By Katherine Travell, CEO, Futureboard Consulting
There is growing interest from start-ups to large multinationals to hire neurodiverse candidates. As a company that works in the student space, this has become a regular topic of discussion with our clients, and it’s something we care about greatly.
In this blog, I explore some important facts regarding the definition and prevalence of neurodiversity before exploring the business case for incorporating this broad, varied and very exciting group of candidates into your recruiting efforts.
I’ll start with some important definitions/facts:
Definition of neurodiversity
Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. We are all different, the term ‘normal’ is a construct. These differences can include those labelled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others.
Source: Mission Statement as created by National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University
Neurodiversity has become something of a social movement among the autistic community, where celebrating autistic forms of communication and self-expression is allowing autistic people to live as autistic people.
– a state of nature to be respected
– an analytical tool for examining social issues
– an argument for the conservation and facilitation of human diversity”- — – JUDY SINGER 2020
In my view reading and understanding these definitions helps liberate thinking about the human potential that lies within neurodiverse communities.
It’s hard to summarize the data here with regards to prevalence of neurodiversity as per the ‘labels’ above within the general population as data collection and tools/education for diagnoses varies around the world.
Here are some useful reference points:
- About 15-20% of the global population fall into one of the neuro-minorities listed above
- According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (2020), amongst children aged 8, prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, was estimated at 1 in 54. The prevalence was 1 in 34 for boys and 1 in 145 for girls.
- Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified average prevalence of ASD between 1% and 2%.
- The CDC also reports that approximately 6.1 million children within the USA between the ages of 2-17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD
- According to the NHS approximately 10% of the UK population has dyslexia
- The Higher Education Statistical Agency (2015) reported a 400% rise of autism spectrum condition disclosures to UK institutions compared to 2003/4 data. A trend that can be seen in many countries across the world. Sadly, their employment prospects are not great (more about that in my next blog)!
Strengths of neurodiversity
Understanding that neurodiverse candidates offer a range of strengths that link well to particular roles and tasks is key to an organization embracing this talent pool. It’s impossible to list all the strengths here for every ‘labelled’ difference; they vary depending on the variation and level of intensity.
Much of society is caught up in out-dated stereotypes (ie ASD means Rain Man, ADHD means disruptive and Dyslexic means lazy…).
It’s a fact that approximately 60% of people with ASD have higher than average to very high intelligence; they often have strengths in identifying patterns; have high attention to detail, have the ability to focus for long periods of time, possess non-judgemental listening, propensity to think outside of the box…the list goes on.
Those who are dyslexic have improved visual processing and pattern recognition, have good spatial knowledge, can be creative, can be good big picture thinkers and often entrepreneurs. 50% of NASA employees are dyslexic. Source: neurodiversityhub.org.
Successful businesses today need to be more agile; they need to think and adapt to external changes. Not all employees are amazing at everything. We need employees that can be generalists and those that can be specialists, business need team members that can contribute diversity of thought and problem solving.
Organizations such as SAP, Microsoft, EY, JPMorgan Chase have established Autism at Work Programs because they value their strengths in coding, testing, data analytics, sustained concentration and problem solving.
The broader business benefit is helping teams and managers produce better products and services. Leaders want a range of skillsets to build a strong team that can make better decisions.
As the desire to drive diversity and inclusion in organizations grows and the ‘war for talent’ continues, it’s obvious that the neurodiversity makes complete sense. It’s not just good for business, it’s good for society. We need to make room for it, in our conversations and in our strategic and operational practices.
If you would like to find out more about Futureboard and the work we are doing in this field, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org