Embracing Neurodiversity in Recruitment

*This is a collaborative guestpost

Far from being a politically correct gesture, the embracing of neurodiversity in the workplace brings with it a whole host of benefits, not only to society at large, but also to the many businesses that are engaged in the process. Before we move on to explain the benefits and offer advice on how to go about embracing neurodiversity it is worth offering a definition.

Neurodiversity defined

Judy Singer was a sociologist with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and it was she who coined the term "neurodiversity" in the late ‘90s. The term refers to the wide range of fluctuations in individual brain function and behavioural traits, considered part of normal variations within the population. Among those considered “neurodiverse” or “neurodivergent” are those with autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia and ADHD among other conditions.

Neurodiversity assessments

Within any workplace environment the chances are that there are individuals who may be considered neurodivergent and may not know it themselves, or employers may not be aware. If any individuals are struggling in certain tasks without an obvious reason then it could be beneficial to carry out a diagnostic assessment for neurodiversity. Such neurodiversity assessments can be extremely beneficial as they can provide answers, which themselves make solutions apparent.

Neurodiversity benefits

A healthy range of neurodiversity in the workplace can be extremely beneficial. Many individuals considered neurodivergent are better able to focus on the most relevant details – avoiding getting bogged down in the peripheral miasma. Others bring unique, challenging thinking to the table. As scientist and autism activist Dr. Temple Grandin famously espoused:‘Without people with autism, humans would still be living in caves.’ With this in mind it is important not to dismiss applications for jobs solely based on spelling mistakes. An individual with dyslexia or dysgraphia could find spelling very difficult, but bring with them a whole host of other skills and talents. Spelling is something that can be overcome with simple technological support. 

Many jobs, like data entry, for instance, can be something of a drag for a large percentage of people. For many on the autistic spectrum, however, the idea of a job where you can sit in peace at your own desk, wearing a pair of noise cancelling headphones absorbed in a data set is somewhere approaching ideal. This is just one example of many where neurodiversity is the employer’s best friend.

In addition, recruiting a healthy number of neurodivergent individuals will, with the right support, education and training make for a more tolerant, patient and caring team that can also learn new ways of looking at the world as well as challenges presented.

Recruitment tips

A key tip when hiring is to ask individuals for a preferred form of contact. Many neurodiverse individuals will have a strong preference. Dyslexic individuals can prefer a phone call, while those on the autistic spectrum can struggle to read social clues over the phone. 

During interviews, providing a distraction-free environment is very important for many neurodivergent individuals, so this is vital to get the best impression of such interviewees.

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