HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Team members with superpowers… Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? According to Harvard Business Review, if you hire within the neurodiverse community, that is exactly what you get!

What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to a human brain that processes information differently than average, such as an individual with dyslexia, ADHD, autism, epilepsy, or bipolar. This community makes up approximately 29.1% of the population. There are many forms of neurodiversity, all with unique attributes. Each person within this community has their own unique presentation of neurodiversity.

Why Do I Want Neurodiversity in My Company?

What makes individuals in this community so wonderfully talented is the same characteristic that makes them diverse: their variance in information processing. Many people with neurodiversity are innovative. Some have hyperspeed information processing. Some work at exponential rates. Some can analyze data like no one’s business. Many are super creative. There are even neurodiverse individuals that are human calculators! The gifts may vary, but these “superpowers” are a highly typical manifestation of neurodiversity. This makes the neurodiverse community highly desirable in a professional environment.

What Are Special Considerations for Attracting and Hiring a Neurodiverse Team?

Keeping in mind that what makes these individuals spectacular in the workplace is also what makes them different from the “average” person, we must also acknowledge the importance of embracing their differences rather than trying to “normalize” them. A uniquely talented individual cannot be forced into the same “box” as everyone else and be expected to perform at high levels (Duh, right?). According to several studies, including one by the University of Warwick, there is an approximate 20%-25% increase in productivity when an employee feels embraced and comfortable at work. This is true for a very practical reason: our brains love routine, familiarity, and easy-flow processing. They do not like to be thrown for a loop or forced to process in a non-natural way. In order to attain maximum productivity, you have to steer into the neurodiverse curve, not away from it. So how do you accomplish that? The good news is that it is not really very difficult. First, you need to attract super talent. Go into every search with inclusivity at the forefront. Do not plan the process according to how your mind and bodywork. Think of everything that could be a factor for a candidate, in this case, a neurodiverse candidate. These could include a concise application process, discomfort with EEOC and ADA information collection, note-taking during interviews, issues with on-screen conversations, problems with hearing or auditory input, etc. Remember, most neurodiverse individuals will not ask for any accommodation because the perception, which is tragically often accurate, is that they will receive discrimination. This is often the case even if you claim inclusivity in your job posting or website because so often those words are empty. Therefore it is the potential employer’s responsibility to ensure that all interview processes are inclusive from the get-go. Some specific advice to achieve this goal is included at the end of this article. A general recruiting tip: remember, it is not a candidate’s responsibility to be good at interviewing. That is the responsibility of the hiring team. It is the recruiting team’s job to help the candidate through the process and present themselves well.

How Do I Make My Company a Supportive Place for All?

Step 1: Prepare

Once you have an accepted offer of employment, it is imperative that preparation for the hired candidate’s start date be completed prior to that date. This includes supply and technology acquisition, training readiness, logins, and anything else that they will need in order to work successfully. Any good HR or talent acquisition consultant will tell you that if onboarding is not done well, the candidate will never stop their job search. You can lose them before they ever get started, so be sure you are ready for your hires from day one.

Step 2: Train

Training is horribly underestimated by organizations across the world. According to Lorman, retention rates rise an average of 40% for companies with strong learning cultures and new hire training programs. Training matters. Because training is so valuable, match each new hire with a training option that works best for them. Offer different training based on the different learning styles: kinetic, audio, and visual. Keep in mind that there are variants within each learning style, especially in the neurodiverse community, so thoroughness and properly trained educators are vital. Have well-rounded trainers available to facilitate and aid each new hire through their learning journey. These trainers should be skilled and knowledgeable about different neurodiversity and learning styles. There are simple and inexpensive courses online where your training team can hone their skills, including education specifically for neurodiverse training. You can also hire specialized individuals. (A tip: former teachers can make superb corporate trainers!)

Step 3: Cultivate

Now that your new team is on board, it is vital to ensure their needs are met and their talent is cultivated. Remember, some neurodiversity comes with particular ticks or “quirks.” An individual may need to untie and retie their shoes often, wear headphones all day, fidget with toys or bounce on a yoga ball rather than using a chair. Everyone is different, so work with each unique situation and need. When onboarding, ask each new hire if they have any special requests for equipment. Sometimes it is helpful to have a “frequently requested” list that includes the most popular equipment and items you believe will be useful. Always include a fill-in-the-blank option. This gesture goes a long way and gives each employee an opportunity to make sure their needs are met so they can be as happy and productive as possible. Hewlett Packard has a program specifically geared toward hiring and cultivating neurodiverse talent. They have “partners” assigned to team members as part of a mentorship-type program. In this program, Hewlett Packard has seen a 30% higher productivity output compared to correlating teams. Those are fantastic results! Cultivating all talent is important, and with the neurodiverse community, you need to be on top of your game. As a reward, you will get spectacular results for your business! Being inclusive is really as simple as listening, learning, and then implementing. Neurodiverse talent is certainly worth the effort. This is a remarkable community with incredible talent and potential.

Tips for Attracting the Type of Superpower Your Business Needs

If you want to attract these super-powered neurodiverse individuals, here are a few tips for your interview process:
  • Keep all job descriptions short and concise.
    • Use one sentence or less on bullets for each responsibility and requirement.
    • Be sure not to confuse responsibilities versus requirements.
    • Put the biggest responsibilities and most valued requirements at the top of each list.
    • Avoid years of experience requirements; instead request levels of expertise.
    • List the compensation range. Leaving compensation off of descriptions can cause stress and make you look shady.
  • Do not create an ideal candidate profile. Instead, focus the hunt on the problems that need to be solved.
Keep your application process short — 5 minutes or less. Keep questions specific.
  • Keep the interview process short.
  • Offer different options for each interview stage (phone, speech to text, Google Meets, Zoom, In-Person, presentation interview, etc.).
  • Offer note-taking options.
  • Do not require “norms” when interviewing. Instead, be understanding and flexible. Embrace different communication styles.
  • Most importantly, embrace differences!
Katherine McCord, Innovating HR With Integrity

Katherine McCord, Innovating HR With Integrity

With global best hiring practices and true diversity hiring as her driving forces, Katherine launched Titan Management, a premier national talent acquisition and consulting organization, in 2014 in Dallas, Texas. Titan grew with great success across multiple industries, and has expanded services to take a more team-focused, less agency-style approach. Then, in 2020, she launched the international online show and podcast Career Launch Live, which tackles everything from best job seeker practices and DE&I to employee relations and payday law. Now, her patent-pending, anti-bias applicant tracking system, Titan ATS, is disrupting hiring technology and the way we look at applicants! It has been featured in Web Summit and HR Disruptor, as well as several publications.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
ADHD in the Workplace
Accessibility in the Workplace
Anxiety in the Workplace
Autism in the Workplace
Belonging Workplace Events
Black History Month Workplace Celebration
Blended Workforce
Culture Discrimination
DEI Recruiting
Depression in the Workplace
Disability Discrimination
Disability Training
Diversity Workplace Events
Employee Resource Group (ERG)
Gender Equality
Generational Diversity
Glass Ceiling
Glass Cliff
Inclusive Leadership
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Masking Emotions in the Workplace
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National Origin Discrimination
OCD in the Workplace
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Second-Chance Employers
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Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Workplace Bias
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