How Neurodiversity Can Support Your DE&I Goals

August 30, 2021 Aon's Assessment Solutions

Making Sure you Attract and Hire Neurodivergent Talent

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) is on the business agenda for most organizations. Our global HR pulse survey, conducted in April 2021, found that 83% of more than 1,300 respondents view DE&I as extremely or very important when planning their future-of-work strategies.

Within the area of DE&I, neurodiversity is a reasonably new but emerging area of interest. The term recognizes that differences in brain functioning and behavioral traits are part of the normal variation within the human population, and that those with non-neurotypical brain functioning should not be stigmatized.

It is estimated that anywhere from 10-20% of individuals are considered neurodivergent (examples include autism, dyslexia and ADHD). Despite this prevalence, research by the Institute of Leadership & Management in 2020 highlighted that only 30% of organizations are certain that neurodiversity is cited in their inclusion and diversity policy and procedures.

Evolving our Understanding

There has been a shift in how people understand and perceive neurodiversity. No longer viewed through a medical lens, neurodiversity is seen as presenting itself through different thinking styles. Similarly, the language around neurodiversity continues to evolve with a move away from labels, such as learning difficulty, to more inclusive terms, such as neurodivergent and neurominorities.

Workplace Benefits

This shift signposts a positive development from viewing neurodiversity as a deficit or weakness to focusing on the strengths such individuals can bring to the workplace. For example, some individuals on the autism spectrum may perceive problems differently, be detail-oriented, have a strong memory and high concentration capabilities. However, it is important to note that no two individuals experience autism or any neurodivergence in the same way. Their strengths will vary significantly and, therefore, it is important to understand individual differences.

The abilities and traits that neurominorities possess are highly valuable in the increasingly tech-based world of work; however, there is also a very real benefit gained from building teams in which people quite simply think differently. Indeed, building teams of individuals with different ways of thinking and approaching problems is one of the main goals of building a more inclusive and diverse workforce. As such, one may assume that neurodivergent candidates would be in high demand - but that’s not always the case.

Challenge of Gaining Employment

The challenges faced by neurominorities in getting and maintaining employment is far greater than neurotypical workers. Possible spelling errors in cover letters and CVs may mean their applications get screened out very early on - meaning their true abilities are never assessed. If they reach the in-person interview stage, alternative behavioral tendencies could mean the candidates are removed from consideration.

Often, recruitment processes are rigid and do not meet the needs of neurominorities. Workplaces may not have the necessary practical or cultural accommodations required to set these individuals up for success. This untapped potential is reflected in employment statistics. For example, only 22% of people on the autism spectrum are employed, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.
So, what can hiring managers and talent decision-makers do to make sure their hiring processes are more inclusive for neurodivergent candidates?

We believe that there are five key areas to build into your pre-hire activity. These are:

1.    Make accessibility your standard

Commit to learning about accessibility and ensure that what you do meets with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards. This is not a one-off, check-the-box exercise. You need to review accessibility arrangements regularly and update your policies and protocols as needed. Be well informed of how technology can support you and your candidates and work with partners who are also wholly committed to accessibility.  

2.    Communicate with your candidates every step of the way

Candidate experience and engagement are essential throughout the pre-hire process. With neurodivergent candidates, you need to be more proactive and check in more regularly to ensure you are offering the support they need to work through the process. Ensure your messaging around neurodiversity is clear and inclusive, avoiding outdated terms and offering contact points at every step.

3.    Think about how best to attract neurodiverse candidates

Look at how you can showcase the support you offer for those who may need some adjustment to working with you. Build inclusive language into all job-related collateral.

4.    Assess all candidates objectively

Ensure objectivity of your talent decision-making process by making use of assessments to measure the skills, abilities and characteristics needed for the role. Make sure the assessments deployed are adaptable and meet accessibility guidelines. For example, you may want to be able to offer additional time if needed or make alternative arrangements for test administration. When adjustments are not possible, you may want to consider exemptions and assess at a later stage in an alternative way.

5.    Accommodate the neurodiverse

The assessment center is often one of the later stages of the selection process before an offer is made. You will need to think again how best to support neurodivergent candidates. Perhaps you need to provide assistive technologies to complete the assessments or make larger versions of printed materials available. Remember to keep interview questions concise and easy to understand. Also consider using AI-supported video interviews that assess candidates based only on what is said and disregard all visual elements that typically influence a human interviewer. Finally, be aware of different behavioral tendencies and train or brief all assessors on this to eliminate any bias in the candidate’s assessment.

Attracting and hiring more neurodivergent talent should be part of a firm’s DE&I goals. Choosing an assessment that enables you to make the necessary adjustments and create an equitable assessment environment for all candidates is important. Also, choosing the assessment partner that will help you make the adjustments is critical.

To learn how we can help make the changes needed, please get in touch.

About the Author

Aon creates smart measurement solutions with valid and innovative online assessment products. Aon is globally the preferred partner for organisations who demand the best.

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