Welcome to Integrate’s new blog series. Each month we will publish a piece discussing the hiring and retention of qualified neurodivergent talent in inclusive, competitive employment. The artwork accompanying each blog post is done by an autistic artist. In keeping with the vision of our organization, contact information is provided at the end of each blog to learn more about the artist.
Our goal for 2022 is to cover the following topics:
- Q1 – Including Neurodivergent Professionals in Your DE&I Strategy
- Q2 – Recruiting & Interviewing Neurodivergent Professionals
- Q3 – Onboarding & Managing Neurodivergent Professionals
- Q4 – Hiring Autistic Professionals: Special considerations
We hope to not only educate our readers, but with each post invite our readers to a ‘call to action’. Including people who think differently in the work world has been a topic of conversation for many years. Now is the time to stop talking and start doing.
The Case for Hiring Neurodivergent Professionals
By Marcia Scheiner, President, Integrate
January 2022 –
The War for Talent in 2022
The term ‘war for talent’ was coined by McKinsey & Co. in the late 1990’s; and as we enter 2022, the war for talent is all too real. Not only are employers facing the great retirement wave of the baby boomers, but the pandemic has brought with it the great resignation, as a record 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November 2021 alone. Yet today, the largest minority group in the U.S. – people with disabilities (PwD) – remains significantly under-represented in the workforce.
The unemployment rate for PwD is three times that of non-disabled workers. When you look deeper into the numbers, you find that 62% of U.S. workers with a disability have a hidden disability (which includes autism, ADD and dyslexia, among others) and that 30-40% of all individuals in the U.S. have some form of neurodivergent condition. These numbers point to the fact that an employer who does not include neurodivergent talent in their DE&I strategy will ultimately be unable to meet their hiring needs.
What Is Neurodiversity?
So, what is neurodiversity and why should you be thinking about including neurodivergent talent now? The term neurodiversity is only twenty-five years old, having been coined in 1997 by Judy Singer, an autistic sociologist looking to reframe the discussion around diagnoses such as autism, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, etc. from a deficits-based perspective to a strengths-based one. The goal of grouping these diagnoses under one umbrella term was to shift the discussion to focus on the value of different ways of thinking. As the understanding of neurodiversity has evolved, so has the language used to discuss it.
Some individuals postulate that we are all neurodiverse, in the sense that everyone’s brain is wired differently. Within our neurodiverse universe, about two-thirds of people fall within the range of what is considered typical cognitive functioning. These individuals are called neurotypical. The other third falls outside of this range and are called neurodivergent or neurodistinct. Those who are neurodivergent may include individuals who have diagnoses of autism, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome.
Neurodiversity Is Good for Your Business
A significant portion of the potential workforce has a neurodivergent profile, making it imperative for employers to attract and retain these candidates to meet their hiring needs. But the reasons for hiring neurodistinct talent go beyond the desire to put bodies in chairs. Hiring people who think differently is good for business. According to Harvard Business Review “cognitive diversity boosts problem solving”. Neurodivergent thinkers, particularly those on the autism spectrum, may see patterns where others do not, recognize errors missed by most or notice differences where their peers only seek similarities. These characteristics can lead to innovation and unique solutions to problems.
Creativity is not the only value an employer can reap from hiring neurodivergent talent. We live in a world where loyalty is earned by one’s actions. With 30-40% of all individuals in the U.S. having a neurodivergent condition, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a personal connection to this community. Employers who hire and retain neurodivergent talent experience increased employee engagement. Similarly, organizations that provide a neuroinclusive workplace with competitive career opportunities for neurodivergent individuals will oftentimes see higher retention rate among their neurodistinct employees than their neurotypical ones. And finally, according the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study, 86% of Americans say they are likely to purchase products and services from companies that support issues that are important to them.
The case for hiring neurodivergent professionals is compelling. This untapped talent pool is a significant sector of the workforce, and employers will need to access it if they want to meet their future hiring needs. Even if that were not the case, people who think differently bring creativity and innovation into organizations, increasing their competitive advantage. Finally, employers who embrace neuroinclusion experience greater employee engagement, employee retention and brand loyalty.
Your Next Steps
The first step toward becoming a neurodivergent friendly workplace is to is to find out if your organization is discussing this topic. If they are, what needs to be done to expand that dialogue? If not, ask yourself “why not?” and “how do I get a dialogue started?”.
Stay tuned for our February post on the various options for neuroinclusion hiring efforts.
January blog post art provided by Alex Masket. www.alexmasket.com