Otherwise Qualified: The Case for Neurodiversity

Otherwise Qualified: The Case for Neurodiversity

This article was updated on July 27, 2018.

Many organizations understand that workers with a range of neurodiversity diagnoses are otherwise qualified. In fact, they may have unique strengths that put them in a prime position to thrive and succeed in certain positions.

Many of these individuals remain unemployed, yet businesses can take advantage of their strong ability to work with data, pay attention to detail and find data anomalies to improve performance. However, standard interview processes often fail to highlight the strengths of neurodiverse talent.

Here's how HR leaders can build a recruiting process that helps make it easier to identify, recruit and retain top talent that also falls into the neurodiverse range.

What Is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is a broad term used to describe a range of different diagnoses that operate outside the typical neurological spectrum. There's a wide range of opinions around what constitutes atypical, but this category often includes individuals diagnosed with autism, Asperger's syndrome, dyslexia, ADHD and a host of other conditions.

While these workers may face some difficulties, they often have advanced skills and unique perceptions that can give them an advantage in the workplace. In spite of perceived challenges, they're otherwise qualified to excel in a range of roles. As BBC notes, firms are increasingly seeking neurodiverse candidates to tap into their skill sets, ability to focus and capacity for managing data.

Scale Positions for Success

Many individuals that are neurodiverse have various aptitudes that make them adept at tasks like focusing for long periods of time, retaining information, working with data and finding patterns in information. As enterprises look to develop recruiting and training programs to attract candidates with these skills, begin by defining the positions that neurodiverse individuals may thrive in. For example, HR leaders can create programs to leverage mathematical and data skills in areas such as actuarial work, data management, logistics and accounting.

Build a Pipeline

Businesses are increasingly using standardized digital assessments to rank and evaluate candidates. However, applicant tracking systems and online assessments may screen out individuals who identify as neuro-atypical. Recruiting processes may introduce assessments at a different stage in the process, or route candidates through a different process if they're applying through a neurodiversity hiring initiative.

You could also consider contacting disability and career offices at selected universities, partnering with organizations such as Autism Speaks and working with coaches and employment agencies that specialize in neurodiversity. Continuously reaching out and building your relationships with different organizations can help ensure that top candidates, with the traits and skills your institution is seeking, are referred to you.

Explore Tax Incentives

For many organizations, the tax incentives associated with hiring neurodiverse individuals may offset costs associated with developing specialized hiring processes. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion notes that the federal government offers tax incentives worth thousands per hire that could apply when hiring neurodiverse individuals. Organizations can evaluate federal programs including the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the Disabled Access Credit and a number of programs targeting veterans. States may also offer tax credits in addition to federal programs.

Evaluate Your Current Recruiting Process

A traditional interview may result in a number of challenges for neurodiverse candidates. For example, the social challenges that accompany some diagnoses make it challenging to engage in small talk or maintain eye contact, which can be regarded negatively during an interview. Questions that are too convoluted may result in short, direct answers where candidates don't expound enough on their strengths, and when asked about their weaknesses, they may answer too candidly.

Organizations are increasingly looking at screening events that allow candidates to work in a simulated environment. Fast Company notes that Microsoft invites candidates to work for two weeks on various projects while being observed under more casual and less stressful conditions. From there, managers can decide whether to extend an offer to candidates.

Neurodiverse candidates bring a host of advantages to your organization — from their relentless focus and commitment to getting the job done to their ability to manage data and mathematics that today's businesses require. Identifying that talent may require reimagining your hiring process but the influx of new ideas and talent could be well worth the investment.