Recruitment Blog

Steps to promote neurodiversity and inclusivity in hiring

Dawn Lo
Content Marketing Manager, JobAdder
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Neurodiversity has many benefits and is something that’s increasingly on Australian employers’ radars, including those hiring on a temp basis. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, up to 40% of the population is neurodivergent. But what does this term mean?

You can think of neurodiversity as the diversity of human minds and brains and a variation of how different human brains function. Neurodiversity covers a wide range of neurological differences. Autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are some examples.

While there has been an increase in awareness about neurodiversity, the percentage of working adults with autism and dyslexia is low. Couple this with the fact that several standard recruitment procedures and practices – such as the use of technology to evaluate social skills – can disadvantage many neurodiverse candidates.

Fortunately, companies and businesses are starting to understand that neurodiverse candidates often possess exceptional skill sets. Research has shown that some can recognise patterns within large data sets and have extended periods of concentration and focus that other candidates might not. Employers in Australia and other parts of the world are beginning to understand the competitive advantages and unique qualities that neurodiverse employees bring, including creativity, lateral thinking, and innovation. 

Organisations like Microsoft, Australian Spatial Analytics, and Ernst and Young are only a few companies that have striven to improve and streamline their neurodiversity hiring efforts.

Recruitment experts and industry leaders Sean Haran, Director at Beyond the Badge, Yvonne Kelly, CEO at Glow Up Careers, Tony Pownall, Co-Founder at Cultivate, and Martin Herbst, CEO at JobAdder, recently discussed how organisations can tap into the unique strengths and resilience of neurodiverse employees, and pave the way for inclusive and fair recruitment practices that empower every candidate.

Join us as we dissect insights from these leading experts.

What is neurodiversity hiring?

Neurodiversity is not the same thing as disability. Among Australian employers and companies, the term neurodiversity represents a movement that aims to embrace the talents and traits of people who think differently. Put simply, ‘neurodiversity’ refers to the natural range of differences in our brain function and behavioural traits, including autism, dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, and similar neurological conditions.

More than just a box to tick, neurodiversity in hiring is about welcoming and embracing untapped potential in your workplace.

For most employers, neurodiversity hiring is a strategy initiative that aims to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces by recruiting, facilitating, and supporting neurodivergent individuals. Neurodiversity embraces the talents and resilience of employees and candidates who think differently from people employers would typically hire. 

Hiring people with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and other neurological differences is something that can offer many benefits to organisations willing to take the leap.

A great example is how non-profit organisation Specialisterne Australia partners with companies like Goldman Sachs to develop effective programs for hiring, training, and integrating neurodiverse people into the workplace.

3 benefits of neurodiversity in modern workplaces

Globally recognised and esteemed organisations, such as the United Nations, often recognise companies and businesses that implement neurodiversity policies, which can improve the employer brand. Let’s consider some of the most prominent benefits of taking an inclusive approach to neurodiversity that values people of varying skills in the work environment.

– Supporting diversity and hiring neurodiverse people promotes positive business outcomes and aligns with ESG and CSR goals, potentially solving talent acquisition challenges.

– Neurodiverse people may require that you or others speak to them directly, as opposed to using irony or sarcasm, which can change company culture for the better for everyone in your company.

– As Tony alludes, adapting your workplace or office to be more inclusive and diverse can boost employee engagement, injecting a sense of meaning and purpose into your company culture.

Challenges to diverse hiring

Embracing neurodiversity has many benefits. However the path to inclusivity and diversity isn’t always smooth sailing. Let’s face it – some groups face unique hurdles in the hiring process. Ex-police and refugees are prime examples. Understanding these barriers is crucial for dismantling them and opening the door to untapped potential.

The challenges faced by ex-police

Media Misrepresentation
Sean sheds light on the impact of negative media portrayals and public protests on the perception of ex-police officers. These skewed narratives often overshadow the valuable skills and experience they bring to the table.

Undervaluing skillsets
Organisations frequently overlook the wealth of transferable skills ex-police possess, from leadership and problem-solving to communication and resilience. These strengths are often misattributed to their previous role rather than recognised as valuable assets.

Self-awareness gap
Many ex-officers, perhaps due to societal stigma or self-doubt, underestimate their transferable skills and seek lower-level roles. This self-deprecating attitude can restrict their career opportunities and prevent them from maximising their potential.

Hurdles faced by refugees and migrants

Shared struggles
Yvonne says that the biases faced by refugees and migrants in Australia mirror those encountered by many other underrepresented groups. This creates an extra layer of difficulty in navigating the hiring process.

Procedural roadblocks
Yvonne also highlights the challenges inherent in simplified job requirements and limited outreach methods. These procedural issues do considerable damage and often exclude diverse talent pools. Recruiters can play a crucial role in advocating for diverse candidates and pushing for inclusive hiring practices.

Organisational bias
Negative media stereotypes about refugees as unsuitable for higher-level roles can permeate organisational cultures, creating another hurdle for talented individuals.

Yvonne further emphasises the need to challenge these assumptions and shift the narrative. It is vital to showcase the potential of refugees as motivated and skilled professionals.

Actionable steps to hire and leverage the potential of a neurodiverse workforce

1. Audit your accessibility for Australian talent

A successful journey towards neurodiversity in your Australian workforce begins with a critical review of your current recruitment process. This “accessibility audit,” as exTony recommend, involves a deep dive into every stage, from job descriptions to interview formats. Conducting this audit will help you identify and dismantle potential barriers for neurodivergent candidates.

2. Job descriptions

You need to ditch jargon and ambiguous language, Martin says. Focus on clear, concise descriptions of tasks and required skills, prioritising competencies over personality traits. Instead of “highly motivated,” say “demonstrates strong organisation and prioritisation skills under pressure.”

Similarly, Yvonne encourages eliminating biased language that might inadvertently exclude individuals with specific neurodiverse conditions. Consider alternative formats like audio summaries for accessibility needs.

3. Application process

Beyond the resume – expanding acceptance formats to include video presentations, portfolio submissions, or written assessments, as suggested by Sean, allows candidates to showcase their strengths in ways that resonate with them. This flexibility, Yvonne highlights, caters to diverse communication styles and processing times.

Additionally, Tony recommends implementing asynchronous options to empower candidates to submit materials at their own pace, reducing application anxiety. You should simplify requirements by ensuring they are essential and inclusive, Martin says. So try your best to avoid unnecessary technical skills or arbitrary criteria.

4. Interview formats

Diversifying the stage and moving beyond the traditional one-on-one interview. As Sean suggests, panel interviews offer broader perspectives and ease social anxiety. Group discussions, in comparison, showcase collaboration skills and hidden talents. Meanwhile, written Q&A sessions cater to those who prefer expressing themselves on paper. A key takeaway is how diversity in interview formats provides flexibility and reduces pressure for all candidates.

Make accessibility a priority. Provide accessibility adjustments like flexible lighting, noise-cancelling headphones, or additional breaks to ensure a comfortable and equitable interview experience, Tony says. Additionally, training your hiring team on neurodiversity and unconscious bias equips them with fair and inclusive questioning techniques.

Partner with experts to streamline your neurodiversity hiring journey

Beyond simple accessibility audits, you must tap into the expertise of dedicated partners and consultants who can guide and support you. Here are two key avenues to explore:

1. Leverage the expertise of specialised recruitment agencies

These organisations, Martin highlights, possess deep expertise in sourcing, vetting, and supporting neurodivergent candidates. They can act as invaluable partners and help you:
– Access diverse talent pools through their established networks and targeted outreach strategies
– Build customised solutions. Work with them to develop custom fields in your recruitment system that capture neurodiversity-specific skills and experiences
– Benefit from their comprehensive guidance, from creating inclusive job descriptions to conducting unbiased interviews and providing ongoing support for successful onboarding.

2.Embrace the expertise and insights of diversity and inclusion consultants

While recruitment agencies focus on attracting and identifying talent, diversity and inclusion consultants offer a broader perspective, Yvonne says. They can help you:
– Develop and implement effective diversity and inclusion strategies that cultivate a sense of belonging for all employees, neurodivergent or not
– Educate your workforce on neurodiversity and unconscious bias, fostering a more understanding and accepting workplace environment
– Partner with them to continuously monitor your progress, identify areas for improvement, and ensure your efforts remain relevant and effective over time.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of embracing neurodiversity and inclusivity are undeniable. Companies that prioritise inclusivity attract and retain top talent, foster innovation, and drive better business outcomes. Rethinking your recruitment and hiring processes to better engage, facilitate, and support neurodiverse talent can enable your Australian business or company to leverage untapped talent pools and skill sets that have been traditionally overlooked.

Start your journey today and make the most of these benefits by conducting an accessibility audit of your recruitment process. Ditch the jargon, diversify interview formats, and partner with experts to tap into diverse talent pools. Embrace the expertise of diversity and inclusion consultants to create a workplace where everyone feels welcome and empowered to thrive.

This article is based on the JobAdder webinar titled “From good intentions to great hires: Why diverse talent pools make business sense“. Watch the webinar now and explore how you can access and attract a wider talent pool, while ultimately building a more inclusive hiring process that is good for all candidates.

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