In 2022, we’re all talking about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. And focusing on your DE&I initiatives isn’t just good for your employees — there’s a business case for it too. Research from Deloitte finds that inclusive organisations are six times more likely to be agile and innovative.
But there’s one thing that’s often overlooked in these discussions: neurodiversity. This broad term refers to the different ways in which people’s brains work and encompasses thinking styles such as Dyslexia, ADHD, Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)/ Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).
Instead of labelling people with words like “disorder” or “disability”, neurodiversity takes a balanced view, acknowledging that neurodivergent (ND) people bring their own unique strengths and attributes to the workplace. For example, investment bank JP Morgan Chase found that professionals in its Autism at Work initiative made fewer errors and were between 90–140% more productive than neurotypical employees.
Despite this, neurodivergent individuals face significant challenges when it comes to finding employment. In the US, it’s estimated that 85% of autistic people are unemployed, compared to just 4.2% of the general population.
We spoke with Amber Williams, Senior Business Psychologist and Solutions Partner at Lexxic to find out how organisations can make their recruitment processes more accessible.
Create clear job descriptions that only list the requirements you need
According to Amber, the way a lot of job descriptions are written can put off neurodivergent candidates. An example is saying that you need someone who is good at both autonomous work and working as part of a team — which companies will often include even if the role only requires autonomous work.
"People are constantly looking for all-rounders, which might not even be relevant for the actual job," Amber says."Being clear on what the actual requirements are for the role [is important] because if you are saying lots of different things that are actually competing, you might put someone off even applying."
Avoiding vague terms like ‘good’ and detailing what ‘good’ actually looks like and how this skill will be used within the role may help candidates to understand the expectations of the role further and encourage them to apply. “Understanding what language to use may be new for some companies; at Lexxic, we’ve successfully partnered with a range of businesses to rethink their recruitment process to better engage and support neurodivergent talent”, Amber tells us.
Make sure your career site is accessible and lists the support you offer
Career sites and applications can be difficult for some neurodivergent people to navigate if you haven’t thought about them from this perspective.
"On your website, do you have accessibility features to have things read aloud?" Amber asks."Do you have contact details for people who want more information about how the application works? Is the font you use clear and easy to read?"
Some simple changes to your website and application form can go a long way to making your recruitment process more accessible to neurodivergent candidates. Listing the support or adjustments you can offer also encourages neurodivergent candidates to apply.
Provide opportunities for candidates to prepare ahead of time
Providing as much information as possible ahead of time can help neurodivergent applicants to prepare. This might be as simple as letting them know the questions they’ll be asked before an interview. Some neurodivergent candidates might find being in unexpected situations challenging, and providing information ahead of time can help here too. "Give them as much information as possible about what the room’s going to look like and how to get there, so they don’t need to worry about all of that before they get there," Amber says.
She also suggests giving candidates one point of contact who they can approach with any questions about the process.
Rethink your interview process for clear expectations
Traditional interviews are built around a lot of unclear expectations, beginning with body language. Interviewers often judge candidates on arbitrary criteria like their handshake or their ability to sit still and hold eye contact.
"Some people might find making eye contact uncomfortable in an interview setting, or seem fidgety," Amber says. "This may be because it is easier for them to concentrate when they are not making eye contact, or perhaps they are stimming to allow for focus and comfort."
It’s also a good idea to rethink the questions you ask and the way you ask them: "It is really helpful to be specific when asking questions to help with interpretation and answering. For example, avoiding ambiguity in job descriptions and interview questions, and indicating when you would like someone to answer in more detail."
Letting candidates bring notes into the interview and repeating or reframing questions when needed can also be useful.
Don’t rely on psychometric test scores alone
Psychometric tests are supposed to provide an objective measure of a candidate’s capabilities — but not everyone experiences them in the same way. Allowing neurodivergent candidates to see assessments ahead of time or even complete a practice round can give them a bit more of an equal footing with other candidates.
"A lot of neuro differences impact working memory: storing and retrieving information," Amber says, "You’ve got all the knowledge, but retrieving that information on demand can just take a little bit more time."
Giving neurodivergent candidates extra time to complete assessments is a really easy and cost-effective way to provide support. Even with these adjustments, though, Amber warns against relying on psychometric testing in isolation to assess candidates.
"I feel like that’s just a snippet of someone’s ability," she says.
Embrace the strengths that neurodivergent candidates can bring
"Neurodivergent individuals are known for being extremely creative, thinking outside the box, and being solution-focused and ideas-focused. They’re also known for hyper-focus: being able to work for sustained periods and produce high-quality work in a short turnaround," Amber says. "Other strengths may include reliability, trustworthiness, direct communication style and seeing patterns in things that other people might not be able to pick up on."
In other words, neurodivergent candidates can bring a whole host of strengths to an organisation. Companies like Microsoft, Ernst & Young and JP Morgan Chase have set up neurodiversity hiring programmes, which Amber says is a positive initiative for both the candidates themselves and the companies that hire them.
"By doing a scheme like that, you’re really allowing person-job fit," she says. "Instead of recruiting someone and then trying to get them to mould themselves around the working culture or the role, you're allowing them to work to their strengths."
For Amber, it’s not about helping neurodivergent employees to work like everyone else. “We need innovative thinkers. We need people who are coming up with solutions and seeing things from a different perspective — that puts you at a competitive advantage.”
Lexxic are leaders in the field of neurodiversity. As a specialist psychological consultancy, they believe in a world where all minds belong. It is their mission to inspire a world that understands and values the talent of neurodivergent minds.
Lexxic offer a range of individual, team and organisational services such as, recruitment audits and have an ND Smart self-accreditation tool to help organisations understand where there are in terms of being neuro-inclusive across all areas of the employee life cycle and helping them to becoming ND Smart.
For more on this topic visit https://www.lexxic.com/