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Failing to attract and retain neurodivergent talent? Here's how to do better!

Let’s be clear about something: if all you care about is profits, you will keep on failing to attract and retain neurodivergent talent.

Raquel Rojas
Attract and retain neurodivergent talent | Fuckup Nights

Disclaimer: This article is written by a neurodivergent, queer, racialized woman. Some statements may not reflect those of Fuckup Inc as an organization.

Organizations must continually adapt and innovate to stay ahead in today's competitive business world. One way to achieve this is by embracing and implementing diversity and inclusion practices. And while many organizations are making strides in this area, there's still a largely untapped resource waiting to be discovered: neurodiversity. 

Welcoming neurodiversity in the workplace is part of a broader movement for disability rights and inclusion. By breaking down barriers and creating a more inclusive work environment, we can unleash the true potential of our teams and help individuals with different neurotypes thrive in their careers.

By bringing in individuals with unique cognitive profiles – such as Autism, ADHD, OCD, Dyslexia, or other learning and/or psychosocial disabilities– companies can benefit from a fresh perspective that has been proven to drive success. 

But let’s be clear about something: if all you care about is profits/revenue/growth/success, you will keep on failing to attract and retain neurodivergent talent. This may come as a surprise to many, but neurodivergent people are people 

Just like any other human, we don’t appreciate being treated as a robot or hired just to cover a diversity quota -tokenism much? We want to be hired because you value and embrace diversity. We want to be hired because you are willing to promote us to C-level positions based on our skills. We want to work for a company that is willing to provide support and accommodations in the workplace. 

That being said, let’s see how you can learn from your mistakes and attract/retain neurodivergent talent. Let’s start with the basics just in case ;)

Neurodiversity in the Workplace: Recognizing and Valuing Differences

Neurodiversity is not just about recognizing the inherent worth of all individuals on a personal level; it also has significant implications for the business world. Companies that demonstrate appreciation for neurodiversity and actively seek to include individuals with different neurotypes can tap into a wealth of creativity, innovation, and problem-solving abilities. In an era where companies must continuously evolve and adapt to changing markets and technologies, this unique perspective is more valuable than ever.

As the concept of neurodiversity gains traction in the business world, more organizations are beginning to recognize the benefits of embracing this approach. Companies like Microsoft, SAP, and Hewlett-Packard have implemented neurodiversity programs that actively seek to recruit and support employees with neurological differences. These initiatives have not only proven to be socially responsible; they have also delivered tangible benefits in terms of innovation, productivity, and employee engagement.

However, fostering a neurodiverse workplace requires more than just hiring individuals with different neurotypes. It also involves:

  • Creating an inclusive culture that values and respects the unique insights and experiences of all employees
  • Providing training and resources to help managers and staff better understand and support their neurodivergent colleagues, and
  • Implementing workplace accommodations and adaptations to ensure that all employees can succeed in their roles

Benefits of embracing neurodiversity in the workplace

  1. Increased innovation: Neurodiverse individuals often possess unique perspectives and problem-solving abilities, which can drive creativity and innovation within a team.

  2. Improved collaboration: By fostering an inclusive work environment that celebrates diversity, companies can create psychologically safe spaces for employees to share their ideas and collaborate effectively.
  3. Broadened talent pool: By recognizing and valuing neurodiversity, employers can tap into a wider pool of talent and skills, leading to increased productivity and adding a competitive advantage.

How to nurture neurodiverse workplaces

Inspire Different Thinking Styles

Identify the different thinking styles within your team and learn how to support each individual's needs. For example, someone with ADHD may excel at multitasking but struggle with organization and time management. Someone autistic may excel at identifying pain points for your customers or neck bottles in a process but struggle to participate in team-building activities. Again, these are just examples, not generalizations. 

The point is, you need to be considerate of all neurotypes when designing a new process or solution so everyone can engage confidently in daily operations. Never assume that everyone understands everything or that some things are obvious.

Encourage Open Communication and Difficult Conversations

Foster open communication about neurodiversity in the workplace, and encourage employees to share their experiences and seek support when needed. This will help to create a culture of understanding and respect.

Provide Ongoing Training

This is, arguably, the most important first step. Neurodivergent people often face stigma and discrimination, leading to barriers to employment and career advancement, and contributing to feelings of isolation and inadequacy, depression, and anxiety, And while the idea of neurodiversity is gaining mainstream acceptance, there are still many challenges in implementing an inclusive work environment for neurodivergent individuals.

For instance, some employers and coworkers may be resistant to change or have misconceptions about the abilities and needs of their neurodivergent colleagues. That is why providing adequate and ongoing training is crucial. By educating all members of the organization on the strengths and unique challenges of neurodivergent individuals, we can foster greater understanding, empathy, and collaboration in the workplace.

Provide ongoing training and resources for staff on neurodiversity and disability rights, to challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive work environment. Hire a neurodivergent consultant to carry on these training sessions. Remember, this is a long-term commitment.

By creating a workplace environment that is inclusive and supportive we can help overcome these challenges, and pave the way for the success of neurodivergent employees and the teams they work with.

Advocate for Policy Reforms

Engaging your organization in advocacy for policy reforms at the local, national, and global levels can help address the systemic issues that prevent neurodivergent people from accessing opportunities and resources. 

By pushing for changes in legislation and regulations, activists and allies can help create a more equitable society that prioritizes accessibility and disability rights. 

To get started, consider incorporating advocacy work into your organization's strategies and yearly outlooks. Actively talk about this on your website and social media. Neurodivergent talent will notice you’re part of these initiatives and will be more comfortable applying for a job at your company.

How to attract and retain neurodivergent talent?

When it comes to supporting neurodivergent team members, it's important to provide reasonable accommodations and create an inclusive work environment. Accommodations are adjustments that you make to your processes and physical facilities so that everyone can work comfortably and efficiently. This may include adjusting work schedules, providing assistive technology, or modifying workspaces to better suit individual needs.

We can’t stress this enough: accommodations are NOT "special treatment," they are human rights and promote equity within the workplace.

It's also essential to listen to and collaborate with neurodivergent employees to ensure their needs are being met. Open lines of communication can help identify what support is necessary and ensure that accommodations are tailored to the individual. A group of people may benefit from that same accommodation regardless of whether they’re disabled or not, BUT, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to accommodations.

Accommodations in the day-to-day operations

  1. Opening multiple communication channels: Provide options for your employees to comfortably express their needs, ideas, and concerns, without fear of retaliation or ridicule. Let them choose whether to let you know about things via email, SMS, voice message, or in person.
  2. Adjusting physical workspaces: Consider providing technological or physical support in the workspace, such as noise-canceling headphones, changing the lighting in some areas, or creating quiet work ones, to accommodate the sensory needs of neurodivergent employees.
  3. Implementing flexible work schedules: Offer options for remote work or flexible work schedules to accommodate employees with varying energy levels, attention spans, and sensory sensitivities.
  4. Providing clear, concise information: Clear and simple language, visual aids, and plain-text documentation can help all employees understand processes, expectations, and tasks quicker and better.
  5. Creating accessible digital content. Look for screen-reader compatibility, clear navigation on your internal use platforms and software, transcripts for audio and video content for training videos, etc. These accommodations are helpful for your clients too!

Accommodations in the Hiring Process

Ensure that your recruitment process is accessible and inclusive. This may involve adjusting the interview process or providing alternative methods for candidates to showcase their skills and experience.

Be open to applicants with different educational backgrounds and career paths, as neurodivergent individuals may have taken less traditional routes in their careers. By recognizing and valuing neurodiversity in the hiring process, you can attract a broader range of talent and create a more inclusive workplace.

In conclusion…

Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace is a matter of social justice and corporate social responsibility. And yes, it’s also a smart business move that can unlock the hidden potential of your team. By creating a psychologically safe, inclusive, and accommodating work environment, you can empower neurodivergent individuals to thrive in their careers.

Challenge the status quo, break the mold, and start maximizing the unique strengths of your team. As part of The Failure Program, we have a variety of online courses, workshops, and private events, plus a survey that will diagnose how you are managing psychological safety and failure in your company. Fill out this form and let's start collaborating to make failure work for you.

Editado por

Shanti Banus

Failing to attract and retain neurodivergent talent? Here's how to do better!


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