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Great minds don’t think alike

Why encouraging neurodiversity in companies is important

29 / 10 / 2019Fiona Doherty

At their recent ‘Neurodiversity at Work’ event, company founders Henry Davies (Communications Agency, 106 Communications) and Daniel Aherne (Inclusive Recruitment Company, Adjust) shared their thoughts on how employers and colleagues can increase their confidence in recruiting and supporting a neurodiverse workforce. Charlotte Hek from GTI's RPO team shares her key takeaways from this insightful session.

Working as a resourcing coordinator across various early talent campaigns, my role involves acting as a point of contact for any candidate who has a query within our processes and ensuring that all can perform to the best of their ability. As a psychology graduate, neurodiversity was a key topic across many of my units at university, therefore being able to relate this to my current role, looking at how practical adjustments can be made when recruiting and supporting a neurodiverse workforce is a key motivator for attending this event.

‘Neurodiversity’ versus ‘neurodivergent’ – knowing the terminology…

I know first-hand that scientific and specialist terms can be a little confusing – especially if they appear to be quite similar – however, learning these terms can make all the difference when showing support and understanding to those around us:

  • Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of human brains and minds – the endless variation in brain and cognitive function within our species. This includes the ability to learn, concentrate, speak, process, retain and understand information.
  • Neurodivergent refers to having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from society’s standards of what is ‘normal’ and includes (but is not limited to) development disorders such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia.

To put this into context, and to provide a reminder of how these can be used to describe a group of people, a workforce is neurodiverse, with individuals making up this group being neurodivergent and neurotypical (a term used to refer to people who subscribe to societies standards of a ‘normal’ functioning brain).

Why is having a neurodiverse workforce important?

Neurodivergent individuals have skills that they excel at, often exceeding the ability of the general population. Recruiting and supporting a neurodiverse workforce is important in order to enhance the overall skills set of the team, as each person interprets information differently and brings a new way of thinking. With a 31% increase in neurodivergent graduates from 2011-2017 (HESA, 2018), and approximately 15% of any workforce being neurodivergent*, the option is certainly available for us to develop our teams to the best of our ability to include a variety of skillsets. These statistics stood out to me particularly as a recruiter in the early talent space, and reinforced both the want and need to provide a process that removes any barriers to performing well.

Survey Results

At the event, results from 106’s recent survey on neurodiversity were discussed, with over 80 companies responding*. Results showed that individuals felt they had more awareness of neurodiversity than HR, line managers, senior leaders and the wider workforce, and that working to improve on current recruitment and selection processes was highly important. Not only were results presented, but were followed on with helpful tips on how we can address this within our organisations:

series of talks or panel discussions

  • HR or senior members of the team can get involved to contribute and introduce this as a point on the company’s agenda.
  • Companies can invite people from specialist organisations in neurodiversity to help with distributing information to the wider workforce.

Training and knowledge

  • Businesses can implement different types of training, including webinars, eLearning, internal development days, external training and conferences/events.
  • Best practice documents can be branded for the company and include practical tips to help colleagues if they need something to refer to.

Reviewing current marketing strategies

  • Job vacancies can include case studies from neurodivergent members of the team to detail how they found the recruitment process, their role and the support they received from the team.

Does your recruitment process support a neurodiverse audience?

As employers, it is likely that there are some aspects of our current recruitment processes that would create a barrier for neurodivergent applicants. A recent case study was discussed involving disability-related adjustments for a candidate with autism, which really put into perspective how some companies may need to review what they consider adjustments to be:

  • Case Study: As part of a recruitment process, a candidate was asked to take a multiple-choice situational judgement test, which she failed by two points. The candidate, who had multiple disabilities including Asperger’s, claimed that she should have been allowed to submit short written answers as a disability-related adjustment, considering that many individuals with autism tend to think outside of the box and may have an answer that was not listed as an option. The candidate won her case at an employment tribunal, as this was ruled to be a reasonable disability-related adjustment.

We offer adjustments within our processes, but is what we’re offering helpful?

The above case study is an interesting example as, for some companies, adjustments may be a tricky area to navigate. For example, extra time is a common adjustment seen within online or written tests across various recruitment processes. While this may be useful for candidates who have a slower processing speed and need some extra time to read and digest the question (e.g. dyslexia), is this still suitable for a candidate whose main challenge is coordination and who struggles with sense of direction (e.g. dyspraxia)? In certain cases, extra time may hinder candidates progress as they may struggle with visualising a hypothetical situation and spend longer choosing between answers that may not align with their understanding of the question (e.g. autism), instead needing an alternative form of adjustment in order to show their abilities fully, much like the case study presented above.

From working closely with candidates requiring adjustments across all stages of the recruitment process, it is important to note that individuals with similar disabilities may find the same adjustment simply is not suitable for each of their needs. Just as each person displays different characteristics, adjustments need to reflect this to accommodate for the individual rather than their disability.

At GTI our RPO team are dedicated to maximising talent pipelines and ensuring that recruitment processes are accessible for all candidates. If you have any recruitment-related queries or would like support in recruiting the best early talent, please contact Vicky Weber, Business Development Director, by emailing, or call +44 (0)207 654 7214.

*Data shared at 106 Communications’ ‘Neurodiversity at Work’ event.

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