Untapped talent — working towards neurodiverse inclusion in the workforce

The inclusion of neurodiversity in the workplace is a major step towards an innovative and sustainable workforce. The last couple of years we have seen an increased focus on customised practices related to hiring, onboarding, and retention.  

Neurodiversity (noun):

the variation and differences in neurological structure and function that exist among human beings, especially when viewed as being normal and natural rather than pathological

Examples of neurodiversity includes those on the autism spectrum, ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, and social anxiety.

How do we implement change and empower difference? 

We strongly believe that we all have a valuable perspective, and that the world is poorer without it. Still, the majority of our leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs come from the same, overrepresented group. Allowing everyone an equal opportunity to advance and taking the time and effort to understand people’s unique experiences and needs means that we must recognize the way ableism in all its forms is broadly ingrained into our culture.

In order to create opportunities for all, we need to look beyond just recognizing difference— we must uplift and utilize it. We have to place people and their unique experiences and viewpoints at the forefront of our inclusion goals.  

Neurodiversity as a broad dimension of difference 

There are many invisible barriers that stop qualified applicants from even applying due to bias. Fighting both conscious and unconscious bias is merely the starting point. A major part of viewing progress through the lens of social equity is to recognise that we all have different needs and that these needs have to be met in order for an individual to succeed.

Neurodiversity itself is a widely diverse set of experiences – there is not one framework that would allow everyone to avoid the unconscious biases and inherent ableist structures of society.  It is vital to further customise the hiring, training, and onboarding process. 

Recognising the potential of the neurodiverse candidate pool 

 Johan Brand, founder of Kahoot, has previously spoken about his ADHD as ‘a superpower.’ In this interview, Brand states that he is worried that children with ADHD and other forms of neurodiversity are seen solely through their diagnosis and the challenges it might present rather than for their skills and abilities. His wish that society should be more open to encompass the inherent diversity of humanity is a core value of our mission towards greater social equity.  

Recently there have been some great initiatives to attract and retain neurodiverse candidates. Microsoft‘s Neurodiversity Hiring program is specifically aimed towards this group and seeks to provide the training and support needed for career growth and success. People with various forms of cognitive differences must be seen as an added strength to a company and actively sought after, not only due to bringing new insights, but as desirable candidates due to skill and experience. 

Similarly, EY has established 15 Neuro-Diverse Centres for Excellence (NcoEs) globally with more currently being developed. These centres are a space that recognise the value of thinking differently and aims to access the ‘largely untapped talents of people with neuro-cognitive differences and those that self-identify as requiring additional support.’   

The success of such programs demonstrates the importance of making an active effort to include a specific group that has long been excluded into the workforce to an extent that reflects the expertise and high skill levels of the candidates. This should be not just an encouragement but a direct call to action for companies to develop similar programs for other areas of difference and dimensions of diversity. 


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