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Neurodiversity in the workplace, a forgotten aspect of employer branding

By Universum on 29/04/2021

As equity and inclusion reach wider support and interest by audiences around the world, initiatives oriented to build diverse workforces gain space on recruitment policies and become instrumental for a strong employer brand. Although the awareness of different types of diversity is growing an accelerated pace within the corporate environment, many strategies are still lacking a deep understanding of all the aspects entailed in the concept. One of these aspects, oftentimes overlooked is neurodiversity. In 2020, Universum EB Now report showed that only 7% of companies around the world said to have a neurodiversity plan in place, lacking a pivotal component to provide effective inclusion at the workplace.

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What is Neurodiversity?

The term “neurodiversity” refers to people who have dyslexia, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, Tourette’s Syndrome and other neurological conditions. These are also known as spectrum conditions, which present with a wide range of characteristics and share some common features in terms of how people learn and process information. The concept of neurodiversity is one where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation.

Despite these disorders bringing challenges and, on the outside, appearing dysfunctional, they also hold benefits that often arise as unique, beneficial abilities. For example, those with ADHD have a powerful ability to hone their attention while autistic individuals tend to have an innate ability to focus on details and see patterns. Just like any personality, regardless of an individual being neurodivergent to neurotypical, there are aspects that bring highs and lows that affect day to day life and business. In fact, according to our 2021 Employer Branding Now Survey, 82% of leading employers said hiring for diversity is very important to them. Adding a neurodiversity component to your employer branding strategy will allow you to connect with valuable talent that can bring new perspectives to your brand.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace by the Numbers

Despite neurodivergent individuals being more than capable to work, the rate of employment is drastically low. From the National Autism Indicators Report by Drexel University, fewer that one in six autistic adults is in full-time employment with less than 16% of survey participants having full-time paid work and only 32% having paid work. This figure has hardly changed since 2017. The majority of those who are not working is not by choice with 77% who were unemployed saying they want to work.

Of those who are working, many experience having their talents underestimated or finding work that is below their skillset with 51% saying their skills were higher than those their job required. Research demonstrates that job activities that encourage independence reduce autism symptoms and increase daily living skills, yet businesses are reluctant to hire such individuals. Adapting hiring practices to attract individuals with these spectrum disorders is a mutually beneficial practice.

How to attract, engage and retain neurodiverse talent?

  1. Start with your job description and ad campaigns. Avoid wordy descriptions and long list of skills. Instead, focus on a concise yet detailed writing, clearly indicating that your organization welcomes neurodiverse talent.
  2. Use a data-driven approach to find out the professional expectations and aspirations of neurodiverse candidates. After you understand their needs, challenges and goals, generate content tailored to this specific audience.
  3. Adapt your hiring practices and EVP with an inclusion focus on mind. Take into consideration that the communication channels you need to reach neurodiverse talent might be out of the scope of your current employer branding strategy.
  4. Be prepared to adapt every step of the recruitment process, from the initial application form to the interview and onboarding program. Every step should be designed to fit a neurodiverse individual.
  5. Learn about your target talent group and offer positions that are tailored to their skill set and expectations. Neurodiverse talent can thrive at positions that require hard skills such quality assurance, data analytics or problem solving.
  6. Highlight stories of your diverse workforce. Testimonials, interviews or any type or real-life story adds credibility to your employer brand. Make sure to include these stories on your career site, corporate site, social media and any other communication platform you use.
  7. Include a plan to raise internal awareness about the benefits of a diverse workforce and offer spaces for interaction.
  8. Keep in touch with your diverse talent. Run periodic internal surveys to find out their perceptions and needs.

Benefits of Neurodiversity in the Workplace

When we talk about neurodiversity in the workplace, we are referring to a valuable resource of your employer branding. According to 2020 Glassdoor’s D&I workplace survey, 76% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. As current social unrest is making candidates more conscious of the importance of inclusion and equal opportunities for different populations, more employers are embracing D&I programs in their EVP and overall employer brands. In the United States, 82% of companies surveyed in Universum’s EB Now 2021 report, refers to diversity and inclusion as a “very important” component for their recruitment policy. This represents an increase of 13% since 2020 when 69% of organizations’ leaders selected the same option.

Neurodiversity enhances the workplace in numerous ways. People with neurocognitive disabilities have talents, perspectives and skills that can be distinctly beneficial in many work environments. While these efforts are more common in larger corporations, they have proven beneficial for businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries.

What benefits can employers expect from being neurodivergent-inclusive?

  • Increased success in hard-to-fill positions. The skill set that neurodiverse talent brings to the table make easier to attract and retain great talent in tough-to-fill categories.
  • Make corporate communications more direct, in order to account for the difficulties autistic employees have with nuance, irony, and other fine points of language.
  • Quality assurance. The perfectionist tendencies of some neurodiverse talent can increase the quality standards of a company.
  • Employee engagement can increase as a sense of inspiring purpose and meaningful work is being reported in several programs of neurodiversity inclusion.
  • Employer Brand. Many companies that have implemented neurodiversity in the workplace programs have been recognized by the United Nations and other organizations by their efforts in inclusion and ultimately improved their employer brand.

Best Practices  

Hiring neurodiverse talent is a positive choice for social welfare and a highly valuable resource to organizations. Inclusive employers provide opportunities for all their employees to be involved, speak, and be a part of decision-making and development.

Large organizations are finding success in embracing neurodiversity in the workplace. SAP “Autism at Work Program” employs more than 160 employees on the spectrum across 13 countries in various technical and operational roles from software engineering, data analysts, product managers, and more, reducing barriers of entry and enabling SAP to tap into an underutilized talent source. They have seen a 90% retention rate with this program and employ mentors to support their neurodivergent staff as needed. EY set up a Neurodiversity Center of Excellence as part of their neurodiversity inclusion strategy where a team of EY office-based professionals handles some of the most time-consuming, repetitive tasks for a number of client engagements across various areas of the business. In the first month, they identified process improvements that cut the time for technical training in half and learned how to automate processes far faster than the neurotypical account professionals they trained with. They then used the resulting downtime to create training videos to help all professionals learn automation more quickly.

Taking on a new neurodiversity in the workplace strategy opens up new doors and ways of thinking that gives you a leg up to attract valuable talent and stay a step ahead in the competition. At Universum, we’re here to support you in every step of the way. Helping you translate talent insights into compelling employer value propositions and creating communication strategies that will make the best candidates beat a path to your door.

If you are interested in learning more about Universum’s data on diverse talent, contact one of our experts.

To dig deeper in the topic of diversity and inclusion watch the recording of our webinar: Using Predictive Data in a D&I Recruiting Strategy

About Universum

Universum is a data-driven, insight-led employer branding agency. Founded in Stockholm, we are now active in over 60 countries, with key hubs in Canada, Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Singapore and Shanghai. We provide our clients with the research, strategy and creative solutions they need to compete more effectively for talent.