The Unstoppable March of Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Credit: The Curly Hair Project

The UK workplace is quickly automating at a time when we are facing a both a skills and labour shortage. Estimates suggest that there are 700,000 people in the UK who are on the Autistic Disorder Spectrum, but only 16% of them in the full time workplace.  Employers know that in order to drive the digital workplace forward, we have to reevaluate the UK’s untapped pool of neurodiverse talent.

Matching Jobs to Neurodiverse Talent

Neurodiversity is typically been viewed as a hindrance or disability.  In the digital age, however, it can be a competitive advantage for an employer.  We know that many jobs will continue to be automated.  In my field, Learning & Development,  we know we need to focus on teaching adults to work with and alongside robots and automation.  Attention to detail, repetition, and a love of patterns and formula, are all qualities we associate with neurodiversity.   These qualities are already primed to sit well with the growing trend towards sometimes solitary and repetitive phone or computer based ‘cubicle working’ in the 21stcentury.

We also know that neurodiverse workers, perhaps due to a general dislike of change, tend to be loyal to an employer.  This is an attractive trait that few employers can afford to take for granted.

Neurodiverse-positive Hiring

Large companies such as Microsoft, Virgin, Procter & Gamble, have already been looking at the massive potential offered by neurodiverse employees.

Big companies traditionally have had a fairly fixed recruitment process encompassing the ‘application form/group interview/1-21 interview’ pattern.  This doesn’t always work for neurodiverse candidates.  They may come across poorly due to, for e.g., not shaking hands, or maintaining eye contact.  They may give short very direct answers to questions, or answer inappropriately when asked about any negative traits.  A few simple adaptations and an open mind can alleviate nearly all of these challenges.

Adapting for Neurodiverse Talent

The National Autistic Society recommends that recruiters think again about their questions and make them short, simple and direct, and free from complicated metaphors.  Speaking one a time in a panel interview, and avoiding longer more complicated explanations that can be difficult to follow.  Even more helpful would be to provide a copy of any questions before the interview, and a timetable of how the interview will be formatted.  On the interview day itself, finding a quiet space away from noisy printers, machines, and strong bright lighting can help avoid triggering stress or sensitivities.

A little consideration can go a long way.  Marching forward, the UK’s demographics are going to continue to press employers to rethink what they thought they already knew about neurodiveristy.

What do you think?  Are you an employer interested in working with neurodiverse talent?  Or are you neurodiverse and having difficulty accessing the workplace?


Author: marydonne

Training, Coaching, and HR Specialist.

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