Job seekers

Could neurodivergent job seekers fill the gaps left by the great resignation?

  • Between 10% and 30% of the population in the United States are neurodivergent, but unemployment among this group remains incredibly high.
  • Employers may need to redesign workspaces, revise their recruiting practices, and redefine DE&I policies to attract and retain neurodivergent job seekers.
  • Last year, a record 47.4 million Americans quit their jobs – so why aren’t employers seeking out this untapped talent pool?

Who is neurodivergent and how are they doing in the job market?

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that covers conditions such as autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and dyslexia. Neurodivergent individuals possess unique traits that can be seen as both strengths and challenges. Weeverythinghave differences in how we process sensory information and think about the world around us; however, some people experience these processes more deeply.

Neurodivergent people are far from a homogeneous group as there are many differences between people who fall into this category. Many neurodivergent individuals also possess hidden features.

The disparate nature of this group and its often hidden challenges can make it harder for companies to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) policies comprehensively support neurodiversity — but that’s not a excuse for companies to ignore neurodivergent job seekers.

Regardless of their differences, neurodiverse people have one thing in common: they remain overlooked as a group in the workplace.

You would think that the lingering aftermath of the pandemic, lingering labor shortages and falling birth rates would be enough to force companies to attract a much larger pool of job seekers. Current statistics, however, do not seem to support this argument.

In October 2021, there were 10.4 million job openings in the United States. Even if all vacancies were filled tomorrow, there would still be plenty of jobs available. A recentarticleby Deloitte highlights the startling fact that approximately 85% of people with autism in the United States are currently unemployed (or under)employed. Compare this figure with 4.2% unemployment in the general population.

Between10% and 30% of the populationhas some degree of neurodiversity – so why aren’t employers doing more to actively recruit and retain this cohort?

Each year, 50,000 young people with autism reach their 18th birthday. 44% of them will continue their studies and prepare to enter the labor market, but it is reported that more than 80% will remain unemployed. Half of those who find work are underemployed (their full skill set is not used). By excluding this group, employers are missing out on a unique pool of talent (with potentially exceptional skills ranging from problem solving to pattern recognition and recall).

Some employees have almost no conscience.A British investigationfound that less than 20% of employers had heard of the term ‘neurodiversity’, even though 1 in 5 young people in the UK (16-24) identify as neurodivergent. This is significant because, in comparison, only 1 in 30 adults more age 40 identifies as neurodivergent. Outside of the workplace, neurodiversity is increasingly recognized, accepted and understood, and the job market is falling behind.

In the United States, intermediary agencies whose primary mission is to support a neurodiverse workforce are beginning to have an impact. Programs that actively recruit and support employees with autism have also been developed at companies such as Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase and software giant SAP. These programs help individuals transform their natural abilities into marketable skills and help them navigate the social dynamics that some neurodivergent people struggle with at work.

What should companies do to reach neurodivergent people?

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft have already reformed their recruiting processes to provide opportunities for neurodivergent job seekers. The programs have so far been positive, with both companies reporting success in terms of positive employee engagement.

To access neurodivergent candidates, companies must first identify hidden communities. Many job seekers may have neurodiversity that is not initially obvious. Employers must reach out to these potential employees and offer them the opportunity to access the recruitment process in a fair and supportive manner.

Companies also need to consider their use of language and their overall approach to neurodiversity. This involves evaluating selection criteria (checking for algorithmic biases, for example), reinventing the interview process, and expanding the type of roles available to potential neurodivergent employees.

The application and interview process must allow candidates to showcase all of their talents. Employers need to redirect their attention from the perceived weaknesses of neurodivergent individuals to their unique strengths and potential.

It’s not just about attracting and hiring

Simply hiring neurodivergent employees is not enough. Employers must create accessible and welcoming workplaces that offer ongoing support in an inclusive, friendly and above all authentic way. Companies should support the psychological wellbeing of all employees, but it is important to recognize the specific wellbeing needs of neurodivergent people in the workplace.

Mentoring may need to be offered, in addition to neurodiversity training for all staff. Companies also need to acknowledge their unconscious biases (as many are now doing with other diversity characteristics). There should be a clear respect and acceptance of difference in terms of work approaches, interaction with others and diversity of thought.

Organizational policies need to be rewritten to clarify what they will offer neurodivergent employees. Employers must be willing to make adjustments and commit to any changes.

According to David O’Coiminfounder and CEO of DO Company and Nook Wellness Pods, designing inclusive workspaces means designing foreverythingpeople.

We all possess neurodivergent traits in one form or another and each of us is different in terms of how we prefer to work. The open plan office is falling out of favor as it is less inclusive and less responsive to the needs of a diverse workforce. The best workplace designs are those that provide a more individualized work experience (silent pods, for example), as opposed to a one-size-fits-all design.

Here are some approaches companies could take toempower neurodivergent employees:

  • Design flexible workspaces to meet the needs of neurodivergent employees (do your research first and askeverythingemployees what they need to thrive at work)
  • Offer flexible work hours and allow employees to work remotely (if the job permits). The hybrid work model may be suitable for neurodivergent people who find social situations difficult and prefer to work from home
  • Provide appropriate sensory equipment and build structures that avoid auditory overload and visual overstimulation (earphones, silent modules, green spaces, adapted lighting, etc.)
  • Train managers to value the strengths of neurodivergent employees and recognize atypical communication styles
  • Educate staff on how each can contribute to fostering a safe, supportive and neurodiversity-accepting work environment
  • Make sure the hiring process (especially the interview) is “neurodivergent friendly” – even if it means a complete overhaul
  • Look for neurodivergent champions (internal and/or external to the company) who would be willing to support employees
  • Show genuine engagement – this shouldn’t be a ticking box or pat on the back exercise

Could neurodivergent employees fill the huge voids left by the Great Resignation?

Despitea record 47.4 million employees quitting their jobs in 2021, many companies continue to overlook this huge pool of untapped talent. Employment rates for this group remain stagnant, despite the huge gaps that have emerged in the labor market.

Neurodiversity and neurodivergent individuals are often misunderstood by society. Only when attitudes changeandsome barriers are breaking down, then will we (hopefully) see the rise of a workforce that is fully inclusive of neurodivergent employees.

Studies have shown that neurodivergent employees can have twice the retention rate and working time of their neurotypical peers, but stigma, discrimination, lack of understanding and low opportunity prevent this group from progressing on the job. workplace.

Companies that fail to embrace neurodiversity couldstruggle to thrivein the future. The reported increase in the number of diagnoses among children means that understanding and meeting the needs of neurodivergent employees will be inevitable. This will require changes in the search and selection of job candidates through to continuing education and career development.

Every type of job in the future must be accessible to neurodivergent job seekers, not just those in the tech industry. Reports indicate that by 2030,2.1 million manufacturing jobs will be unfilled. Will these jobs be attractive enough for neurodivergent job seekers? Moreover, at that time, 75% of the American workforcewill be made up of millennials (who generally prefer companies that value inclusiveness when looking for a new role).

Employees of the future (including Gen Z) will want and expect a neurodiverse approach to be integral to all aspects of work. Work brings intrinsic value to all of us. We are all looking for meaning and purpose in life and our work should contribute to that purpose. Why should it be any different for neurodivergent individuals? The Great Resignation offers a huge opportunity but without employer investment this opportunity could be lost.

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