Microsoft and Dell are prioritising autism hiring to benefit from the high level of intelligence, careful attention to detail, and commitment to high quality work that neurodivergent people possess. Working from the perspective that it’s the interview process rather than the job itself that poses a stumbling block, they’ve tailored their interview processes to make people on the spectrum more comfortable, with a workshop style setting.
Neurodiversity refers to the spectrum of thinking behaviours and cognitive skills that exist in all of humanity. If you think about how physically different every human being is, it makes sense that people can be equally neurologically different too.
The current thinking around neurodiversity tends to outline ‘neurotypical’ people, whose intellectual capability and skills are around the same level, and ‘neurodivergent’ people who tend to excel in some areas and find others more challenging. One easy way to understand the difference is to think of neurotypical people as great generalists, and neurodiverse people as amazing specialists.
Whilst there are clear challenges and opportunities for neurodiverse tech professionals, there still remains a certain stigma and general discomfort around the topic. Up to 40% of employees in the tech industry have not disclosed their neurodivergent traits. This needs to change as we learn more and become more accommodating of our differences – and even celebrate them! Leading tech giants, Microsoft and Dell, have even recognised the potential competitive advantages an inclusive environment towards neurodiverse people can have and have an established autism hiring programme.
Types of neurodiversity
According to ACAS, an estimated 15% of the UK population are neurodiverse. There are many forms of neurodiversity, ranging from autism to ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and many more. One thing to bear in mind when it comes to neurodiversity is the broadness of the spectrum; no two people with ADHD (or any other form of neurodiversity) will be exactly the same, share the same challenges or excel in the same areas.
Accommodating neurodiversity in the workplace
Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all approach to neurodiversity, there are some more general inclusivity measures and practices you can adopt to make sure you’re accommodating your entire workforce or team’s patterns of thinking, feeling, working and collaborating.
- Implementing supportive technology
For many neurodiverse people, interruptions, notifications, and other distractions can negatively impact focus and concentration. Being forced to switch between tasks, projects, clients, or products in quick succession can make it difficult to complete a task.
Allowing your team to switch off their notifications when they’re working on a task and being accommodating towards longer reply times will help neurodiverse members of your team comfortably complete their work and get to their notifications at a time when they can answer them fully.
For those who find project or time management a challenge, implementing intuitive workflow applications will help your team keep track of their tasks, see their priority level and complete them in a timely manner. Some examples of useful platforms include: Trello, Teams Planner, To-Do, Wunderlist, OneNote, Monday.com.
- Having a patient and accommodating attitude
Some neurodiverse people find sensory stimulation challenging and it can impact how they take in information. For example, some meeting formats may not be as accommodating to people who find it difficult to process lots of voices expressing different ideas, like roundtable discussions. Understanding this and encouraging your team to process information how they prefer (whether this be through apps for note taking, visualisation or mind mapping) will help.
Understanding that some may find the social complexities and unwritten facial cues of conversation challenging will also go a long way to helping neurodiverse people. Again, as there is a broad spectrum for how neurodiversity can impact a person’s social skills, some people ‘socially mask’ others find eye contact hard, some are able to fit in anywhere, being sensitive to someone’s comfort or discomfort level will help them feel they have a place in your team regardless.
- Educate yourself and your team with neurodiversity training
Neurodiversity training can help ensure you are truly hiring and operating with diversity at the heart of your business. It can help your hiring managers see how unconscious bias can come out when interviewing neurodiverse candidates (making a snap judgement about a candidate that isn’t making eye contact, for example), understand how the social aspects of onboarding and ‘breaking the ice’ with small talk can cause anxiety for some, and much more.
Neurodiversity training will help your recruiting efforts in the future, and ensure your current workforce are supported with empathic and supportive processes and systems.
How can we help?
Thinking of piloting a scheme to attract neurodiverse staff? We’ve created a focused recruitment plan for developing a neurodiverse hiring programme and can offer the support and training your hiring managers need.