What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is, in it’s simplest sense, the different ways a group of people will interpret and interact with the world around them. In other words, everyone acts differently, everyone has things they excel at, and things they suck at.
Even though everyone thinks and acts a little differently, society still has a rough idea of what it considers “normal”. Anyone who fits into this idea is “Neurotypical”, while those who don’t are “Neurodivergent” – Those with Autism (including Asperger’s syndrome), Specific Learning Differences or ADHD fit into this category.
These differences are not only normal but make us individuals, forming life’s rich tapestry… And, when embraced and nurtured, the key to successful business.
Why go Neurodiverse?
Diversity is good for business; Whether it’s gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, having a diverse workforce has been shown time and time again to bring real benefits to business – From different viewpoints and approaches to sounder decisions and better company cultures, to say nothing of the positive PR. Being diverse is a good thing.
Neurodiversity is no different, but the benefits are. Neurodiversity isn’t simply another voice around the table; it’s a completely different way of thinking. A new approach to problems, a new set of skills and talents that combine to solve challenges and add value that you never knew you needed.
Different approach, better results.
Today’s marine industry is a highly competitive one – Whether it’s the race to provide a viable solution to carbon neutrality, or vessel autonomy, or the crew change crisis, or a million and one other challenges; companies from all over the world are vying to be first. To be the ones that are able to turn ideas into reality, and reality into profit. Even in existing sectors it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd – Something which could be the difference between boom and bust.
The only way to stand out, or to be the first, is to embrace difference; embrace a team that’s naturally hard wired to think differently, to take a different approach. The only way is to embrace neurodiversity.
Productivity is the key to profit. The more productive the workforce, the better the returns on investment. Finding and retaining a productive workforce can be difficult, especially when the labour market is buoyant and employee loyalty is at an all time low. Even with countless incentives, there’s only so many hours in a day, and only so many of those are actually workable – The only sure-fire way to get more productivity from your staff, is to find staff who are naturally more productive. This is where a Neurodiverse workforce comes into it’s own.
Neurodivergent individuals are anywhere from 90% to 140% more productive than their neurotypical colleagues . That is a major benefit on it’s own, but when paired with the Neurodivergent communities to ability spot opportunities to streamline procedures and operations, it can create an almost unstoppable workforce.
Loyalty is an important consideration when hiring someone – There’s no point recruiting someone if they’re simply going to leave for a better offer 2 weeks later, after all. Unfortunately for the recruiter, there’s no real way to combat this in todays buoyant labour market. People will leave when a better offer comes along, no matter how much money you invest in them, or how much you offer.
This usually leaves two options; turn to agency staff to plug the gap, or work the existing employees harder to pick up the slack… Both of which mean your productivity will take a hit, and neither of which is sustainable. What if there was another option though? An option that resulted in more loyal employees, and reduced employee turnover? The neurodiverse community is that option.
Multiple employers have found their Neurodivergent employees to have better retention rates and higher levels of loyalty than their typical staff; with at least one large bank increasing it’s neurodivergent labour force for this reason .
Hiring talent that thinks differently requires a different approach. This might sound like a daunting prospect – Most recruiting processes are tailored to the company, having taken years to develop and implement. In reality though, the changes needed are usually small, with the potential benefits far outweighing the costs. Each difference requires a slightly different hiring approach, which you can find in “more information”. We’ve included the more common adjustments below too, for ease.
Revamp the adverts.
First impressions are everything. Get the advert right, and you’ll be laughing all the way to the hiring managers office. Get it wrong, though… Unfortunately, it’s the stage where most employers stumble; Phrases like “Must be an AMAZING communicator” or “A FANTASTIC team player!”, excessively long adverts, or metaphors and confusing language will prevent neurodivergent talent from applying.
The fix is easy, make the advert specific; Keep things concise, avoid metaphors, write in plain English, and don’t advertise qualities you don’t need.
Psychometric testing is the recruiters dream. Any easy way to sift through hundreds or thousands of applicants at the click of a button that’s totally anonymous, completely automatic, and without bias… Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow for different approaches, or different ways of thinking. In many cases it adds yet another barrier to recruiting neurodivergent candidates – Something that has been proven in court .
The best approach? Don’t use it. The second best approach? Exempt neurodivergent candidates from psychometric testing.
Rethink the interview.
Interviews can be difficult for anyone – Whether it’s the stress of being in the interview room, or the difficulty of answering the question “on the spot”… Even the anxiety around “that wink from the interviewer” can make them extremely unpleasant. For neurodivergent candidates, the difficulties are more pronounced; they might struggle to interpret body language, when to stop talking, knowing how much detail to go into, or what to infer from a question to list just a few reasons.
Workplace trials are a great alternative to interviews that’ll enable the candidate to prove their added value. They let the employer see what the candidate is actually like in the work environment, what their skills are, and more importantly just what skills and knowledge they can bring to the table.
Workplace trials not an option? Tailor the interview to the candidate – They’ll usually know what adjustments need to be made. If they don’t, a quiet room away from distraction, easy to understand questions and allowing extra time are good starting points.
Each difference needs a different approach to recruitment. For more information, see each of our articles below.
We’re all different.
Most importantly of all, remember that we’re all different. We all have different things we excell at and things we struggle with. There is no “one size fits all” solution to recruiting and retaining neurodiverse talent – and there never will be.
Everyone is human, no matter their differences.
- 1. https://resources.vercida.com/jpmorgan-autism-at-work
- 2. https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage
- 3. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=87bcff47-a228-4ad4-b4ef-47abfed0232f