Welcome to our February blog post. As a reminder, this quarter we are discussing the topic of including neurodivergent professionals in your DE&I strategy. Last month we discussed what is encompassed in neurodiversity and why hiring neurodivergent talent is good for business. This month we will focus on some of the options for neuroinclusion hiring efforts.
Neuroinclusion Hiring – Getting Started
By Marcia Scheiner, President, Integrate
February 2022 –
Are Separate Neurodiversity Hiring Programs Necessary?
The short answer is “maybe”. Depending on how your organization currently structures your recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding processes, adjustments to existing procedures may be all that is necessary, or the creation of a new process may be required. What we do know is that the standard recruiting and interviewing processes are designed for uniformities in cognitive styles, and in particular, the ways neurotypical candidates think. Unfortunately, these practices often obscure the unique talents neurodivergent candidates can bring to an organization. While some autistic individuals do obtain employment through an employer’s standard recruiting process without disclosing they have a neurodivergent profile or requesting an accommodation, the unemployment statistics for this population suggest that they are in the minority. To address this, some employers are modifying their recruiting and interviewing practices to provide autistic candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their skill sets in ways that suit their presentation styles, while others have gone as far as setting up completely distinct programs and processes for hiring autistic employees.
Inclusive Hiring Approach
Employers can follow their typical recruiting and interviewing process for self-identified neurodivergent applicants, allowing for customized modifications based on each candidate’s needs, with the goal of placing the individual in a fully-inclusive role in the organization. When using this approach, an employer should undertake an in-depth review of current recruiting and interviewing practices with a neurodivergent lens to make modifications to existing practices. The benefit of doing this kind of review is not only to provide the necessary modifications for candidates who may request them, but to benefit all applicants, disclosed or not. Some of the key areas of focus in such a review should include:
- Review of current diversity and inclusion practices related to people with disabilities
- Determine appropriate open roles available for autistic and other neurodivergent candidates
- Target recruiting sources catering to neurodivergent individuals
- Write “autism-friendly” job descriptions
- Review your interview process for modifications that can include the re-phrasing of questions, inclusion of skills-based testing and determination of appropriate interview formats (e.g., individual interviews, panel interviews, Super Days, etc.)
- Determine and deliver training for recruiters, hiring managers and other staff to ensure they know how to create an appropriate interview experience for neurodivergent candidates
Distinct Hiring Process
Some employers choose to establish a neurodiversity hiring program that is distinct and separate from their regular recruiting and interviewing practices. These programs include screening processes that differ significantly from those used for neurotypical candidates. Oftentimes neurodivergent applicants will spend anywhere from one to several weeks in hands-on activities and team exercises at the company. During this time, recruiters and hiring managers will observe their work and interactions, and coach them, to evaluate both their technical and work readiness skills, then determine which candidates will receive an offer of permanent employment. Individuals who do receive an offer may be hired as part of a dedicated team of specialists, working under one manager, on a specific task (i.e., data analysis or software testing), or they may then be assigned to jobs within the organization. These multi-week screening programs can be run by the employer or by third party organizations hired to assist with the process.
Keys to Success
Regardless of which route you choose in pursuing neuroinclusion hiring, the existence of certain elements is critical to the success of your efforts. These include:
- Build organizational buy-in: In our experience at Integrate, it is important to have an executive champion when launching a neurodiversity hiring program, along with a strong program manager to oversee the day-to-day implementation. Additionally, when looking for those initial managers to be involved, we like to say, seek volunteers, not volun
- Start small: Use a pilot program (5-10 hires) to learn what works well for your organization and what doesn’t. Perfect your model, then roll it our more broadly.
- Evaluate the models: As discussed above, there are different ways to approach creating greater neuroinclusion in your organization. Research the different ways available and determine which will be the best fit for the culture and needs of your organization.
- Consult the experts: Understanding neurodiversity is important in getting this right. Organizations exist that specialize in working with employers to create a neuroinclusive workplace. Seek them out. Ask questions about their services, skill sets, experience, staff composition (Do they themselves employ neurodivergent talent?), understanding of your business environment as well as neurodiversity, and price structure, then engage one that meets your needs.
Your Next Steps
Employers, are you thinking about how to make your hiring more neuroinclusive? Does your organization have practices geared towards neurodivergent applicants? If not, why? If yes, have these practices been adopted thoughtfully and inclusive of neurodivergent voices? Take these questions back to your management teams.
Stay tuned for our March post where we will do some “mythbusting” of the stereotypes about neurodivergent talent.
February blog post art provided by Alex Masket. www.alexmasket.com