intellectual profiles is a step towards true equality in a working environment.
Neurodiverse people are often professionals who can help employers handle the existing labor shortage and add to the company different and valuable methods of thinking and problem-solving, leading to innovative solutions and competitive advantages.