Providing jobs for neurodivergent individuals — those with autism, ADHD and other neurological differences — can give companies and society a boost.

Businesses have a growing need for strong problem-solving skills and unconventional thinking, especially in their ever-more-complex technology operations. According to a recent panel of Forbes HR council members, the ability to use “different problem-solving strategies” and “think outside the box” are among the top in-demand skills employers are looking for in 2021.

But far too often, companies’ hiring processes tend to filter out those who have precisely the skills needed to make sense of an increasingly interconnected and intricate world.

Opportunity in plain sight

An estimated one out of every eight people globally may be neurodivergent, and it’s reasonable to expect that the workforce should reflect that. Tapping into the talent of these individuals starts with the hiring process. Standard interviews traditionally rely on small talk, eye contact, speaking extemporaneously and reading non-verbal cues, any or all of which can be difficult for neurodivergent candidates. One way to adjust the process is to conduct and give appropriate weight to skills tests directly correlated to the needs of the position.

It’s also important to proactively manage bias in recruiting teams. According to recent research from the Institute of Leadership & Management, employers – whether intentionally or not – often remain hesitant toward hiring neurodivergent candidates because they only recognize “risks” that are based on stereotyping. Training hiring managers to be more open-minded toward candidates who don’t fit the traditional mold can help create a more effective process while also providing an equal playing field for all candidates.

Finally, employers need to see to it that neurodivergent employees are fully supported once they’re hired.

“The next generation is growing up with more pride and confidence to ask for what they need, and that includes neurodivergent individuals,” says Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN, a global nonprofit organization that consults with corporations on enterprise-wide disability-inclusion initiatives. “Accommodations can be as easy and inexpensive as offering headphones to keep out noise or installing low lighting. The key is that neurodivergent workers need to be able to self-disclose in order to get the accommodations they need. And to do that, they need to feel comfortable and supported in ‘coming out’ to their company.”

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