HR Elements | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Why Your Current Hiring Practices May Not Support Neurodivergent Candidates - Bim Group

HR Elements | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Why Your Current Hiring Practices May Not Support Neurodivergent Candidates

READ TIME: 3 MINUTES

Diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion are in the spotlight in today’s workforce. Employers are challenged to develop programs, initiatives, and processes to encourage a broad representation of different groups. Age, ethnicity, and gender are three categories that generally come to mind when thinking of diversity. However, it is easy to forget that brain differences represent another area of diversity.

The word neurodivergent refers to people whose brains process, learn, or behave differently from what is considered “typical.”

Today, this group makes up 20% of the population and includes people with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Tourette Syndrome, among others.

The number of neurodivergent people eligible to enter the workforce grows year over year but they are chronically underemployed. At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record number of job openings (11.5 million) in March 2022. There is an apparent disconnect. Employers need to update their interview and hiring practices to attract neurodivergent candidates and fill their job openings. Two common obstacles for neurodivergent candidates are the interview process and the work environment.

Let’s start with the interview.

The interview is a common first step in the hiring process and presents a huge roadblock for many autistic candidates (a neurodivergent population with an estimated 80% unemployment rate). While candidates with autism may possess the skills needed for a role, interviewing may not be their strong suit because their social skills do not meet the expectations of a typical candidate. They may not make eye contact or speak out of turn. They may be more comfortable with routines and out of their comfort zone in the unexpected environment of an interview. Companies actively attracting this community use different ways to evaluate fit that doesn’t rely on traditional assumptions. For example, Microsoft’s Neurodiversity Hiring Program invites candidates for a four-day workshop where managers can assess candidates in an alternative setting.

Then, consider the work environment.

Why spend the time and effort to bring on new staff if the new hire leaves in short order because continued support does not exist?

Competitive companies are offering accommodations so neurodivergent staff can work comfortably once onboard. Does the individual get agitated with a lot of distractions? Move them to a part of the office with little foot traffic. Does the individual have a tough time picking up social cues? Assign them a dedicated coach who can help translate the communication nuances as they settle into a new role. Remember, this is not a one-sided effort. Employers must also educate teams and managers to understand how to interact and communicate effectively with neurodivergent hires.

Large employers, like KPMG and Ford Motor Company, have created targeted initiatives to support the challenges neurodivergent individuals face in gaining and maintaining employment. A standard value seen in successful neurodiverse talent programs is flexibility.

If your employer is at the beginning of building an in-house neurodiversity program, the first step is to design for inclusiveness. Look for opportunities to add flexibility to your standard talent practices. How can you level the playing field for individuals who may process information differently? For example, sending interview questions out to all candidates ahead of a first interview can benefit those who need additional time to process information. These efforts do not just benefit neurodivergent candidates, they also benefit employers promoting an inclusive environment.

 

This information has been prepared for UBA by Fisher & Phillips LLP. It is general information and provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice. You should not act on this information without consulting legal counsel or other knowledgeable advisors.

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