Neurodiversity Celebration Week: How to hire and help neurodivergent employees

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Today marks the first day of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, which is taking place between the 13th – 19th of March this year. The purpose of the event is to alter how organisations view neurodiverse people, celebrate them and offer them a chance to recognise their talent and reap the rewards of a neurodiverse workplace.

Identifying neurodivergent employees in the workplace can be challenging if they haven’t disclosed this information. Some individuals may choose not to disclose their condition due to fear of discrimination or stigma. Creating a safe and inclusive environment can knock down some of the barriers surrounding this issue and can encourage those with neurodivergence to come forward and speak up about their condition. Not only does this lead to a more diverse workforce, but it also educates employers and co-workers.

What is neurodivergence?

Neurodivergence refers to the natural variations in the human brain, including some conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and tic disorders including Tourette’s.

All these conditions vary from person to person and exist on a spectrum, meaning that no two neurodiverse people will have the exact same symptoms.

What can neurodiversity offer in the workplace?

Diversity in every sense can offer a plethora of advantages in the workplace and has been proven to do so time and time again. With neurodiversity included, the more diverse your staff are, the more original solutions can be provided, which contributes to innovation and creativity within the workplace, leading to different perspectives and more unique ideas.

Neurodiverse employees can offer many talents and have a lot to offer in the workplace. Some of these benefits may include:

  • Technical, design and creative strengths
  • New ways to solve problems
  • High levels of concentration
  • Strong recall of information and detailed factual knowledge
  • Great at handling large amounts of data
  • Innovation and creativity
  • The ability to process information quickly
  • Spotting trends and patterns
  • Thinking ‘outside of the box’

The hiring process for neurodivergent employees

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data to show that just 22% of autistic adults are in any kind of employment and that 84% of employers still admit to having ‘little’ or ‘no’ understanding of neurodiverse conditions. However, many large international companies, such as Microsoft, Ernst and Young, SAP and Ford have put schemes into place to help attract and retain neurodivergent staff and recognise their abilities in the workplace. Now it’s time for other employers to take a leaf out of their book!

Hiring and retaining neurodivergent employees may require a different approach in comparison to their neurotypical counterparts. It’s important to create an inclusive hiring process that accommodates neurodivergent candidates, such as providing additional time for tasks and offering alternative interview formats for those who may need it. A simple question, such as ‘do you require any additional requirements?’ before conducting an interview could make the world of difference to a neurodivergent person.

Most of us have a preconceived belief of what makes the “ideal candidate”: someone who makes eye contact, comes across as friendly, is an effective communicator, and exudes lots of confidence. This may seem great at surface level, however this may not give those with neurodivergence a fair chance. For example, an interviewee with ADHD might appear to go off topic and be easily distracted, while candidates with autism may find maintaining eye-contact more challenging.

Hiring managers might need to look inwards and re-idenitify their opinion of what high talent looks like during the interview stage. In order to accurately evaluate a candidate’s skill, it’s also critical that employers are posing the relevant questions. For instance, interviewers with autism may find it difficult to respond to open-ended questions and instead like being direct and concise. If the interview requires a task and the candidate is dyslexic, they may need additional time to help them process the information.

What can you do as an employer to help neurodivergent employees?

It’s imperative for employers to understand neurodiverse employees may have different communication styles, and they should work with the individual in a constructive manner to help overcome their challenges in the workplace, whilst also acknowledging their strengths and how to get the best results.

Reasonable adjustments to assist neurodivergence in the workplace may vary from person to person, so sitting down and asking how you can assist their needs could be the most effective way to discuss ways to help them. However, here are some various practical strategies that employers can implement to accommodate neurodivergent employees:

  • Providing assistive technology, for example, someone with dyslexia may benefit from text-to-speech software or dyslexia-friendly fonts.
  • Flexible working – Many neurodivergent employees struggle in office settings due to too much stimulation going on around them. Offer them a quiet place to work away from distractions or suggest working from home.
  • Make sure instructions are clear and concise. Some neurodivergent employees may struggle with verbal instructions. Writing instructions down in an email may help them break down the task and understand the task better.
  • Provide a mentor or buddy to help keep them on track and assist with any additional needs that they may have.

Devonshire believes that everyone should be able to have a job that they love and will support you through the process to find one. Check out our live roles to see what jobs we have currently available.

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