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Neurodiversity is a portmanteau used to refer to variations in the wiring of the human brain in relation to sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions.

As a term, it covers autism (including Asperger’s), ADHD, dyslexia, selective mutism, Tourette’s syndrome and dysgraphia. It’s estimated to be around 15% of the population.

Despite such a high proportion of people being neurodivergent, unemployment rates in this cohort are as high as 80%. Neurodivergent people often struggle to find employment, despite their willingness to work.

Neurodivergent individuals can be exceptionally good at what they do. Research consistently shows that autistic employees often have better problem-solving skills than their so-called neurotypical counterparts.

Countless high achievers are neurodivergent. For example, environmental activist Greta Thunberg is both on the autistic spectrum and has selective mutism and has been highly successful in raising awareness among international governments on the impact of climate change.

While Hollywood actor and star of the Mission Impossible movie franchise, Tom Cruise, is dyslexic.  

Getting recruitment right
Adapting your organisation’s recruitment methods is essential to recruiting neurodivergent talent. The majority of recruitment methods have been created to suit neurotypical (conventional) ways of thinking and doing, with interviews focusing on how good at communicating and confident candidates are.

This has led to perceptions that neurodivergent candidates should conform to the ‘normal’ way of doing things and ‘learn’ how to become good at interviews in a conventional manner.

One way to tailor your company’s recruitment methods is by assessing jobseekers based on how well they can do tasks required for the job. For example creating a task with a set of instructions, and encouraging candidates to complete it over a set period of time.

In this way, HR can assess the candidate’s performance, as well as essential traits such as ability to follow instructions and work independently.

Another crucial element is to create job descriptions that are clear, concise and structured. A good way to do this is to use bullet points and a table that distinguishes between ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ skills. This helps neurodivergent candidates to process the information more easily and help them decide if they’re a good fit for your organisation.

Use inclusive language
Make sure that your company mission statement, communications and values represent a culture of inclusivity – including HR policies, press releases, employee handbook and job descriptions. They should demonstrate a strong commitment to inclusivity in the workplace.

Create a neurodiversity-specific component within your company’s broader diversity & inclusion policy.

Promote a neurodiverse workplace
Ensure your managers and employees have a grasp of what neurodiversity is and how to support neurodiverse colleagues. One way to achieve this is to provide training to upskill your team so that neurodiversity is better understood.