Lasting success for your neurodiversity program—do you have a plan?
Diverse and inclusive hiring practices are an important consideration for many companies. For a growing number of businesses, this means creating focused talent acquisition programs dedicated to hiring the neurodiverse. And this makes sense: neurodiversity in the workplace brings many well-documented benefits.
But it’s not enough just to hire neurodivergent employees. You need to have a long-term vision for your program—and a long-term vision for their success. Have you thought about how you can maximize their impact over the next 5, 10, 15 years?
Many companies hire neurodiverse talent but never go any further. For your neurodiversity program to have lasting results, you need to shift this mindset. Your company needs to dedicate time and resources not only to hiring but also to advancing—providing career development and mobility opportunities for your neurodivergent staff.
Plenty of talent, lack of opportunity
Like most candidates, neurodivergent individuals often start working for a company in an entry-level role. Even though neurodiversity hiring programs have existed for some time, it’s rare to find neurodivergent employees at more advanced levels of an organization. It’s so important to ensure the same opportunities are being offered to our neurodivergent colleagues so these talented individuals have a path to senior leadership positions.
While retention rates for neurodiversity hiring programs are high, it’s rare to find neurodivergent employees further up in a company’s management. This may mean that companies are failing to utilize these employees to their full potential. Furthermore, unemployment and underemployment rates for neurodivergent individuals remain incredibly high, with estimates in some categories topping 80%.1
Most companies have well-established policies for advancing their neurotypical staff. These policies usually consider various factors before offering a promotion to an employee, such as:
- Length of time in current role
- Exceeding performance expectations
- Consistent positive feedback
In some cases, neurodivergent employees can face a tougher road to advancement in management roles because of their communication style, and even a lack of self-advocacy.
A new approach brings new business value
Organizations that put the effort and resources into retaining and nurturing their neurodivergent colleagues have much to gain. The unique capabilities of neurodiverse talent—like visual thinking, pattern recognition, and visual memory—can highlight new opportunities and ideas for a team.
These differences could lead to innovative solutions and competitive business advantage. After all, the benefit of a diverse, inclusive work culture is that it encourages inventive approaches and diverse ways of thinking. This helps to capture the full potential of neurodivergent workers and create a better workplace for all.
Identifying neurodivergent candidates for advancement
Like any employee, neurodivergent individuals should be evaluated on their performance, competency in their role, and work output. Do they submit quality work, on time? Are they responsible and motivated? Are they outperforming their peers? What would change if they were to advance, versus if they stayed where they are?
Three areas of focus to help your company develop neurodivergent employees:
1. Align interests
Organizations should focus on the strengths, interests, and personal goals of their neurodivergent workers. This would allow them to be matched with higher-level positions that are a good fit for both the individual and the organization. This also gives managers a way to begin analyzing the impact of advancing the employee and charting a career path for them.
2. Define expectations
Career coaching conversations can be challenging to navigate with neurodivergent employees. Some might struggle to articulate their desire to move up, while others might be content where they are and have no interest in a change.
If a neurodivergent worker expresses interest in a promotion or new role, that position should include a detailed job description that clearly outlines the role, tasks, and responsibilities associated with it. Any resource accommodations also need to be accounted for. This helps to set employees up for success from the very beginning while setting clear expectations of the role.
3. Supported interview
Any manager overseeing neurodivergent individuals should be certified to do so. The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) offers a Neurodiversity for Leadership and Human Resources CNP certification. This certification adds value by enabling more effective teams, driving community engagement, and enhancing leadership and organizational effectiveness. Managers should also be prepared to accommodate a supported interview process and provide interview questions to the employee in advance.
Ensuring your employees—all of your employees—have the chance to grow and develop their skills is the professional thing to do. And when your employees are performing at the right level in your organization, everyone benefits.
Beyond that, it’s important to note how transformational a promotion can be. Offering mobility and advancement opportunities might be the difference between an employee staying with the company for many years versus leaving the company because they are uncomfortable asking for a promotion. For companies with a neurodiversity program still in its infancy, this is a way to enable long-term success.
To learn more about implementing or maturing a neurodiverse employment program at your company, please contact us.
1. [Source: Neurodiversity | Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences | Stanford Medicine, https://med.stanford.edu/psychiatry/news/neurodiversity.html]