The Need for Greater Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Carlyle welcomed Senior Financial Services professionals to our latest Breakfast Club Series meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh. Business Manager of auticon Emma Walker, spoke on Neurodiversity and the significance of more diverse hiring to your workforce.
Co-chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of William and Mary, John Elder Robison, wrote “Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome. Many individuals who embrace the concept of neurodiversity believe that people with differences do not need to be cured; they need help and accommodation instead”. With only 16% of adults with autism in full-time paid work (a statistic that hasn’t changed since 2007), are we really embracing, helping and accommodating these people?
Auticon is a unique, multi-national IT consultancy and social enterprise, which exclusively employs autistic adults as IT consultants. Speaking on the work of auticon, Emma addressed how individuals with autism can be a strong corporate asset to a workforce. To draw parallels, a Harvard Business Review article highlighted the benefits of neurodiversity as being similar to diversity in backgrounds, disciplinary training, gender and culture but much more direct. These individuals can bring many new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognise value. The article goes on to highlight that the case for neurodiverse hiring is especially compelling given the skill shortages that increasingly affect predominantly technology and data-centric businesses.
Edinburgh-based RBS are currently leading the charge in this arena as they announced in early 2019, their debut partnership with auticon to offer jobs to autistic consultants in Edinburgh. RBS CMO, David Wheldon stated, “We are proud to be working with auticon to help bring new employment opportunities to autistic adults in Scotland”. Setting the bar for competitors, this positive initiative should inspire and motivate RBS’s counterparts to seek out opportunities with organisations such as auticon to support the 84% who are currently not in full-time paid work.
As mentioned in Robison’s quote, once hired, these individuals need to be embraced, helped and accommodated by their employers. Emma addressed this point at our Breakfast Club in a standout statement: “It’s not about equality of treatment, it’s about equality of opportunity”. There is no ‘one environment fits all’ when considering a neurodiverse workforce. In the hiring stage, the standard interview process may not always work well for some candidates with autism. These individuals will benefit from a more practical assessment such as coding tasks where they can flex their practical skill-sets instead of verbally communicating their strengths and weaknesses within a desired role to a panel. Once hired, adjustments must be considered for the physical work environment. Heightened sensory is a common element of autism and calls for consideration of factors such as desk positioning in relation to light and volume levels of surrounding sounds which could act as a trigger.
While these points indicate a need for increased efforts from internal operations teams to accommodate neurodiverse hires, it is a consideration that must not be ignored. A successful neurodiverse workforce is one that must be embraced, accommodated and helped where necessary, in order to gain the optimal performance from all employees.
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