Neurodiversity: Don’t overlook the most specialist talent

4 min read | James Hallahan | Article | Workplace Diversity, Equity & Inclusion People and culture Learning and development

Neurodiversity

Valuable employees are often creative, innovative-thinking, hyper-focused, reliable, and honest: all attributes commonly found among neurodivergent people. The term ‘neurodivergent’ encompasses individuals who have autismADHDdyslexiadyspraxiaTourette syndrome, and more.

Ever heard of a ‘spike profile'? That’s how Genius Within describe neurodivergent individuals’ cognitive abilities: neurominorities may face greater difficultly with some competencies, while excelling at others. When given the correct support and opportunities to thrive, these specialist thinkers can outperform their neurotypical colleagues who, by contrast, have a flatter proficiency line with less extreme variations between strengths and weaknesses. A combination of specialist and generalist thinkers in the workplace is a breeding ground for success.


Neurodiversity is more common that you’d think

You have roughly the same chance of being left-handed as being dyslexic, dyspraxia is as common as red hair, and you’re more likely to have Tourette Syndrome than green eyes. These comparisons from Genius Within highlight that neurodiversity isn’t rare. You wouldn’t think of being left-handed, having red hair or green eyes as unusual, so why do some people still hold those attitudes towards neurodiversity?

Around 15-20% of the population are estimated to be neurodivergent – this is an exceptional pool of talent that is regularly overlooked or encounter barriers during interview processes.


Limitless potential

If neurodivergent people are allowed to focus on their talents rather than struggling with tasks they find more challenging, they can often far exceed the output and achievements of their neurotypical colleagues. Steve Jobs and Richard Branson are dyslexic, while Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton are thought to have been autistic. There are countless other examples of neurodivergent individuals who have made incredible discoveries and inventions; unsurprising since there have been several studies showing a correlation between autism and a high, even genius, level of intelligence.


Stop missing out on specialist talent

Unfortunately, archaic hiring processes and workplace ideologies mean that neurodivergent people may face challenges when it comes to securing and maintaining employment. Two-thirds (65%) of neurodivergent employees are concerned they’ll face discrimination from management, while the same percentage (65%) of employers believe they don’t have enough educated staff to support neurodivergent workers. Factors like these are why unemployment rate is disproportionately elevated for this demographic; almost four-fifths (78%) of autistic people in the UK are unemployed, compared to 4.2% for the general population.  

To counteract this unemployment disparity and to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, employers should be adaptable and accommodating to the requirements of neurodivergent jobseekers and employees. A diverse team made up of specialist and generalist thinkers can be the recipe for an innovative and thriving workforce.  

Neurodiversity
 

To find out more about how to ensure your recruitment strategy and work environment is inclusive for all, including neurodivergent people, then enquire about our DE&I advisory service

 

About this author

James Hallahan - Chief Strategy Officer at Hays, National Technology

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