A ccording to McKinsey, diverse teams are more likely to outperform their less-diverse peers in innovation, creativity, and finances. Furthermore, Deloitte reported that companies with diverse and inclusive cultures are six times more likely to be innovative and agile. We know that we still have challenges to overcome in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). One element of diversity that is often overlooked and can be tapped into to increase innovation and agility is neurodiversity. 

One element of diversity that you could tap into to increase your innovations and agility and is often overlooked is neurodiversity.

“Neurodivergent teams are up to 30% more productive than teams with only neurotypical individuals.”

What is Neurodiversity and What Are The Benefits of a Neurodivergent Team?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways; there is not one ‘right way’ of thinking, learning, and behaving, and differences are not viewed as deficits.” Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people but is most commonly used in reference to the context of autism spectrum disorder, neurological and development conditions including but not limited to dyslexia, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, Down’s Syndrome, Dysgraphia, and Dyspraxia. 

The majority of business executives are aware of the organizational benefits that can be obtained from diversity in backgrounds, ethnicity, race, gender, disciplinary training, culture, and other personal characteristics. To benefit from DEI, they have worked to make their workplaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI). However, neurodiverse talents are widely untapped as it is estimated that 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed. This can be attributed to hiring discrimination and inequity within the hiring process; this topic will be further explored later in the article. 

The benefits of a neurodivergent team are similar to those of a diverse team. Neurodivergent individuals view the world from a different perspective than neurotypical people and thus can bring new perspectives that lead to higher innovation, creativity, and productivity levels. For example, between 2015 to 2018, JP Morgan Chase hired more than 70 diverse talents on the autism spectrum. JP Morgan Chase’s Executive Director and Head of Autism at Work shared that their employees on the Autism Spectrum, on average, perform 90% to 140% more work than their neurotypical colleagues, depending on the role.

“…employees on the Autism Spectrum, on average, perform 90% to 140% more work than their neurotypical colleagues.”

Neurodivergent teams are up to 30% more productive than teams with only neurotypical individuals. SAP’s Autism at Work program is just four years old but has been far more beneficial than reputational enhancement. SAP has seen boosts in productivity gains, quality improvement, innovation capabilities, and employee engagement. Another large company with an Autism at Work program, HPE’s South Pacific Managing Director, Nick Wilson, states that no other initiatives within HPE deliver benefits at many levels. 

How to Hire Neurodiverse Talent

Neurodiverse individuals often excel in visual thinking, attention to detail, recognition of patterns, visual memory, and creative thinking, all attributes that can help shed light on ideas and opportunities or problems that otherwise could have been missed. But unfortunately, companies are failing to tap into neurodiverse talents due to how they find, recruit, and retain employees.

Recruiting neurodiverse talent goes beyond extending interest in various prospective employees and practicing traditional recruiting, hiring, and development practices. Traditional recruiting, hiring, and developmental practices can cause companies to overlook neurodiverse talents due to the interviewing process and the assumption of conformity to company norms. 

Neurodiverse talents excel in many ways; however, many do not interview well. According to Harvard Business Review, individuals on the Autism Spectrum often refrain from direct eye contact, are more likely to have conversational tangents, and inadvertently be too honest about their weaknesses. Thus, prohibiting them from moving past the interviewing stage. Furthermore, neurodiverse employees need to be allowed to diverge from established company norms and practices to thrive and feel psychologically safe. 

To minimize recruiter and algorithm bias, evaluate current screening criteria and processes For example, AI hiring systems primarily utilize data from neurotypical candidates and are more likely to screen out neurodiverse applicants due to atypical facial or speech patterns and expressions. Similarly, recruiters may have unconscious biases; for that reason, they must undergo training and be educated on different personality types so that they will be alerted before drawing conclusions and rejecting prospective candidates. 

Harvard Business Review suggests companies utilize nontraditional, noninterview-based assessments and training processes in hiring neurodiverse talents. For example, Specialisterne, a Danish social innovator company that utilizes traits of individuals on the Autism Spectrum as a competitive advantage, created “hangouts.” Hangouts last half a day, in which neurodiverse candidates can demonstrate their abilities casually and interactively with recruiters and managers. 

However, if hang-outs are not an option, companies will need to adjust their interviewing process to be more accommodating of neurodiverse talents. Instead of focusing on behavioral-based questions, recruiters should prioritize skills relevant to the job to keep the conversation closer to reality. Additionally, it is essential to allow applicants to use their personal laptops for tests and have a say in how they would like to interact with their employer. Trial work periods where applicants can demonstrate their skills are highly encouraged. 

 

How to Create a Neurodiversity-Inclusive Work Culture

To foster a neurodiversity-inclusive culture, all employees and leaders of all levels must embrace neurodiversity and adopt a mindful approach to the many different ways people work and communicate. In addition, leaders and employees must receive the training and acquire the skill set needed to have open discussions about addressing ways to work more inclusively. This will help break down barriers and remove stigmas surrounding neurodiverse individuals.

Managers and leaders play a critical role in creating a neurodiversity-inclusive workplace. Therefore, they should be trained and encouraged to offer 1:1 discussions with their employees. This will help create open and honest discussions where an individual’s needs and preferences can be addressed, and support can be implemented where needed. Furthermore, managers should identify what works best for their colleagues, how they understand assignments, and their communication styles to adapt their managerial style accordingly. 

Providing a mentor for neurodiverse talents is not only useful for career advice, but they are also able to advocate and play an active role in creating opportunities. Specialisterne reported an increase of 16% in profitability, 18% in productivity, and 12% in customer loyalty when organizations provided their neurodiverse employees with a mentor.

Remote and hybrid work can be very beneficial as it allows both neurodiverse and neurotypical employees the opportunity and flexibility to work asynchronously. Asynchronous remote work enables neurodiverse employees to work in the most comfortable environment, thus increasing productivity, engagement, and creativity. 

 

Continued Learning:

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Malee Thao is the Marketing Project Management Intern at DEI & You Consulting

    Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is essential for creating a work environment where employees feel happy and fulfilled. Although there is no all-encompassing approach or strategy to accommodate neurodiversity or any other DEI issue, assessing your company and identifying where it can take actionable strides in supporting your employees will bring your company closer to meeting your DEI milestones.  

    The importance and benefits of diversity, equity, and inclusion are undeniable. Partner with DEI & You Consulting to unlock your company’s potential for all your employees to thrive. 

    Contact us today to learn more about our consulting services or our workshops: www.deiandyou.com



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