We all approach our work with a different perspective. It’s one of the many reasons why a diverse workforce is a powerful workforce – our unique cultures, interests and capabilities can work together harmoniously to balance out our differences as individuals.
Despite our cultural and personal differences, most of us still think the same way. Broadly speaking, we’re neurotypical, meaning, our brains process information the same way. In the workplace, this means that many of us can take our understanding for granted - we throw around information without much regard for its interpretation.
What about those who think differently? Neurodiversity relates to the diversity of individuals who are “neurodivergent”, such as those with Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Dyslexia.
Approximately 1.5 million people in the UK describe themselves as having a learning disability. But only 5.1% of those of working age were reported to be in some form of paid employment. This is perhaps down to three main factors: Employers do not know how to accommodate such members of staff; there are often stereotypes surrounding such learning difficulties; those willing to work do not have sufficient access to help to find and maintain a job.
Employers shouldn’t be afraid to hire staff with learning difficulties – it is estimated that “making reasonable adjustments” to a workplace to support staff with additional needs costs a business just £75 a year.
So how can you build a culture that supports and attracts neurodivergent employees?
Engage with communities
You won’t find neurodivergent candidates by posting a job advert on LinkedIn or job boards, necessarily. You also won’t understand how to make reasonable accommodations without listening to those in the know. So get engaging with local community groups in order to deepen your level of knowledge when it comes to making a neurodivergent hire – you may even pick up a candidate or two along the way.
Challenge your perceptions
You may well have a “perfect candidate” in mind (or, conversely, you may think you know what a neurodivergent candidate may perform like) but you must challenge these perceptions. Could the role be performed in a different manner, with just a few adjustments? And can you really “spot” neurodivergent behaviours? Beat the bias by starting with your own thoughts.
Adjust your hiring process
You might think that your hiring process is inclusive and friendly – but have you really put it to the test? What elements of your process would make neurodivergent candidates feel uncomfortable or anxious (for example, is there a surprise presentation, too many open-ended questions or noisy group work?). It’s important to create a hiring process that, from the outset, welcomes and accommodates.
Use your social media platforms for good. Talk about your desire to hire neurodivergent candidates and showcase your success stories. Candidates – from all protected characteristics – often won’t apply for jobs if they don’t feel like a workplace is reflective of their experience. So get proactive when discussing neurodiversity – demonstrate that your hiring process is inclusive and highlight those individuals who are already contributing to your business.
Learning and development
Every candidate is looking for investment in their personal and professional growth right now, not just those who are neurodiverse. However, such candidates may require a slightly different approach to learning. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they learn and what they will respond to. It may require a little extra tailoring when it comes to knowledge sharing, but you’ll reap the benefits of an employee who feels like they are being listened to and cared for.