Neurodiversity is a hot topic amongst HR professionals but what does it mean and how do you implement understanding across your hiring activities. The term, ‘neurodiversity’ was coined in 1998 by Australian sociologist, Judy Singer. It is a new concept and its definition is contested, but it is important to recognise difference. Understanding neurodiversity is not just about avoiding discrimination but about improving our businesses with different ideas, different viewpoints and exciting possibilities.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term to recognise the different ways that people think, interact with others, behave and learn. We are all different. We all have different reactions to events, display diverse emotions in situations and have individual ideas and views. From a business point of view, embracing neurodiversity involves understanding and welcoming people who have recognised conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia. Some people also include mental health conditions like schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder under the neurodivergent banner, although often mental health is considered separately.
By educating ourselves about neurodiversity we not only make our businesses more accessible, diverse and interesting, but we also rethink standard practices and ask important questions about how and why we adopt processes and practices.
Neurodiversity is an essential form of human diversity. The idea that there is one “normal” or “healthy” type of brain or mind or one “right” style of neurocognitive functioning, is no more valid than the idea that there is one “normal” or “right” gender, race or culture.Nick Walker
Where to start?
Although we focus on HR and recruitment, better awareness of neurodiversity is important across departments. There is a lot of stigma and discrimination against people with conditions such as autism and Tourette’s syndrome. People suffer from prejudice born from ignorance and the first step is to inform ourselves, our colleagues and our peers.
Remember that we are all different and two people who have been labelled as having ADHD may have many more differences than they have in common. Understanding conditions does not mean you ‘know’ a person.
We’d recommend you start your learning journey with this guide from the CIPD – Neurodiversity at Work.
Making adjustments to the hiring process
For detailed information for employers, check out this excellent guide from the National Autistic Society Employing autistic people – a guide for employers. We’ve provided here a very brief overview of this document.
Job Descriptions & Adverts
Include the required skills and experience only. Many job descriptions include default ‘qualities’ such as being a ‘good team player’ which may put off many people and not be reflective of the actual role. Always use plain English and avoid jargon.
People with autism may find ‘selling themselves’ at interviews particularly difficult. The National Autistic Society has a comprehensive list of potential adjustments you could make. These include providing a clear structure for the interview, allowing the candidate to refer to written notes and avoiding hypothetical and abstract questions.
The National Autistic Society supports companies that offer work trials to candidates with autism. This can give a much more rounded understanding of how someone may fit into your organisation and allow the candidate to demonstrate their skills.
There are many ways you can promote neurodiversity in your business and education is the first step!