An article from internationally recognised expert in Neurodiversity, Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions.
About 1 in 8 people in the workplace are thought to be Neurodiverse (ND). The term thought to be coined by Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist in the 1990s, recognises the fact that our brains (neuro-) naturally vary from person to person (are diverse) and are a part of human variation.
The use of the term has been gaining traction more recently as terms like ‘learning difficulties’, ‘hidden impairments’ and developmental disorder may be seen to have more focus on what people can’tdo instead of showcasing their talent and ability.
A number of international companies such as Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, EY, JPMorgan Chase and GCHQ are seeing the business benefits of ensuring inclusive approaches, policies and practices for hiring Neurodivergent talent. This goes hand in hand, of course, with meeting their legal obligations.
Under the Neurodiversity umbrella conditions may include:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Condition – including Asperger’s syndrome
Developmental Language Disorders
Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (also known as Dyspraxia)
Tic disorders (including Tourette’s syndrome)
These conditions, although seen as separate in reality all often overlap with one another. Each person has a unique pattern of both strengths and challenges. There is no ‘typical’ person with Dyslexia for example. This is important as two people with the same ‘label’ or diagnosis will have different patterns of strengths and challenges, but the name given to strengths and challenges may represent the one that has been diagnosed.
Our brains don’t separate emotion from doing and being so it is not a surprise to see that anxiety and depression can also be greater challenges for some people who are Neurodivergent.
In employment there may be an assumption that the person will tell you they are Neurodiverse either when applying or at interview. But not everyone will feel confident disclosing that they have Dyslexia or ADHD. There may be different reasons for this. Some people may be concerned by how others view them because of negative past experiences. In a recent report from the Westminster Achievability Commission ‘Neurodiverse Voices – opening doors to employment”, 52% of Neurodiverse people had experienced discrimination during the interview or selection processes; 58% of people had regretted disclosing their condition; 73% of people had not disclosed their condition at all during interview.
Some people may have been unsupported at school or in adulthood. This is especially true of women, where research is only now emerging in the understanding of what ADHD or Autism, for example is like for women. In the past assessment processes may have viewed Neurodiversity through a more male lens in term of experiences and challenges.
The recruitment processes if not accessible may turn talent away without the company realising it. Websites with job descriptions that include skills that are not specifically required for the job; application forms that ‘time out’ if you are slower entering the information; can be some of the reasons for this.
The interview process may also create a barrier for some to succeed. Many adjustments can be easily implemented. These can include sending clear instructions about the venue; providing the format of the interview with timings and questions beforehand; and ensuring tasks undertaken in the interview align to the job. For example, asking the applicant to do a presentation when good oral communication is not a key part of the job could put off good candidates. Providing visits before the interview and work trials can be of real assistance.
When someone is in a job, line managers may lack confidence oravoiddiscussion about support needs in case they make a mistake or cause offence. There is much debate about the ‘correct’ language to use. For example, there is identity-first language and person-first language such as ‘dyslexic’ or a ‘a person with dyslexia’. There is no right or wrong and each person will take their own stance and so best to ask them how they describe themselves. By taking a person-centred stance, and asking the person what their challenges are, and what help they need, the line manager doesn’t need to be an expert in every condition. Support strategies may in reality be easy to do, such as agreeing on preferred methods for communication and having regular meetings to set priorities. They are often not costly but can result in real business benefits attracting, harnessing and retaining neurodiverse talent.
Things to consider when writing job adverts to ensure you aren’t excluding disabled candidates.
Here at Evenbreak, we talk about diversity, inclusivity and overcoming barriers daily. But how do employers keep disability awareness up front? Writing a job advert that appeals to disabled candidates is a great place to start! Employing disabled people means your workforce is far more likely to gain insight and understanding. It’s far more likely to talk openly about disability and far more likely to challenge the status quo. It also brings huge business benefits to the company (but that’s another blog and indeed a book!).
Here’s how to write a job ad that appeals:
1. Make it clear from the offset that YOUR company commits to equality.
2. Avoid the never-ending list of bullet pointed job responsibilities.
It’s understandable that recruiting managers have a long list in mind of skills they’d like for each role. But this approach can at best, turn off brilliant candidates. At worst, it makes companies look delusional, if the list of wants doesn’t tally up with the benefits offered. Disabled candidates are very unlikely to apply for jobs they don’t believe they’re qualified for. If anything, candidates are usually overqualified. One study found more than half of disabled people have applied for jobs they know they are overqualified for. Instead of listing ‘employer wants’ for a role, consider listing only the essential ‘employer needs’. Use the extra word count to market your company to candidates. To receive three times as many applications and attract a better quality of candidate write a job ad that focuses on candidate needs. Not employers.
3. Tell candidates what you do differently and how you work smart.
Smart companies have fast cottoned on to the benefits of flexible working. With today’s technology there’s no need to commute an hour, to sit at a desk to work, to commute another hour home. Agile working is one of the smart working initiatives used by savvy employers to add value to their workforce.
Some benefits to employers include:
access to a more diverse talent pool
Some benefits to employees include:
opportunities for disabled candidates
a better quality of life
reduced travel costs
increased time spent with family
By embracing smart working you’ll be able to attract a greater number of disabled candidates and a larger pool of talent. Not convinced about smart working? Why not try it for a day and sign up to the Smarter Working Initiative.
4. Be mindful of the language you use.
Job ads often come peppered with industry specific jargon. Acronyms and corporate buzz words like “KPI,” “onboarding”, “ITIL”, “compliance” are off putting. These can not only send your job seeker to sleep (the acronym KPI has the same impact on me as a strong sedative); But also alienate potential candidates unfamiliar with your company’s lingo. Instead, use straightforward language. Tell candidates more about the potential career pathway offered. What does the job entail day to day? What is your company’s mission? What skills might your ideal candidate have?
5. Make it clear you judge candidates only on how well they fit the job criteria.
More and more businesses are signing up to become Disability Confident Employers. The scheme helps people identify those employers committed to equality in the workplace. Disabled candidates look for employers with good recruitment policies. If your company:
This guide was jointly produced by enei (Employers’ Network for Equality and Inclusion) and the Employers’ Stammering Network, and provides useful information and advice on how employers can reduce the barriers faced by stammerers in the workplace.
The ‘social model of disability’ is about a clear focus on the economic, environmental and cultural barriers encountered by people who are viewed by others as having some form of impairment – whether physical, sensory or intellectual.
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.
In May 2017 employers were reminded that The Equality Act 2010 is extended to those employees with caring responsibilities and reasonable adjustments should be put in place. Discrimination by association protects the individual from being discriminated against because of a third-party’s protected characteristic.
Recently we have seen how important it is for recruitment assessments to take into consideration the disabilities of job applicants, and how a failure to make reasonable adjustments can put you at risk of a claim of indirect disability discrimination.
Employers have been advised to take extra care with references for ex-employees after a recent employment tribunal where a claimant believed he had been victimised and discriminated against because of his sickness absence.