4 Practical Ways to Attract Neurodiverse Talent

4 min read

Want more rockstars? It’s time to open the doors to neurodiverse talent.

A recent poll by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that 72% of HR professionals don’t consider neurodiversity in their people management practices. In fact, 17% had no idea what the word “neurodiversity” even meant. 🤷

But if you’re not actively seeking the many benefits neurodiverse talent has to offer, you’re probably experiencing some major HR FOMO.

Whether it’s lack of awareness or lack of information, we got your back. Here are four simple but practical ways to attract neurodiverse talent.

#1 — Write clearer job descriptions and ads

So simple, right? Yet who among us is truly willing to give up our overstuffed skills list and compensation-dodging verbiage?

A great job description gets applicants excited about your diverse company culture, while being unmistakably clear about the values that shape your expectations for the role.

And they’re even more crucial when recruiting for neurodiversity.

Here are a few tips for writing job descriptions and ads that catch the eyes of neurodiverse talent:

  • Avoid the fluff and jargon at all costs.
  • Refrain from generic job descriptions that resemble overwhelming wishlists.
    (If we’re being really honest, an excellent programmer probably doesn’t need to have great people skills.)
  • Clearly state that your organisation welcomes neurodivergent individuals.

Nicole Whiting, COO at cybersecurity firm Titania, made important changes to the recruitment process with the specific goal of attracting neurodiverse talent. “We completely changed our job adverts after speaking to people on the spectrum. We used to say we were inclusive and would take anyone as long as they could do the job. What we found was that unless you specifically said ‘neurodiverse’ or ‘autism’ they didn’t apply.”

Word choice is always important. Perhaps even more so for neurodiverse applicants who have been historically ignored and underrepresented in the labor market.

#2 — Create a neurodiverse-friendly employer brand

Whether it’s sharing a story on your Facebook page or interviewing an autistic employee for your company website, highlighting neurodiversity is probably not as hard as you think.

Compared to physical disabilities, neurodiversity is often less visible and more stigmatized. But with autism rates estimated at a minimum of 1 in 68 people, there’s a good chance you already have neurodivergent people working for you who either haven’t been diagnosed, or aren’t comfortable sharing their diagnosis.

If you already have existing programs aimed at creating an inclusive environment for people with special abilities, simply add testimonials or real-life stories featuring your neurodiverse employees. If you’re new to the idea, show your neurodiverse employees you’re ready to listen and learn.

Sometimes the best “branding” move you can make is to simply commit to learning more about your target audience.

Big names like Microsoft, SAP and EY are aware of the “untapped pool of talent” and have piloted programs aimed at not only recruiting neurodiverse individuals, but also determining what types or roles and work environments support them best.

#3 — Fix your recruitment and selection process

Without a physical reminder of how neurodiverse people are different from neurotypical people, it can be tempting to follow the same selection process you use for everyone.

But if you wouldn’t expect a person in a wheelchair to stand up and shake your hand, why would you expect an autistic person to look you in the eye?

Dr. Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD says, “recruitment and development practices are screening out such individuals and the unique skills they possess. Rather than measuring potential employees against a long wish list of capabilities, we need to be clear on the key skills each job requires and enable people who possess those to play to their strengths.”

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to cater to neurodiverse individuals when hiring.

Here are just a few small things that can make a big difference:

  • Simplify your forms and interview questions to avoid confusion.
  • Make sure all your policies are written clearly.
  • Use images to illustrate duties where possible.
  • Offer awareness training to everyone from your front-liners to the tippity top-level managers.

Most cultural changes fail due to the gap between the folks at the top and those on the ground. Make sure your leaders know how and why they should show their support for a diverse workforce.

#4 — Walk the talk

Attracting neurodiverse talent won’t do much for your company if you don’t have the onboarding chops to keep that talent around.

Workplace accommodations are key to creating a productive and recognition-rich environment for everyone, especially your neurodiverse employees.

Here are a few things you can do to accommodate neurodiverse employees:

  • Provide headphones to those who suffer from ADHD to prevent auditory stimulation.
  • Avoid excessively bright lights that can lead to sensory overload.
  • Consider modifying work hours. Focus on output delivered instead of time rendered.
  • Offer desk assessments: Are their screens too bright? Do they need filing drawers to organize their personal belongings?
  • If you’re not sure what else they need, ask!

Encourage regular one-on-ones to understand your neurodiverse talent better and make the right kind of change to both your recruitment and retention strategies.

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