For some neurodiverse employees, a typical workplace can feel full of distractions, frustration, and unclear expectations. People who perceive the world differently are often overlooked or marginalized in workplaces designed for one way of thinking or interacting, leading to missed opportunities for employees and employers alike.
Up to 20% of the world’s population is considered to be neurodiverse — a term that refers to differences in how people’s brains work and how they learn and understand the world. Neurodiverse people include those with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia, which traditional hiring, onboarding, and management practices rarely account for.
The hurdles often start with the interviewing process. While some candidates can create a favorable first impression by reading facial expressions or confidently answering abstract questions — those who can’t may be screened out, even if those abilities aren’t part of the job.
“Understanding social communication cues during the interview process can be challenging for neurodivergent job seekers,” says Joe Riddle, director of Neurodiversity in the Workplace, a nonprofit that helps companies create programs for neurodiverse job candidates and staff. “So can a pop quiz-style interview process where you have to perform to impress someone.”
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Even the most well-intentioned diversity, equity, and inclusion programs can miss the nuance needed to support neurodiverse employees, and that can have a negative impact on business and quality of life for the neurodiverse population. Neurodiverse adults are unemployed at a rate as high as 40%, three times the rate of unemployment among people with living with a disability, and eight times that of those without disabilities. In the US, around 85% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed.
Companies that recognize neurodiverse people’s unique talents — enhanced pattern recognition or more creative out-of-the-box thinking, for example — can broaden their talent pool, tap into more ways to solve problems, and spur innovation. Research suggests teams that include neurodiverse employees can be 30% more productive than those with only neurotypical ones. That’s why more companies, including Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and HP, have implemented practices and programs to support neurodiverse staff and, ultimately, create more welcoming environments that benefit all employees.
“When you remove barriers for the disability community, it ensures access to talent and gives competitive advantage,” says Bryan Gill, head of JPMorgan Chase’s office of disability inclusion and head of neurodiversity. “This is good for business on so many levels.”