Neurodiversity Celebration Week – Let’s talk inclusive hiring!

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Neurodiversity Celebration Week: Let’s talk inclusive hiring!

Inclusive hiring is the future, it should have been the past but traditional recruitment processes are set in a way that isn’t often susceptible to change. The process is simple isn’t it? Advertise a job, interview, hire. This process isn’t necessarily inclusive and that’s why we’re here to help. Let’s answer the important questions: Why is inclusive hiring important and what do I need to do to make my hiring process accessible?

What is neurodiversity?

The term ‘neurodiversity’ is still unfamiliar to some and simply means the acceptance that all humans are different, with unique minds, needs and abilities. For employers, managers and hiring managers it is a word that needs to be embraced from the get-go. Neurodiversity refers to the natural variations in the human mind, the term covers differences in learning styles, attention, sensory processing, and social communication. This variation can include more commonly known conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurological differences.

Embracing neurodiversity means recognising and valuing this diversity as an essential aspect of human variation, making inclusivity in the workplace essential, and it should begin with a business’s recruitment process.

It’s Neurodiversity Celebration Week, the chance to highlight and celebrate the unique strengths and perspectives that come with neurological differences. Inclusive hiring practices can help to create environments that support and accommodate different ways of learning, working, and communicating, leading to greater creativity, innovation, and overall well-being for all. 

Why is inclusive hiring important?

Many neurodiverse individuals are hesitant to disclose their differences due to fear of prejudgements or being treated differently, the importance of inclusivity in your workplace can and should be shown through your employer brand. If you create a safe and inclusive environment from the first encounter an individual has with you then that fear of self-identifying can be reduced at the least. Employers are finally starting to consider neurodiversity as an asset and not a detriment, a movement we can get behind and support wholeheartedly. Individuals perform better when they can be themselves and be comfortable with their surroundings.

As reported by the National Autistic Society, only 16% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time employment, an additional 16% are in part-time employment
As reported by the National Autistic Society, only 16% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time employment, an additional 16% are in part-time employment

Inclusive hiring is beneficial to everyone involved in the process, employers can attract and retain a larger pool of talent and utilise an innovative range of skills and candidates can feel understood, accepted and valued for their differences. As reported by the National Autistic Society, only 16% of adults with autism in the UK are in full-time employment, an additional 16% are in part-time employment. That’s more than 60% of adults with autism who have not yet found a company to dedicate their abilities, a skilled force waiting in the wings to be seen and acknowledged for their individual talents.

With that in mind, there are a number of strengths that many neurodiverse candidates share: Information Processing, Detail Conscious, Recognising Patterns and Inconsistencies, Creating Order, Tenacity and Honesty. Naturally, as with all candidates, these differences also present some challenges that should be considered and often can be pre-empted and therefore potentially avoided. Over-focusing on small details or certain aspects of the role, difficulty following instructions that are open to interpretation, Overstimulation and the need for quiet, calm spaces and difficulty communicating verbally in group settings.

How can I make my recruitment process inclusive?

Job Description

As the very first step in your recruitment process, the job description and job ad are potentially the most important. As mentioned earlier, your employer brand should already be promoting a positive culture and encouragement for diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. It should still be prioritised here, be open about what your business is doing to improve your hiring process and be clear when stating that your company welcomes neurodiversity. 

Ensure candidates have the opportunity to highlight any support or accommodations they may need at an interview. Be clear when explaining that everyone should have the same equity of access and that disclosure will allow you to support them through the process, if they chose. Remember you cannot force them to disclose, but encouragement can help them feel secure enough to do so. 

Keep the advert and job description clear, concise and presentable. Only include essential qualities to avoid a difficult field of requirements and desirables that can become overwhelming or confusing when they are not needed, clarity is important. Continuing, provide simple and direct guidance of what the applicant must complete or include in their application.

Application Process

Transparency is something we advocate for across the recruitment industry. It’s important for inclusive hiring and ethical practices alike, know how long the application process should take – acknowledge that sometimes there are unavoidable delays but inform candidates at every opportunity.  

If you are using an online application software, ensure that there is no time limit on this, candidates should have the ability to complete the application in the time they require and across multiple sessions if needed. Application processes that time out or lose progress are not inclusive.  In some circumstances and for roles where it is acceptable, offer telephone completion for application forms as a direct form of support. 

Always run your candidate fronting processes through a text-to-speech reader, is it correct and delivered in an understandable format? When offering forms to be completed, always check that the candidate is happy to complete the form on their own.

Pre-interview 

Provide guidelines of what is expected of them at the interview, and what will they need to wear, prepare for and be aware of? Indicate how long the interview is likely to be and give them a breakdown if the interview will consist of multiple steps. It is worth noting here that if a task or written assessment is required a reasonable adjustment could be extra time given – in academic settings 25% is allowed. 

Offer clear instructions on how to attend the interview if it is face-to-face, including a full address with postcode, nearest transport hubs, map or photos of the entrance can also be helpful. 

We would encourage employers to make competency-based questions available ahead of the interview and also provide any large amounts of reading, for example, a scenario task or case study, in advance or have it available in an electronic version for a screen reader to be used. If technology is required for any tasks, recommend they bring their own as this will allow them to utilise any assistive technologies they have in place. If the interview is set to be a long one – offer breaks and allow the candidate to take notes if they express a desire to do this. 

Always consider how ‘sociable’ the role is, does someone really need to be socially confident for the job or can relationships be built over time. Do not judge if sociability is not an essential skill. Additional considerations include the environment in which you will be holding the interview – minimise sensory stimuli and check the room in advance for flickering lights or buzzing noises that could be distracting to the candidate.

Interview 

Introduce yourself slowly and clearly, wear name badges if they are available to you. Make sure the candidate is comfortable and at ease, candidates should never be made to feel like this is an interrogation. Interviews are a conversation and a two-way street, employers are seeking the right employee for the role and the business and candidates are assessing the work environment and culture, are you right for them as much as are they right for you. 

Advise them that more time is available should they need it to answer a question or process information, offer to rephrase the question if they would prefer. Try not to overcomplicate the questions, ask one at a time and avoid open-ended questions. Be literal when describing things and always be direct in asking for exactly what you want from them, try not to overcomplicate the information you are asking for or that you need. 

Consider that eye contact is not easy for everyone. For some neurodiverse people eye contact can be minimal and is often avoided, for others it can be prolonged. This entirely depends on the individual and should not be taken into consideration when you are assessing if the person is right for the role.

There is little point in having an inclusive recruitment process if there are few inclusive practices and processes in place once those candidates become employees. To improve this, you should ask new starters if they require workplace adjustments as part of the onboarding process, and regularly check in with existing staff to find out if they require adjustments.

It’s clear that inclusive hiring is the way forward and it opens your business to so much more, why wouldn’t you want the following? 

Diverse perspectives – A workforce built from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives can lead to greater innovation, creativity and problem-solving. 

Improved decision-making – With diversity comes a reduced level of conformity, people are more open to expressing ideas and challenging assumptions and biases. 

Increased engagement – An inclusive workplace helps people feel valued and engaged. With engagement comes increased positivity, improved morale and reduced staff turnover. 

Better customer service – Diversity for diversity, a diverse workforce can better serve a diverse customer base, employees with varied backgrounds may be better equipped to understand and communicate effectively with different cultures and communities. 

Ethical considerations – Inclusive hiring is ethical and the right thing to do. Everyone should have equal opportunity for employment. 

Neurodiversity Celebration Week - March 13 - 19, 2023

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