How to create more inclusive hiring practices for neurodivergent talent

Organisations that prioritise and invest in policies to support neurodivergent employees will only stand to succeed.
By: | April 5, 2024

April is National Autism Acceptance Month, which can be the ideal time for HR leaders to consider if their workplaces are truly inclusive of neurodivergent professionals. Organisations that successfully bring neurodivergent talent into the fold—such as those on the autism spectrum or who have been diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, anxiety, or other conditions—experts say, can benefit from enhanced creativity, innovation, and time and cost savings, while at the same time positively impacting workplace culture.

A report by Harvard Business Review estimates that teams with neurodivergent professionals are 30% more productive than those without.

“Neurodivergent individuals can excel in areas like pattern recognition, data analysis and maintaining a high attention to detail, which can lead to a productivity boost,” said Anthony Pacilio, Vice-President of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI, a global technology services firm.

Levelling the playing field for neurodivergent talent

In the past decade, CAI has helped hundreds of neurodivergent individuals find meaningful careers while simultaneously educating employers about the business value of neurodiversity.

For example, Pacilio explained, the Neurodiversity at Work Employer Roundtable from Disability: IN (a nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide), of which CAI is a member, has helped drive a significant shift in the number of Fortune 500 organisations hiring neurodivergent talent.

Pacilio said providing structure, education and training to hiring managers is critical to building successful neurodivergent hiring programs.

A key first step, he said, is ensuring everyone involved in the hiring process adopts a “person-first” approach—shifting the focus to consider what would help candidates bring their “100% self to work.” That may mean accommodations are needed, such as noise-cancelling headphones or a different desk placement for those who may have sensory challenges, which should be communicated to candidates early in the process.

“This demonstrates the company’s commitment to inclusivity,” Pacilio said. “You want to open the door for them to tell you what they need to be successful in their position.”

READ MORE: How neurodiverse women can thrive in the workplace

Many of these accommodations are not expensive, he added, noting HR can help dispel this and other misconceptions by investing in training for leaders and managers on the value of neurodiversity.

“Employers can mistakenly believe that neurodiverse talent may need costly accommodations, can only perform certain jobs or that they are incapable of leading projects and teams,” he said. “But by educating employers about the value neurodiversity can bring to the workplace—and by showing the skills and aptitudes of this previously untapped workforce—those myths can be easily debunked. The result will be expanded inclusivity.”

About the Author: Tom Starner is a freelance writer who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. This article was first published on Human Resource Executive.