Recent years have seen a drastic increase in neurodiversity awareness, especially within corporations. However, while awareness is important, companies must go beyond awareness and integrate neurodiversity into their organizational culture. This may seem like a large endeavor, but with simple, mindful changes to policies and procedures, employers can be more inclusive and create workplaces that encourage and embrace neurodiversity. In doing so, they will be able to realize the many benefits of a diverse workforce.
A successful neurodiversity employment program can only be realized when a company has the infrastructure in place to support all candidates and employees throughout the hiring process and beyond.
To effectively integrate neurodiversity into your culture, establish and document hiring policies that are accepting and accommodating, and reflect on making neurodiversity a key consideration throughout your organization.
Neurodiverse-friendly job descriptions
One of the most proactive ways an organization can establish neurodiverse-friendly policies and procedures is to write inclusive job descriptions. Simple changes can be made to ensure the job application process is intuitive, thorough, specific, and direct.
Here are some best practices for drafting inclusive job descriptions that set up potential neurodivergent employees for success:
- Start with statement(s) such as the following:
- “Individuals that identify as neurodivergent or as needing accommodations are encouraged to apply.”
- “A supportive interview process can be accommodated as needed.”
- Provide a statement on job descriptions that clarifies requirements, such as the following: “The job description below discusses the ideal qualifications for this role. We understand not all candidates’ backgrounds will fit perfectly, but everyone will still be considered.”
- Use clear, plain language and remove traditional "business speak." Consider omitting conversational terms.
- Speak in second person to make descriptions more personal.
- Avoid common phrases like "strong interpersonal skills" or "ability to work in a team" as this can deter some candidates due to the ambiguity.
- Write with nongendered language as much as possible.
- Conclude job descriptions with any standard statements that your organization has around Equal Opportunity Employment.
- Provide a URL link that describes your supportive interview process.
Inclusive job descriptions should incorporate all responsibilities, as well as details on the working environment and any type of role-specific information. Focus on what work needs to be done instead of how the work is traditionally executed, and only list the requirements of the role that you truly need. You should also include expectations for communication, necessary hard and soft skills, and working hours — providing each candidate a 360-view of what the role truly entails.
It's also important to note that how a job description is categorized can deter neurodivergent individuals from applying — especially if the role is described as an entry-level role but isn't actually marketed or categorized as one.
Additional considerations for neurodiversity hiring
Below are additional considerations for promoting a neurodiverse-friendly environment.
Publicly announce your commitment to DEI
Consider starting your neurodiversity hiring initiative with a well-publicized statement — either as an organization or from C-suite executives — about your commitment to neurodiversity hiring. Disability:IN's CEO 'IN' platform is an excellent way to announce your organization’s dedication to diversity and inclusion.
Highlight employee/business resource groups (ERGs/BRGs)
Provide candidates visibility into internal organizations that could benefit them as employees. These groups can include ambassador or mentorship programs that help new hires facilitate their transition and become acclimated to your organization.
Recommend having a liaison/buddy mentorship option available at your organization for neurodivergent individuals who are entering into a new role. It helps bring these employees up to speed on what it’s like to work for your company, helping them adjust to the culture with additional support where needed. Mentors should be trained and neurodiversity-certified to work with neurodivergent individuals.
Provide a link to accommodations that your organization can provide along with the process for requesting them
Listing out available accommodations in a single reference point is key. These accommodations should be available for everyone — not specific to neurodivergent individuals.
Accommodations needed may vary depending on the individual, but most are simple and cost-effective. These accommodations can look like:
- Recording meetings, setting agendas, and documenting expectations upfront
- Offering accessibility tools like screen reading capabilities, computer monitors with high refresh rates, etc.
- Providing remote work opportunities where available
- Providing noise-canceling headphones to an individual who is sensitive to auditory stimuli
- Altering light brightness in a meeting space
- Moving someone’s desk to a less-trafficked area of the office to reduce interaction and noise
- Allowing decompression and re-energizing breaks and spaces/environments
Explore potential accommodations that further support an inclusive physical workspace through universal design.
Inclusivity throughout the end-to-end hiring process
Job application inclusivity is important, but establishing a neurodiverse-friendly hiring process must extend beyond the application stage. Providing everyone the opportunity to request a supportive job interview process (even for internal promotions) is key to establishing an inclusive workforce. The supportive interview process should provide a safe space for individuals to bring their true selves to the interview.
Most supportive interview processes include the following steps:
- Provide the list of questions in advance.
- Allow the candidate to select virtual versus in-person.
- Keep the interviewing team small.
- Provide a quiet, safe, comfortable, and distraction-free space for the interview.
- Allow the individual to bring a support person or advocate if desired.
- Allow the individual to take breaks as needed during the interview.
- Follow these best practices for conducting supportive interviews:
- Provide clear instructions: Explain the purpose of the interview and the expectations for the individuals. Outline steps on how to answer questions and what information will be expected.
- Ask open-ended questions: By asking open-ended questions, it allow the individual to explain their thoughts and feelings in their own words.
- Avoid assumptions: Avoid making assumptions about the individual’s abilities or experiences.
- Be patient: Allow the individual to take their time to answer questions and provide feedback.
- Provide feedback: Share feedback throughout the interview process to ensure the individual understands the questions and feels comfortable with the process.
- Follow up: Email or call with the individual following the interview to ensure they feel comfortable with the process and provide any additional support or resources they may need.
Ensuring talent acquisition teams are trained in these areas can be the difference between embracing neurodiversity in the workplace and struggling to find, hire, and retain neurodivergent employees. And, as with including a statement encouraging neurodivergent individuals to apply, ensure that information about accommodations and the option for a supportive interview is easily accessible to applicants throughout the recruiting process.
To continue the conversation, check out Part 2 of this series, Integrating neurodiversity into organizational culture, where we discuss how to build inclusive workspaces and communicate the message of neurodiversity throughout your organization. To learn more about building or expanding a neurodiversity employment program at your company, please contact us.