How should you embrace neurodiversity in the workplace? (Part 2)
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Gabriella Steed

Welcome back for part 2 of Broadening the lens on DE&I! 

If you missed Part 1: Why should you embrace Neurodiversity, you can find it here:

So, we have established why embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is essential, now to focus on the how. Remember, embracing neurodiversity not only opens doors for creativity and innovation but it’s also a pretty big deal if you are a business striving towards DE&I (who isn’t?)

Let’s start bringing the company values of ‘fairness and equity’ to life and take a deep diver into key areas that will help your business move one step closer to broadening that lens on diversity and inclusion.

Starting with recruitment.

Job Descriptions | The scenario often looks like this: “We really want to hire neurodiverse individuals. We have job descriptions that are out of date. Slight changes are made to our JDs overtime but the bulk of the JD largely stays the same”. I’m sure many are guilty of using a standard template to create your JDs, a template that has been used for a while, with very few changes. Well, it’s now time to re-vamp your job ads, go back to the basics and question, what really is an inclusive job description? A majority of job adverts these days include long lists of skills and attributes that seem to describe a ‘perfect candidate’. More specifically, the benefits section of a job ad doesn’t often signal ‘inclusive benefits’. Frequently, company perks suggest that a company is extremely sociable and encourages regular team get togethers and social events. Now, although that isn’t a bad thing at all (for some it’s a bonus) but always remember a social workplace isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. So if you are going to include this, how about switching it up by saying ‘we foster an environment where differences are celebrated – some of us love to socialise, but some of us rather keep it low key – whatever your preference, we celebrate your differences’. Sounds more inclusive, right?

Now back to skills and attributes. Do you really need such a lengthy list? Focus on the necessities. Which exact skills and attributes are required? Often, JDs articulate that they are looking for someone with excellent communication skills. Yes, there may be roles that require this, which is fine. However, where a job requires creative thinking and the ability to pay close attention to detail, there is no need to detail that communication skills are essential. This will put some neurodiverse candidates off due to the daunting prospect of constant communication. Again, focus exactly on the skills that are required for this role to be carried out effectively. Avoid the use of jargon and awkward phrasing that will confuse job seekers and put them off. Best to stick to a brief summary of the role, how its pivotal to your businesses success and who this person will be working with. Focus on what you want rather than who you want. ‘Ideals’ can often demonstrate bias, again putting off job seekers, more specifically neurodiverse job seekers.

With regards to detailing your company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, a majority have this ticked off already and include this within their job adverts, which is great. But more can always be done! Why not detail how exactly your company does this. Provide a real life case study of how you foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Dig deep. Add some colour to your statements by explaining how and why this is so important to you as a business.

And finally, the format. This is particularly important for dyslexic job seekers. The British Dyslexia association recommends using specific colours and fonts that will enable those with Dyslexia to break down the job ad into a more meaningful form. They advise avoiding underlining and the use of italics and instead use bold to emphasise a point. Companies can also start to be creative with the way in which they advertise a position. What about creating an audio recording of your job ad or creating a video, summarizing the company, the role and what exactly you are looking for? That would be cool! Remember, its all about making your job adverts accessible to all!

Interview process | You have your shortlisted candidates, and you are now moving onto the next phase of your hiring process – the interviews. Remember neurodiversity is often silent and not always easily recognised by individuals. The suggestions detailed within this section should be made applicable to everyone within your short-lists, starting with the details. Explain the following to your candidates:

Who will be conducting the interviews?

How will these interviews take place?

How many stages are there within the interview process?

If the interview is face-to-face, detail who will greet them and what they can expect upon arrival.

Springing surprises on neurodiverse individuals is most definitely not recommended and should be avoided. So if you know they will need to take part in a presentation or conduct a skills assessment, allow your candidates the time to prepare. Remember, you want to find your best fit. Setting people up for success is not cheating. Its accommodating!

If you know that you will be interviewing someone with neurodiversity, here are a few factors to consider:

Interview room set up: If your interviews are face-to-face, you want to be mindful of those with sensory processing difficulties. Make sure that the room you choose to interview in is quiet, free from distractions and free from clutter!

Breakdown the process: Some neurodiverse candidates can find social interaction challenging. If your interview process involves various conversations with several stakeholders, try to break these sessions up into individual conversations, avoiding a panel interview. Similar to the point above, some neurodiverse candidates will struggle with sensory processing. Panel interviews will only magnify these issues since the candidate has to focus on several non-verbal and verbal cues at once. This can not only be a challenging environment but also exhausting, having an impact on individual performance. Again, set people up for success in an environment that is comfortable for them!

Onboarding and beyond… | Starting a new job is extremely daunting, regardless to whether you are neurodiverse or not. And whether you are onboarding a neurodivergent or neurotypical employee, the onboarding process should be largely similar in order to welcome all new starters! This really is the time in which you set the precedent of how you like to work as a company, ensuring employees feel welcomed and supported. Neurodiverse new starters, however, may require more adjustments in order to cater to their individual needs. In order to prepare for their first day, it is vital to get an understanding of what exactly the new starter will need to allow for a smooth and positive start to their new role. Try not to overload them with information on day 1. Consider setting up short 1:1 introduction calls with team members and colleagues, allowing new starters to get to know others within the team at a manageable pace. I would also consider a buddy system; pairing the new starter with a team member who offers them with a safe space to air any concerns and to support them with their first few days within the new role.

Beyond? The most crucial factor here is education. If you are on the journey of fostering a more inclusive working environment, it is essential that this is included within your DE&I education initiatives. The only way to get people onboard with individual differences is to highlight these clearly to all staff members, including leadership! The culture a company possess can only come from its people; their values, attitudes and practises. Raising more awareness towards neurodiversity within your workforce will allow people to be more accommodating to various individual differences and will avoid people making misjudgements which can lead to workplace hostility. Not only will an inclusive environment allow you to attract more neurodiverse candidates but it will also signal to neurotypical candidates that you care. This will be respected and in turn provide your company with a competitive edge in turn attracting and retaining talent. 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, contact me on [email protected]

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