Is Your Bias Crippling Your Business? Here’s Why HR Should Embrace Neurodiversity.

4 min read

Are biases in your hiring process causing you to miss out on an untapped pool of killer talent?

More companies are starting to get serious about neurodiversity, and it’s not about following the HR trend of the day. The innovations and value differently abled people can bring to your bottom line can be true game-changers for your business.

But if the idea of neurodiversity is still a big black box for you, it’s time to figure out what it’s really all about.

Neurodiversity 101

The term neurodiversity refers to the infinite ranges of human behavioral traits and brain function. If you think about it, it’s a pretty rad word.

In an article for Psychology Today, bestselling author John Elder Robison says, “Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.” Robison is co-chair of the Neurodiversity Group at the College of William & Mary and is also the university’s Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence.

As someone with Asperger’s syndrome, Robison’s one of many autistic adults who have higher than average intellectual capabilities but lack the social skills most of us take for granted.

“Indeed, many individuals who embrace the concept of neurodiversity believe that people with differences do not need to be cured; they need help and accommodation instead,” says Robison.

It’s time to kill the stigma

But in order for more people (and ahem, HR departments!) to accommodate neurodiverse individuals in the workplace, they must first be able to understand and accept them.

In Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of Neurodiversity, he encourages people to get on board with the idea that there is no such thing as a “standard brain”. People have a tendency to talk about biodiversity and cultural diversity in a positive light, yet use negative language when discussing topics related to neurodiversity. One of the most glaring examples is the double use of negative words used to describe ADHD: deficit and disorder.

These might seem like small things, but whether we know it or not, they can lead to big bias. A bias that, if not corrected, can destroy your ability to compete.

Why neurodiversity is a must

First, can we please get over the idea that the human brain is a machine that is either broken or fixed? It’s just not that simple. We’re all wired differently and there’s no one right way our minds should work. (Come on, who really wants to live in a world full of Stepford Wives?) 😬

A diverse working culture isn’t about political correctness or flowery inclusion statements. It’s about accepting the vastness and richness of ALL the amazing talent available to us. And of course, it’s about actively utilizing that talent to create kick-ass results!

Still skeptical? 🙄

Just try and deny these rockstar examples of neurodiversity at work:

Let’s start with Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) where neurodiverse software-testing teams were proven to be 30% more productive than their counterparts. Boom!

Yet another impressive group comes from none other than the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). (And you KNOW those guys don’t mess around! 💪🏾)

The IDF has a team called the Special Intelligence Unit 9900 composed mainly of people on the autism spectrum. This highly specialized unit of neurodiverse badasses analyze aerial and satellite imagery and can spot patterns others wouldn’t normally see. How freakin’ cool is that?

So to recap, neurodiverse talent could bring you a 30% increase in productivity and life-saving pattern detection powers. That is some serious talent. But unfortunately, candidates with special abilities don’t usually fit the profile prospective employers are looking for.

Among the companies who have reformed their HR processes to attract and accommodate neurodiverse talent are just a few little names you might recognize. Microsoft, Ford, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, SAP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have all launched neurodiversity initiatives.

In fact, SAP is already seeing returns on their neurodiversity campaign by way of increased employee engagement and productivity, improvements in product quality and an increase in company-wide innovations.

And for the neurodiverse individual who’s been consistently ignored by the workforce, the impact of an inclusive workplace is huge. So if you’re not already on board, just imagine what you could be missing.

Why not go ahead and embrace neurodiversity? You might open up to profit-driving opportunities you never even knew were there.

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