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  • Nicky Webster-Hart

Building neurodiverse teams to future proof your business

The pandemic caused most companies to have a major rethink on their working practices with the candidate led market, it’s now time to rethink hiring processes too. Hiring teams need to now adapt interview processes and stop rejecting talent if they are to be fully inclusive and build neurodiverse teams. They also need to make recruitment processes more inclusive, to enable neurodiverse talent to be given a fair access to opportunities. This article covers what neurodiversity is, why it is so important to recruit neurodiverse teams and how you can go about recruiting neurodiverse talent.

Adapting processes to support neurodiverse applicants

Today, organisations are adapting their interview processes to integrate a diverse workforce, encouraging out-of-the-box thinking to gain a competitive edge whilst at the same time, dealing with a strong candidate-led market.

There is a largely untapped pool of neurodiverse talent out there. Forbes reports that fewer than 1 in 6 autistic adults are employed full-time and that approximately 1% of the global population are on the autism spectrum alone. It stands to reason then that anyone who ignores this talent pool is missing out. By missing out on this rich talent pool, you are harming business performance and impacting company profits.

A rich talent pool that remains untouched

For those living on the autism spectrum, finding a job suited to their skillset can be an immense challenge. In fact, Drexel University’s National Autism Indicators Report says 51% of workers on the spectrum have skills higher than what their job requires. Meanwhile, fewer than one in six adults with autism even has full-time employment.

Global mega-organisations such as Microsoft understand the value of neurodiverse hiring. They built the Microsoft Neurodiversity Hiring Program on the belief that traditional recruiting does not allow individuals who are Neurodiverse to demonstrate their strengths and qualifications - so shouldn’t we all be following their example?

Professor Amanda Kirby and Theo Smith put this eloquently in their book; Neurodiversity at Work: drive innovation, performance and productivity… “an organization's employees are its biggest competitive advantage. Performance gains can be achieved through cost saving, process improvement or technology adoption, but the biggest difference is made by people. This means that recruiting, engaging and retaining the very best talent has never been more important. Crucially, these employees should be a diverse group of people with different approaches, skills and strengths in problem solving and driving innovation. As well as focusing on gender, race, age and class, it is critical that businesses also develop a neurodiverse workforce if they are committed to outperforming the competition and achieving sustainable business growth.”

How do you recruit neurodiverse talent?

You need to make your recruitment process as inclusive as possible. To enable you to support your candidates effectively you need to make the process as easy as possible. Ensure that candidates can provide information to you, at any point in the process about their neurodiverse condition. Explain how this will be used positively to support anyone in the recruitment process should they need it and demonstrate your commitment by making reasonable adjustments to the interview processes. When looking at your selection process, ensure that there is a form of talent assessment or skills assessment, making it easier for neurodiverse talent to demonstrate how they meet the recruitment criteria. Lastly, it is obvious that any kind of automated selection process, will negatively impact a neurodiverse applicant and is another example of why human-in-the-loop is so important within the HR tech stack model. Humans cannot be replaced by tech when it comes to recruitment, search and selection.

How can a business build a neurodiverse team?

Not an exhaustive list but, nevertheless, listed below is a very good start on how to build a neurodiverse workforce:

  1. Get expert advice - speak to a Neurodiversity in the Workplace expert. Invest time and money and do this right, you will see a ROI with talent retention and a diverse skill set to draw upon for your business.

  2. Get buy-in from top down and bottom up. Have open conversations about what it means to be neurodiverse - create a safe environment to talk.

  3. Look at your business, is it inclusive - ask your neurodiverse advisors what can be done to be more inclusive. Keep in mind that inclusive does not mean allowance - you are not putting allowances in place, you're making your organisation inclusive to all - there is a very big difference.

  4. Partner with a recruiter who understands the value of a neurodiverse team, will be open to reframing what skills and capabilities are needed and how to draw this information from a candidate.

  5. Don’t stop here, strive to be diverse and inclusive and keep on with D&I training, embracing all diversity. We all need our bias to be challenged and educated about what it’s like to be diverse. Make sure that the training is for everyone at every level - there are often stereotypes to smash on the journey and nobody should be exempt for learning.

  6. Keep going and be patient, have a working group that checks in on neurodiverse team members and always be looking for a way to improve - what are we doing right and what can we do better? Do you have a wellbeing lead in your business your staff can talk to?

If global mega-organisations such as Microsoft understand the value of neurodiverse hiring then we know there is tremendous value in building a neurodiverse team. If you want to build an inclusive business that is positioned to thrive and weather all manner of markets, then you need to ensure you are attracting the best talent with potential to your business. Those that get this right, will not only future proof their business, they will enjoy higher performance results than those that don't. It's time to tap into a broad spectrum of talent pools and to remember this when building your employer brand and employer value proposition.

If you are looking for help with your recruitment processes and want to discuss your hiring strategy and challenges, then get in touch today. We're Auxeris, we grow with you.

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