Autism to ADHD: Thinking differently about recruitment | Global


The term “diversity and inclusion” has become ubiquitous in the corporate world yet neurodiverse people – those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia or dyslexia – are often overlooked.

One in seven people are “neurodivergent”, according to ACAS. Despite this, a recent study by the CIPD found that seven in 10 businesses ignored their own neurodiversity policy.

Neurodiverse people can, however, often bring a dazzling array of skills and an alternative perspective to the workplace.

Those with ADHD, for example, could have the ability to “hyper focus” and excel when working to tight deadlines. People with autistic spectrum disorder may have the ability to concentrate for long periods of time and be supremely reliable. And those with dyslexia might have strong verbal skills.

Some employers have realised that standard recruitment methods, such as panel interviews, might not work as well for neurodiverse people: Ernst and Young, BT and Siemens all have programmes for neurodivergent employees.

Consumer goods giant P&G has recently launched an apprenticeship programme in conjunction with the National Autistic Society (NAS) for its innovation sector.

Emma O’Leary, who oversees the programme, says: “To attract different thinkers, your approach needs to be different. The traditional method of verbal-based interviews is very limiting if social communication is a challenge.”

While the programme focuses on those with autism, P&G encourages anyone with a neurodivergent condition to apply.

“So far, between the UK and Boston, P&G have had more than 50 people attend the assessment day, and 11 employees progressing on to internships,” O’Leary says.

Liz Johnson, co-founder of The Ability People, a disability inclusion consultancy, says there are a number of measures employers can take to make apprenticeship schemes more accessible. “They include: training interviewers to allow neurodiverse candidates to perform at their best; eliminating jargon in job descriptions; explicitly stating you welcome neurodiverse candidates; and completing desk assessments for new joiners, so they don’t experience sensory overload.”

Having a more neurodiverse workforce can help employers reflect the different needs and outlooks of their customers, Johnson adds. “The extra insight they gain will help them adapt their products so they best serve the needs of their whole customer base.”

Emma Kearns, head of Enterprise and Employment at the NAS points out that only 16% of autistic people are currently estimated to be in full-time employment. “Most autistic people are desperate to find a job that reflects their talents but the recruitment process, with unpredictable questions, is often a huge barrier.”

Ultimately, says Johnson, employers need to realise that failing to recruit and include neurodiverse people can mean missing out on new ways of thinking and untapped talent. “And in the incredibly competitive world of business this isn’t something any company can afford to miss out on.”



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