Neurodiverse Solutions

Modernizing your workforce through neurodiversity

Neurodiversity in the workplace can assist in modernization efforts and bring technical and cultural benefits to an organization.

How neurodiversity in the workplace presents an untapped competitive advantage

There’s no denying it; digital transformation can be an overwhelming feat. With so many solutions available, and the increased work from maintaining legacy technology, updating a tech stack becomes a matter of when, not if.

Strategic enterprise modernization encompasses a method for optimizing the tools, processes, and culture within an organization—tackling the issue of ineffective, obsolete technology head-on. But, while modernization efforts can improve the efficiency of digital tools and processes, impacting organizational culture is significantly more nuanced. If these issues resonate, it’s time to consider modernizing your workforce through neurodiversity.

Understanding neurodiversity

What is neurodiversity? Neurodiversity refers to the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits that are part of the normal variation in the human population.

Neurodiversity includes conditions like dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as hundreds of other conditions. In the past, these differences were not always well understood within the academic world or professional workplace. Now, thanks to advances in research, increased awareness, advocates pushing for change, and a more open culture, people are realizing that neurodiversity can bring immense value to an organization.

The value of neurodiverse talent in modernizing the workforce

Modernization efforts need support from executive leadership to be successful, but that alone isn’t enough. Migrating to newer tools and applications isn’t the extent of it, either. Modernization is a long, multi-faceted journey; it requires executive support, vision, and the right talent equipped with the right tools to see the return on investment. Neurodivergent individuals are an asset here because they possess valuable skills and diverse ways of solving problems.

These fresh perspectives are invaluable in a digital era characterized by rapid market changes and the need for creative problem-solving. Teams with varying strengths, perspectives, and skills complement each other’s abilities, and this can help to achieve the cultural transformation of strategic enterprise modernization.

Neurodiverse talent often has higher-than-average abilities; research shows that some conditions, including [ASD] and dyslexia, can bestow skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics.1 Some possess noteworthy potential for analytical thinking and attention to detail. Customized employment isn’t required; these individuals align well with professional work in finance, human resources, software development and testing, IT operations, legal, and business operations. The case for [neurodiversity] hiring is especially compelling given the skills shortages that increasingly affect technology and other industries.2

Businesses and enterprises benefit from a diverse workforce, and not just because of having more hiring options. Bringing in neurodiverse talent can have a huge impact on innovation and help to foster a modern organizational culture that promotes inclusivity. Integrating neurodivergent individuals in the workforce gives organizations a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to technology development and digital strategy.

“In the midst of rising concerns about labor shortages and a shrinking workforce, we’re looking at a vast pool of untapped talent,” says Amelia Haynes, associate researcher at the Korn Ferry Institute, the research arm of the corporate organization. “The potential for organizations, if they included and accommodated this talent, is enormous.”3

The current state of neurodiversity in the workplace

In spite of how valuable the contributions of the neurodivergent worker are to an organization, unemployment and underemployment remain high among this group. According to some estimates, the unemployment rate of neurodiverse talent runs at least as high as 30-40%.4

For neurodivergent individuals struggling to find and hold down a job, they may face barriers that don’t exist for their neurotypical counterparts. Some of the character traits neurodivergent people exhibit can be in direct opposition to the commonly held beliefs about what makes a suitable employee. Many neurodivergent workers […] are systematically screened out of the interview process as a result.5

These barriers can range from a lack of assistive tools required to work effectively, an inaccessible work environment, or the absence of relevant policies.6 This can also include a general lack of awareness and training about neurodiversity within the work environment. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that a lack of education or training, employer or coworker attitudes, and a lack of job counseling were all barriers to employment.7

Steps to incorporating neurodiverse talent

Companies seeking to hire neurodivergent candidates need to first identify the parts of the recruiting process that can potentially put those candidates at a disadvantage—and work to eliminate them from the process.8 This almost certainly means reconfiguring the interview process and adapting it to accommodate those who present their strengths differently. These adaptations also extend to job placement. It’s essential that assessments are created to determine if someone is a good fit for a particular role. Understanding the strengths of a neurodivergent individual, and how they can be applied to different areas of a business, allows companies to harness the true potential of this talent.

In the case of building a neurodiversity hiring program, almost every successful program has a senior leader behind it, advocating for neurodiversity hiring and influencing other executives to support it as well. Having a program champion is also key to the success of incorporating neurodivergent workers; it’s crucial to identify internal staff with the vision and aptitude to facilitate a neurodiversity program. The program champion also has a vital part to play in strategic enterprise modernization, too—having employees dedicated to neurodiversity hiring contributes to a major cultural shift in organizations.

Just like in an academic environment where there are different types of learners, the professional world has similar variants. To create an inclusive environment that enables success for everyone, differences among team members must be taken into consideration. This can start with something as rudimentary as the physical design and layout of an office. Applying universal design concepts to a workspace can help to ensure it is accessible, accommodating, and utilized by all.

There are 3 different categories of accommodations that can help neurodiverse talent perform their jobs: physical, technical, and supportive.

Physical accommodations are common, like reserved parking, elevators, and accessible bathrooms. This can also include things like spatial sequencing, sensory zoning, and color palettes that promote accessibility.

Technical accommodations can include screen readers, noise-canceling headphones, and voice recognition software.

Supportive accommodations focus on behaviors, communications, learning styles, and an individual's general well-being, like an inclusive interview process, or recorded meetings and visual references for more tailored information sharing.

Some physical accommodations are required by employers to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The other two types are seen in offices less often, but their impact can be huge. While they might seem minor to some, they can make all the difference in enabling neurodivergent individuals to excel at their jobs.

Case studies for the successful integration of neurodiverse teams

Many companies have already realized the strengths that neurodiverse teams can bring to their organizations, and now have successful neurodiversity hiring programs in place. Among these companies are the prominent JPMorgan Chase, Dell, Ford Motor Company, EY, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Capital One, and SAP.9

For the University of Pittsburgh, it was a natural fit when they partnered with CAI Neurodiverse Solutions to help bring neurodiverse talent into their IT organization. The university had a growing tech environment to manage, and an increasing need to streamline their application testing. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions team implemented automated testing solutions that led to impressive results, a more efficient cadence of testing, and the creation of a new quality assurance team at the university.

When the healthtech company enGen identified a need for a project management team, they turned to their existing partnership with CAI Neurodiverse Solutions to fill the roles. The CAI Neurodiverse Solutions associate project management team became a new department to process hundreds of work requests and support a large range of business areas within the company, including customer service, health information technology, data management, and analytics. The success of this working engagement was so significant, multiple associates from the CAI Neurodiverse Solutions team were hired as full-time enGen employees.

The future of neurodiversity in the workplace

More and more companies are recognizing the untapped competitive advantage of neurodiverse talent. It’s not difficult to see the benefit of diverse perspectives and skill sets, and this talent pool has a significant role to play in strategic enterprise modernization. Neurodiversity in the workplace isn’t just a trend, it’s a step closer to modernizing organizational culture and building a more innovative, accessible workplace for all.


Endnotes

  1. Austin, Robert D. Pisano, Gary P. “Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage.” Harvard Business Review. May-June 2017. https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage.
  2. Austin, Robert D. et al. “Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage.” Harvard Business Review.
  3. Haynes, Amelia. “Neurodiversity: the little-known superpower.” Korn Ferry Research Report. Korn Ferry. https://www.kornferry.com/institute/neurodiversity-the-little-known-superpower.
  4. Carrero, Yesenia. “The Center for Neurodiversity and Employment.” Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. September 29, 2021. https://entrepreneurship.uconn.edu/neurodiversitycenter/.
  5. Austin, Robert D. et al. “Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage.” Harvard Business Review.
  6. “Barriers to Employment for Adults with Disabilities.” RISE. November 15, 2018. https://riseservicesinc.org/news/barriers-to-employment-for-adults-with-disabilities/.
  7. Smith, Brodie. “The Employment of Persons with a Disability and/or Neurodiversity.” NC State, Institute for Emerging Issues. November 17, 2022. https://iei.ncsu.edu/2023/05/22/the-employment-of-persons-with-a-disability-and-or-neurodiversity/.
  8. Roepe, Lisa Rabasca. “How Companies are Transforming Hiring Practices to Embrace Neurodiversity in the Workplace.” Reworked. February 02, 2024. Digital Workplace. https://www.reworked.co/digital-workplace/innovating-inclusion-how-companies-are-transforming-hiring-practices-to-embrace-neurodiversity-in-the-workplace/.
  9. Miller, PhD., Rachel. “Top Companies Hiring Neurodivergent Employees.” Best Colleges. August 23, 2023. https://www.bestcolleges.com/careers/companies-hiring-neurodivergent-employees/.

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