Recruiting Neurodivergence in the Workplace

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Many employers are increasingly recognising the benefits a diverse and inclusive workforce brings to the business, such as enhanced innovation and creativity. Global players like Google and Microsoft have adapted their recruitment processes to specifically attract diverse applicants, including those who are neurodiverse. But what does “neurodivergence” mean and how can your business effectively and lawfully include neurodivergent people in your workforce?

What is neurodivergence?

Neurodivergence is a term used to capture people whose brains function and process information differently than what is classed as a typical brain. The difference in brain functioning and processing can affect a person’s social interactions, sensory processing, learning, attention and other aspects of interacting with the world. The most common conditions that fall within the collective term of neurodivergence are Autism Spectrum Conditions, AD(H)D, dyslexia, dyscalculia and DCD (formerly referred to as dyspraxia). It is believed that around 1 in 7 people in the UK are neurodivergent, representing a significant portion of the workforce.

How do we lawfully and fairly recruit neurodivergent applicants?

Neurodivergence is a spectrum, and not every neurodivergent applicant will consider themselves to have a disability. But some neurodivergent applicants may well have a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 depending on whether they have an impairment with a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Accordingly, the recruitment process should be designed to attract neurodiverse candidates while also ensuring it does not discriminate.

To attract neurodiverse candidates, set out a clear skill set that is required for the advertised job and consider alternate modes of communication, such as the use of images to make the advertisement more visually appealing. Advertisements should also include an offer for reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process. Foundations that specialise in supporting neurodiversity can offer additional good advice on attracting candidates.

To avoid discrimination, consider whether the use of online tests and algorithms to screen candidates might disproportionately impact neurodiverse candidates whose perspectives and contributions are poorly measured by such tests. Consider eliminating these screening tests for all applicants or, if a specific screening test is objectively justified because it achieves a legitimate aim, offer reasonable adjustments or assistance to ensure that neurodiverse candidates are not unfairly screened out. In the interview process itself, a demonstration of skills in simulated work situations might be better than a behavioural based interview to show the benefits the candidate can bring to the workplace. Telling candidates before the interview what will be required from them and how they can prepare for it also allows candidates to ask for adjustments or assistance where needed and might encourage a more open dialogue.

What immediate actions should a recruiter take?

Recruiters may need to rethink the whole recruitment process to ensure that each stage of the process achieves a legitimate aim without a disproportionate or unfair impact on neurodivergent applicants. Review and revise job descriptions and advertisements and be open to new ways of interviewing designed to focus on skill and encourage diversity. Reconsider whether any screening processes are achieving the intended aim or whether the business is instead losing out on talented candidates. An open and inclusive recruitment process is the first step towards building a creative and diverse workforce.

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