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Blog | 21 Jul 2022

Neurodiversity - The Untapped Potential of Neurodiverse Talent in the Workplace

This opinion piece forms part of our IMPACTxAsia blog series

Neurodiversity - The Untapped Potential of Neurodiverse Talent in the Workplace

 

In order to promote inclusion, the creation of diverse workplaces is vital and although conversations are well underway in regard to many diversity dimensions, discussions around Neurodiversity are still in their infancy. Global estimates predict that neurodiverse conditions affect one in eight people. From a workplace perspective, this translates to more than one in every ten job applicants, employees or clients. Collective effort is required from multiple corporates to not only set a precedent in initiating conversations around Neurodiversity but also in extending D&I initiatives to fully encompass all neurological differences, especially during the processes of hiring, training and retaining neurodiverse talent.  

Neurodiversity as a Diversity Dimension 
Neurodiversity refers to the neurological differences encompassing social interaction, learning, attention, mood as well as other mental functions. It is an umbrella term and is considered a ‘spectrum disorder’ meaning that there are a large and varied range of characteristics associated with each divergence.  

Source: Community Business (2022) Understanding and Leveraging Neurodiverse Talent in the Workplace in India 
 

The benefits of incorporating Neurodiversity as a diversity dimension are multifaceted and a neurodiverse workforce not only strengthens the competitive edge of an organisation, through the use of out-of-the-box thinking and cutting-edge solutions but can also elevate companies’ level of knowledge and ability to problem-solve. The increasing emphasis placed on ‘diversity of thought’ highlights the importance of including a range of perspectives, experiences and knowledge. This can be beneficial when it comes to internal productivity as well as advantageous when dealing with neurodiverse clients or providing a unique perspective to stakeholders.  

Additionally, the creation of workplace initiatives that advocate and educate workforces around the concept of Neurodiversity create supportive spaces that are accessible, in order to encourage open conversations and catalyse meaningful change.  

Why Hire Neurodivergent talent? 
Community Business’ latest publication Understanding and Leveraging Neurodiverse Talent in the Workplace in India presents the business case for hiring neurodiverse talent in the Indian context., Iit also illustrates some of the common barriers faced by neurodiverse individuals as they enter the workforce. These include: 

The Interview Process - Current recruitment processes often overlook neurodiverse talent, emphasis on ‘favourable characteristics’ including solid communication skills, teamwork, persuasiveness and the ability to network can cause exclusion. Focusing on these behavioural traits in the initial stages of the recruitment process means that neurodiverse individuals can be inadvertently screened out.  

Conformity to Standardised Approaches - This barrier derives from the assumption that scalable processes require absolute conformity to a standardised approach. Neurodiverse employees typically need to be allowed to deviate from established practices. This shifts managers’ orientation from assuring compliance through standardisation to adjusting to individual work contexts.  

Cost in Hiring - A common misconception is that there will be increased costs in hiring neurodiverse employees. In fact, the opposite has been found. Research by the Job Accommodation Network in 2019 suggested that hiring individuals on the Autism Spectrum for the majority resulted in no increased costs– when comparing employees on the Autism Spectrum to job-matched neurotypical employees, it also mostly found no significant differences between supervision, employer or workplace training costs. 

It is worth reflecting that driving D&I practices extends far beyond recruitment and onboarding processes. As the research illustrates, social responsibility is a collective process and as a society we need to reach a point where acknowledgment of Neurodiversity is embedded in every decision-making process.  Organisations play an instrumental part in facilitating a more equitable and inclusive society – a mission that should be at the heart of any responsible employer.  

 
Recommendations  
Along with encouraging companies to promote the inclusion of neurodiverse talent within their workplaces, Community Business compiled a set of practical recommendations for organisations committed to moving forward and creating more inclusive workspaces for neurodiverse individuals in India. In seeking to address some of the challenges, the report categorised recommendations into two key phases: 

  1. Supporting Neurodiverse Talent in Hiring, Integration and Retention  

This seeks to effectively harness and maximise the full potential of neurodivergent professionals when entering and integrating into the workforce, as well as improving processes for existing neurodiverse employees. 

  1. Workplace Educational Initiatives and Desensitisation Programmes  

This encourages companies to acknowledge the concept of Neurodiversity and begin advocating for education and discussions in the workplace. In addition, desensitization programmes targeted at the existing workforce to address any questions or concerns prior to onboarding efforts, to promote a culture of inclusion and empathy.  

 

To read more about the subject, download Understanding and Leveraging Neurodiverse Talent in the Workplace now. 

About the Author: Olivia Welch, Research Manager, Social Impact at Community Business