Recruiting and retaining neurodiverse staff
Being inclusive and supporting diversity can assist employers in many ways, such as retaining diverse staff and improving employee satisfaction and wellbeing.
There’s also plenty of evidence to show that organisations with a diverse workforce are more likely to perform financially!
Yet neurodiversity can often be something employers don’t understand, even though they’d like to ensure they have a wide range of different thinking and perspectives within their workforce.
With that in mind, let’s explore what neurodiversity is, how to recruit and retain neurodiverse employees, and how to create an inclusive workplace.
What is neurodiversity?
A dictionary definition for neurodiversity is ‘The range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population’.
Neurodiversity is a term that’s associated with many different conditions. For instance:
- Acquired Brain Injury
Here’s a few interesting facts about neurodiversity:
- Most conditions are life-long and diagnosed in childhood. However, some individuals may go undiagnosed into or throughout their adult life.
- Neurotypical refers to an individual who does not have a neurodiverse profile.
- Some individuals with a neurodiverse profile may need extra support in some areas but can excel in others.
- Autism is described as a spectrum – not every individual will have the same strengths or weaknesses.
How can you recruit and retain neurodiverse workers?
Review your current HR policies and procedures – your policies must be fair and the application of them should be consistent.
Training for managers on inclusive work practices is also key. They should value different perspectives to create an inclusive and diverse workplace. Managers should be able to spot the traits or behaviours that are linked to neurodiversity. For example, Autistic individuals may be sensitive to bright lights and loud noises. They could also miss conversational cues, or find it difficult to read body language.
The selection methods used for recruitment should always be related to the requirements of the job. Employers should not seek irrelevant qualifications, experience or skills. Applicants should be short-listed and selected solely on the basis of their assessed capability for the role.
Matt Hancock, former health secretary said ‘Rejecting a CV because of a typo is “out of date” and penalises neurodiverse job candidates’. Matt Hancock was diagnosed with dyslexia at university.
By ensuring recruitment practices are inclusive and unbiased you will be in a better position to hire the best possible candidate. LinkedIn added ‘dyslexic thinking’ to its recognised list of skills in March 2022 to destigmatise dyslexia with employers and the public. Dyslexic thinking includes creativity, problem solving and leadership skills.
Be sure to review your interview process including the questions you ask. Traits often looked for in candidates like assertiveness, teamwork, and sociability (including giving eye contact) aren’t actually typical unless you’re neurotypical. Consider adding a work-related task to your recruitment process to ensure you are assessing the candidate against what you actually require in the role. And be mindful of different communication styles.
While you can’t ask health questions at interview, you can ask if any adjustments are required for an individual to take part in the recruitment process. Ensure that candidates receive the support that they need to succeed, regardless of differences.
Creating an inclusive workplace for neurodiverse workers
Review your communications
Check your communications and policies for jargon and anything that could be confusing or have a double meaning. Making documents concise help people with neurodiverse profiles.
The use of simple language is a great business tool. Sir Richard Branson has said he does not use jargon in his businesses. Back in July 2022 he said, ‘If something really interests me, I can excel at it. The fact that I was dyslexic meant that, from a very young age, I found fantastic people to surround myself with. It taught me to delegate. I think that, by and large, dyslexics are more creative and good at seeing the bigger picture. We do think slightly differently to other people.’
Managers communicating with their employees and having a management style based on trust is essential. It helps an individual feel comfortable to discuss what support they may need. Regular one-to-ones with employees will facilitate two-way conversation and feedback. It’s vital employees feel comfortable discussing any support they need rather than keeping quiet, suffering, or leaving the company.
Organisations are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ when an employee has a disability. The definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 is, ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities’.
However, creating an inclusive environment is not about just doing what’s required. It’s about remembering that individuals with a neurodiverse profile will have very different needs. You can read more about this in our blog on supporting disabled employees.
Don’t forget to consider the impact of remote working and make any online meetings inclusive. For example, include breaks for long meetings, reduce distractions like the use of chat functions during the meeting. And perhaps don’t make everyone put their camera on.
A company may discover there are better ways of working, simply by ensuring everyone is listened to. A more diverse workforce with a wide range of different thinking and perspectives leads to more innovation and problem solving. These things can only be beneficial in the workplace.