3 Neurodiverse Hiring Program Structures
When it comes to establishing a deliberate approach to increasing organisational diversity, creativity and performance, a neurodiverse hiring program is certainly a growing ‘go to’. The question for many organisations starting out though, is how?
In simple terms there are really 3 primary formats that any organisation can take. In this post I’ll explore each in turn along with some thoughts on pros, cons and what considerations might be relevant for your organisation.
If you’re at this point, you likely have a firm appreciation of the value that autistic, dyslexic and other neurodiverse people can bring to their work. Planning how to be deliberate in the recruitment and inclusion of a wider range of people is time well spent.
Choosing the approach that will be the most fruitful and productive for you will take some consideration - but equally don’t overthink it, flexibility will be key regardless.
The Big Bang Model
An approach that has proven popular with many of the large international organisations that are making deliberate strides to increase Neurodiversity.
The Big Bang model aims to create a relatively large number of neurodiverse hires, often within a single business area in a relatively short period of time. Often this may take the form of a single cohort of anywhere from 8-10 people up to 20 who are recruited through a dedicated assessment and selection program.
Another feature of this model is the inclusion of dedicated internal resources, or at least ensuring there is access to similarly dedicated external resources (consultants, community organisation or government provided) to support the program internally.
To gain momentum and to be able to accelerate the entire program there is typically a heavy reliance on external consultants and community and/or government organisations to kick start and drive the implementation.
Whilst the program might commence with a smaller scale pilot, the ability to then quickly ramp that with some learnings is highly beneficial.
Getting a head start on your neurodiversity program and having dedicated resourcing to assist with both kicking off and supporting the program will bring gains to the organisation sooner.
Having the capacity and expertise of a range of supports can truly enhance the ability of a organisation new to neurodiverse recruitment to bring in needed skills and knowledge
There is also a boost when you consider the scale that can be achieved in a given period of time with a high volume start.
Being able to have a more meaningful public story to tell can also do a lot for internal and external publicity. Lifting the perspective of customers, suppliers and employees early has proven to be a valuable side effect for a number of organisations.
The flip side of large scale, highly overt approach is that it is, large scale and highly overt.
Drawing attention to the effort can, for some organisations, create a level of internal oversight, due diligence and challenge that can impede progress, at least in the short term.
Ensuring there is an adequate transfer of knowledge and expertise over time from any external parties will need to be planned for and managed. At least on the assumption that at some point in the future the organisation aims to become more self sufficient.
The other factor that has played into the decision making is the relative cost associated with a large scale programmatic approach. Whilst perhaps not ‘costly’ in the grand scheme of things, when coupled with internal governance requirements, nervous executives and external attention, it may become ‘too hard’ for some organisations.
The One by One, Slowly But Surely Model
Essentially the opposite of the Big Bang model. Making deliberate singular hiring decisions, typically in the ordinary course of filling roles in the organisation.
The idea with this model is to fit hiring into the normal rhythm of the organisation and to make gradual changes to internal processes and policies. Each time a neurodiverse person is recruited, the organisation gains another opportunity to iterate on the recruitment approach. Slowly blending any adjustments to make the recruitment and onboarding processes more inclusive into the standard organisational approach.
There will still be a level of reliance on external support, through a mix of expert consultants, community an government organisations. Though given the far smaller scale and pace, the extent of involvement from these groups will be far lower than in the Big Bang model.
This more gradual and organic approach would be more suited to organisations who either may have a far lower risk tolerance when it comes to branching out in recruitment practices (or just a heightened nervousness about the real ‘value’ of Neurodiversity). Equally, organisations that are smaller in scale, or have lower typical recruitment or resourcing demands at any given time.
The slower, lower volume approach will also come with a smaller price tag. A consideration that might be a critical element for a number of types of organisations. Non Profits, Small & Medium Businesses or family owned operations that wouldn’t normally pay a lot of money to hire a new staff member.
Equally, the opportunity to learn gradually and blend those learnings and adjustments into existing policies and processes supports a more organic and potentially more sustainable neurodiverse recruitment ‘program’.
Being able to access the relevant support from candidate sourcing through to recruitment and post onboarding maybe harder in some instances at low volume, ie one employee.
The options available might be more limited, depending on the where the organisation is located, and relying on consultants to develop and manage the selection and post recruitment aspects may adversely impact the expected investment return.
Equally, gaining access to training and ongoing support that is both cost effective and ‘impact’ effective (ie it is actually helpful and doesn’t cost the earth) may also be more of a challenge when looking at lower numbers of staff being hired. This may become less relevant over time as both neurodiverse staff numbers increase and internal knowledge and expertise grows.
The ‘Chunking’ Model
Ok, I’ll admit, a pretty unglamorous name, but stick with me. Taking elements of the previous two models, this approach is definitely a little of column A and a little of column B.
Starting with a low volume hiring, ideally tied to project resourcing demand or larger business as usual recruitment needs, this approach aims to drop small groups of hires into the organisation at a time.
By hiring between 2-5 people in one go, getting through the recruitment process and bedding those new hires in, there is opportunity to learn and refresh internal policies and processes.
The volume of people being hired supports a modest level of scale when it comes to external support and for setting aside a portion of time for internal staff to dedicate to the neurodiverse program.
As each cohort is hired and settled into the organisation, the next recruitment opportunity can be evaluated and lined up. Any learnings and new knowledge can be applied to subsequent hiring programs and internal capability is developed relative rapidly (depending on the speed of new hiring tranches).
Offers a balance in overall cost and cost per hire between the Big Bang and One by One models. Reducing the program risk profile relative to the Big Bang as the number of hires in any one instance are reduced.
With more opportunity to iterate the approach and learn, the likelihood of future recruitment efforts being successful and ‘seamless’ is increased.
With slightly higher volumes relative to the One by One and the prospect of future recruitment and onboarding drives, it is probable that the range of external supporters that will then be available to assist would be wider than in the One by One model.
A higher frequency of recruitment, relative to the Big Bang model, will more likely align with normal recruitment demand and therefore fit within the organisations resourcing needs without any ‘artificial’ program constructs.
With more hires at a time, expect an increase in total costs and complexity relative to the One by One model.
Anticipate a higher degree of internal oversight and governance, which whilst not a bad thing, can impact organisational nervousness and appetite to proceed.
Not a model that would be well suited to smaller organisations, or those that typically have either highly fragmented or sporadic recruitment needs and so looses the flexibility of the One by One approach.
Whilst there are probably numerous other models and formats, most (if not all) will be a variation of one of theses three core models.
I believe that these three core models will provide a broad enough range of approaches that will suit any organisation, of any size and complexity at any level of maturity and readiness when it comes to hiring neurodiverse staff.
Which approach you adopt is entirely up to you and should ideally fit both your objectives and your organisation’s natural rhythm and appetite for change. There is no right or wrong, no best or worse.
Your only true risk of failure is by not starting at all.
Which model do you think would best suit your organisation? Drop me an email and let me know why - firstname.lastname@example.org