How HR Can Support Neurodiversity at Work
There’s never going to be a one size fits all approach for HR in supporting neurodiversity and its many complexities. This is why HR professionals need to keep it top of mind when assisting with business decisions, making the necessary adjustments to create ‘thought diverse’ teams.
We know this is easier said than done, however, so to give you a hand and some added insight, we’ve compiled some tips on how HR can support neurodiversity at work.
Item #1. Update Recruitment and Selection Processes
For HR, successful talent management starts and ends with - you guessed it - inclusivity.
It’s not surprising to learn that the hiring and selection processes used by most businesses have been designed with neurotypicals in mind. This is an issue because these types of processes can lead to businesses inadvertently excluding neurodiverse talent. This negative side effect is a result of several factors, including:
Poor job descriptions
When a job description is too rigid, you’re likely to miss out on neurodivergent applicants who excel in particular areas but perhaps underperform in other areas mentioned in the job listing.
For example, the job description might give the impression that your company is looking for a generalist, someone who needs to tick all the boxes with outstanding communication skills, when in fact you care much more about excellent in a specific specialist skill. While this broader description may not put off neurotypical candidates, it runs the risk of driving great neurodiverse applicants away.
To avoid this, make sure the job description is clear and concise, avoiding any unnecessary jargon, and break up skills requirements into ‘essential’ and ‘desired’ categories. A note mentioning your company’s support of neurodiversity will also help encourage a more diverse group of applicants.
When managers meet candidates who are neurodivergent, they often don’t realise, and might mistake a person’s lack of eye contact or fidgeting as nervous or rude behaviour rather than understanding it’s due to autism or ADHD.
Because neurodiverse conditions tend to be invisible, it’s not uncommon for uniformed interviewers to make these negative assumptions. There are, however, ways to conduct interviews with neurodiverse individuals that will help you better understand them and focus on their strengths. These strategies include:
- Focusing on the candidate’s skills
- Avoiding or limiting hypothetical or abstract questions (i.e. be direct)
- Giving the candidate time to absorb and answer the question (as some people need more time for consideration than others)
- Avoiding noisy, distracting, or unusual environments
The best thing about these tactics is that they’re entirely effective with neurotypical individuals as well, making them not only strategic but inclusive too.
Outdated filtering tools and practices
When it comes to recruitment, HR would be lost without the right filtering tools to match the right candidates to the right job descriptions. The issue with many filtering applications these days, however, is that there’s a level of unconscious bias depending on how inflexible the job criteria might be. Those with dyslexia, for instance, could be filtered out altogether based on a simple spelling mistake.
There is a high percentage of neurodiverse individuals ready and eager to work, but these outdated systems often get in their way. That’s why adopting neurodiversity-smart recruitment and retention approaches like those used at Auticon, for example, is key.
Auticon is an IT consulting firm that exclusively employs adults on the autism spectrum, and the business has worked wonders for creating and promoting an autism-friendly working environment.
By taking the time to get to know their neurodiverse employees, Auticon ensures that each IT consultant is matched to a specific client project and the subsequent support mechanisms based on their particular skillset. This creates a work environment that not only allows their employees to feel comfortable being themselves but one that empowers them to work to their full - and previously untapped - potential.