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Consider culture add, not culture fit: how to re-think recruitment to support neurodivergence

  • Publish Date: Posted 17 days ago
  • Author: Rebekah Valero-lee
Employers are increasingly aware that welcoming and celebrating workers from all backgrounds and identities can have significant business benefits and challenge wider social inequalities. Despite many strengths and corporate focus on inclusion, neurodivergent people still face significant barriers to entering the workforce as widely used recruitment processes are often not designed/appropriate for many neurodiverse communication styles.

Neurodiversity (or neurodivergence) is an umbrella term that can help describe neurological differences. The National Autistic Society defines neurodiversity as “most commonly associated with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, Aspergers and autism spectrum conditions but includes any condition that affects some, but not all, thinking skills.”

Many neurodiverse people have higher-than-average workplace abilities and are often subject matter experts in their area. Recent research suggests that the activity of neurodivergent individuals can be 40% above that of a neurotypical person.

In 2015, JPMorgan Chase launched the Autism at Work initiative, which employed four team members with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to work in software development, engineering, and business analysis. It was discovered that the neurodiverse team members were 48% more efficient and up to 92% more productive than their neurotypical colleagues.

However often, recruitment processes are often littered with barriers for neurodiverse candidates. In order for our workplaces to be truly equitable and inclusive recruiters and employers alike first need to assess if attraction, recruitment and retention processes are appropriate for all.

In this article, we outline how you can change your thinking around recruitment to attract and welcome neurodivergent individuals and champion neurodiversity in your workplace. From recruitment to employee experience and career paths, let's explore some ways to support a neurodivergent workforce.

Re-frame your thinking around cultural 'fit'

The idea of ‘culture-fit’, where an incoming staff member can easily slide into an existing team dynamic, is great in theory. In practice, it can be a limiting way of thinking. New personality types and creating a culture which celebrates and encourages different thinking styles, not ones that can seamlessly fit into the current dynamic, can help teams evolve, grow and become more innovative.

A better way for recruiters and employers to think about new hires is to look for ‘culture-add’. What diverse perspectives can the candidate bring to the team? How can their working styles and insights help break roadblocks within the business? Changing the mindset around what diversity means and understanding the benefits that it can have to a team and productivity, is often the first step to creating a truly equitable hiring and workplace culture.

Remove jargon from job adverts and job descriptions

When you’ve worked within a business for a while, it’s easy for jargon to become an unconscious part of your language. From job ads to internal communications and HR policies, writing can become unconsciously loaded with business or industry-specific jargon that can be difficult to understand or stigmatising for those with neurodiverse and neurotypical profiles.

When creating job adverts or job descriptions, do a sweep for jargon or abbreviations; pull out anything that could have a confusing or double meaning. A great way to sense-check your writing is to call in a fresh pair of eyes to help identify business or industry jargon. If using an external recruitment provider your recruitment consultant is a great sounding board and should help you to create job adverts and descriptions, using an objective eye.

Be as clear and concise as possible. Working to make documents more concise can not only help people of neurodiverse profiles understand them, but it can address broader systemic communication issues. You may also find that many people in your business benefit from the renewed sense of clarity. Straightforward communications can build trust across a business by cutting any confusion.

Sir Richard Branson, cites the use of simple language – prompted by his dyslexia – as a great business tool which helped the Virgin brand build consumer trust.

“I need things to be simple for myself. So, at Virgin, everything is very clear-cut, very simple. I think people have an affinity to the Virgin brand because we don’t talk above them or talk down to them…”
- Sir Richard Branson, Bloomberg

Assess your interview process and practises

Recruitment teams and hiring managers must have an open frame of mind in how they discover and uncover new talent.

Perform an analysis of your attraction, hiring criteria and interview process, and ask for feedback on your recruitment process from successful and unsuccessful candidates to build real-world data and opinion sets. For example, how can you understand the extent of the ‘culture-add’ within your recruitment process if your candidate struggles to explain their skills in face-to-face scenarios?

You may discover that your mainstream interview processes don’t necessarily align well with the neurodivergent profile. If so, it would be worth considering certain process modifications, such as incorporating discovery days or practical tasks so people can demonstrate, rather than articulate, their core skills.

Avoid using personality tests as part of the recruitment process

Selection and recruitment processes are generally not geared towards maximising performance for someone on the spectrum or who might have neurodiverse tendencies. Personality tests, for example, are a key recruitment technique that can be alienating for the neurodiverse individual.

Online personality tests are becoming increasingly popular for recruitment. Personality tests are meant to help the employer understand the candidate’s character traits, giving them insights into what they might be like to work with.

While a neurotypical individual might be able to easily answer questions in a way that would produce a ‘good’ result, personality assessments aren’t necessarily well received by the neurodivergent community as candidates can often find these tasks difficult to navigate and are therefore being categorised or marginalised with these types of assessment.

Be conscious of comorbidities whilst hiring and within the workplace

Comorbidities are additional conditions that are triggered by a primary condition. For example, it’s not uncommon for an individual to have an autism diagnosis and to also have other comorbidities around light, sound and smell.

These things can impact a neurodiverse profile’s ability to function well within the workplace or recruitment environment. Employers, hiring managers and recruiters alike should be aware of these sensitivities and find suitable adjustments.

Read our guide on creating neuro-inclusive working environments for more tips on making reasonable adjustments

In conclusion

According to recent research, neurodiversity is not on the agenda for 9 out of 10 organisations and only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time paid employment. We believe that for people's and businesses' benefit, this must change. A neurodiverse workforce will not only bring a new way of thinking to your business, they often bring exceptional skill sets and high levels of productivity. As such people with neurodiverse profiles should make up a key part of any diversity and inclusion strategy.

It's essential to comprehend the various experiences associated with neurodiversity and the benefits of having people with diverse neurological profiles on our teams if employers want to embrace a range of diverse thinking to strengthen their workforce. Making simple changes to your thinking, awareness and recruitment processes and strategies can ensure that neurodiverse people are attracted to your organisation, perform at their best during the recruitment process and understand that they will be embraced by a business that will help them work to their full potential.

If you would like to find out more about how you can attract and retain neurodiverse talent, we offer EDI consultancy services underpinned by equity experts, find out more by getting in touch here. Or, ready to take the first or next step into a career, search our latest opportunities.