How to Promote Neurodiversity in Your Company's Diversity & Inclusion Strategy in 2019
What is Your Diversity & Inclusion Strategy in 2019?
The neurodiversity concept or movement is gaining traction globally. Certainly as awareness increases, more people are coming to understand what it means and how to relate to neurodiverse people.
A follow on implication is greater understanding of the contributions that neurodiverse people can make. What also seems to stand out for me is the realisation people have when it comes to how many people are touched by it.
So whilst approximately 10-15% of the population may identify as neurodiverse, think of all the people directly connected to that individual. With the ‘average’ family represented by four people, there are potentially at least a further three people directly and closely connected to every neurodiverse person.
So whether you are considering neurodiversity from the perspective of the talent you can hire, the people in your organisation you can support or the customers you serve, there are many reasons to have a well thought approach.
“Good people are hard to find” - it’s a saying you and I are both familiar with. It’s not likely to change any time soon and yet it often seems that the pool of potential is never big enough. What about your graduate program? Don’t have a formal program, then what about your graduate or early career talent plans. I’ve already written about the challenges faced by the IT industry (and some options for improving hiring rates) - is this also an area of challenge for you?
So, consider then the following questions:
When was the last time that you reviewed your Diversity and Inclusion Strategy?
How well does your strategy cover the various types of difference that exist, gender, race, religion, neurology?
How does your strategy align with your talent acquisition plans and processes?
What approaches or mechanisms are you using to support existing staff, whether they are part of a diversity cohort or not?
How Does Neurodiversity Fit Into Your Strategy?
As I mentioned in the beginning, the number of people directly impacted by neurodiversity is enough to warrant attention. At least at some level.
There are three key areas that I would suggest you consider when it comes to understanding neurodiversity and the intersection with your Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
Recruitment, Talent Acquisition - New Employees
Staff Management, Communication & Training - Existing Employees
Product / Service Delivery - Customers
I won’t get into the nuances and areas of focus that are more specific to number three. This is a whole other kettle of fish that, whilst important, is probably not where I can really add the most value.
When it comes to hiring and supporting staff however, well, at least there we can have a conversation!
Understanding the future talent needs of the business, the skills, capabilities and attitudes that are important can be a key input into your Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Consider this, as I mentioned for IT organisations and many others, there is a real shortage of graduates. So, in order to fill future recruitment demand, following the same approach as last year is at best, likely to provide the same result.
How can you build in appropriate plans and activities that will enable you to both attract and effectively recruit from a larger candidate base? This is just as relevant to experienced hires as well as those at the beginning of their career.
What might you need to do to amend your recruitment process, tools and practices to reduce the number of candidates being excluded or rejected on the basis of their ‘difference’ no matter how inadvertently?
These are certainly areas that could be built into your Diversity and Inclusion Strategy for 2019.
The probability that you have either neurodiverse employees or employees that are related or otherwise closely connected to someone who is neurodiverse, increase rapidly with the size of your business.
Let’s be conservative and say that 10% of the population is neurodiverse. If you’ve got 1,000 people in your business, then statistically that would mean you have 100 neurodiverse employees.
The reality is that it’s probably much less than that. Traditional recruitment processes, human bias and interpersonal conflicts typically result in neurodiverse people being excluded from many workplaces.
However, if we were to be conservative again and said there was 10% of the 10%, that still 10 staff members for every 1,000 are neurodiverse. And we’ve not even talked about your existing staff who are a sibling, parent, uncle and aunt of someone who’s neurodiverse.
Some areas to consider as part of your efforts to be more inclusive:
Mental Health training and awareness - this is highly prevalent amongst neurodiverse people and often an impact for carers.
Flexible Working - having formal and informal policies and processes to enable people to do their work as it best suits their ability or needs can dramatically improve engagement and productivity.
Unconcious Bias - an impact in both recruitment and management of staff. Having an understanding of and appreciation that people are different along with lifting people’s self awareness in this space can improve work satisfaction and performance.
Practical Tips for HR and Diversity & Inclusion Managers
Here are number of things that I’d love for you to take away and actively consider as pat of your Diversity and Inclusion planning this year. I fully appreciate that not everything is going to be relevant or suitable for your business. Maybe not right now, maybe not for a long while.
But there will be things that you could focus in on that can have an impact. Not just on your stats, but on your workforce, your business and your customers. Yes, remember that family of four? Some of them will be customers and they’ll know what you’re doing!
Providing simple and clear statements on how you support and value diversity, including neurodiversity. For some neurodiverse candidates, a very straight forward statement that avoids guessing will have far greater impact.
Help your recruiters and hiring managers to support neurodiverse candidates through the hiring process.
Interview format flexibility - it doesn’t always need to be across a table in a meeting room. Mix it up, go for a walk, meet at a cafe or a quiet place. Ask the candidate what would suit them.
Interview questions - be prepared to prompt, guide and drop questions. Questioning in interviews can be confusing and stressful - you want the candidate to show you who and what they are. Re-frame or reword your question if you don’t get and answer or the answer is way off base.
Grab this free guide on conducting interviews for neurodiverse candidates for a range of other tips.
Understand how the workplace environment can effect the performance and well-being of neurodiverse staff. This article on workplace adjustments is a good place to start and will give you plenty of ideas.
Employee Resource/Support/Collaboration Groups. These come with many different names, but the objective is the same. A group of volunteers across the organisation that represent neurodiverse people. They could be neurodiverse themselves or just passionate about making a difference internally.
The group should have an executive sponsor and have an active role in supporting the development and execution of your overarching Diversity and Inclusion strategy. The group should have sufficient autonomy to develop it’s own plans on how to best raise awareness, understanding and acceptance internally. Finally, it can be an effective conduit for ideas, experiences and concerns from all staff.
The simple fact that you both have a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, and have read this far through how you can start to incorporate a Neurodiversity lens to your strategy sets you apart.
I honestly believe that over the next few years, those organisations that have actively sought to capture the neurodiversity advantage will have gained a step on their competitors.
With the war for talent continually heating up and so many more candidates and consumers becoming much more socially aware, those businesses that are inclusive of neurodiverse people will have gained a competitive advantage.
Yes, I’m biased, I can own that. But, with the disproportionate payoff to truly building neurodiversity into your Diversity and Inclusion strategy, what do you really have to lose?
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