Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher

Neurodiversity in the workplace

Cookie dough with gingerbread person cutter1 in 6 people is likely to be neurodivergent. Each person is different and comes with different strengths and talents.

They are your potential employees and could be your next best hire ever. They have a huge range of talents that could provide a real edge to your business and result in new solutions. Why wouldn’t you want someone who is likely to be really committed to the job and your organisation?


What stops that from happening?

It is the process we still often use to hire people and lack of awareness relating to neurodiversity. If we use a cookie-cutter methodology we will hire the same people all the time.

What is the real purpose of an interview? Isn’t it to select the best person for the job?

Why is it that it is something that remains so important is used today as a measure of ability, but often the skills being assessed in the interview room have nothing to do with the job? How many times has the person who is ‘good at interviews’ got the job rather than the person who in reality has the skills? This is often not direct discrimination in hiring neurodivergent talent, but a set of processes that can result in discrimination. I don’t think this is also often the result of overt prejudice on the part of the interviewer but might be due to the informality or the type of interview process that takes place. It can be, however, the over-reliance on inexplicit criteria being used or subjective judgments undertaken.
There is also evidence of specific tests in an interview that has been shown to be biased against some people and where alternatives have not been offered.

Poor hiring processes at the least break the law ( under the Equality Act 2010) and can result in poor and costly outcomes for employers – including higher staff turnover; lower employee performance, productivity, and satisfaction; limited workforce diversity and negatively affects the wellbeing of employees placed in the wrong job or denied access to the job at all.

Person writingIn the past few years in the UK, there have been several cases upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal specifically relating to the hiring process and neurodivergent talent. For example, these have included cases where an alternative form of assessment was not offered. One of these was the use of what is called a situational judgment psychometric test which requires interpretation of information within the questions. This approach can be seen as ambiguous, contradictory, and requiring judgments to be made on missing information. This could be particularly difficult for someone who is autistic. What is also so different about this is that in a real work setting you would have the information and then time to discuss and plan accordingly,( and be praised for reflecting and considering the best actions). You could also seek out additional information to reach your conclusion. You would never have seconds to respond. The questions used often also lack real-life validity. They also suppose the person has been in that situation previously.

The test in the tribunal case required the claimant to infer the underlying principle of each statement and provide the most desirable response, as opposed to providing the most logical series of actions for the situation, as it would have been difficult for them to do so given the lack of definite and explicit detail. This was someone with huge skills but the barrier to success was the specific gate he needed to pass through which was unrelated to the job he would have done.

You don’t know what you don’t know!

For many neurodivergent people, the interview is the greatest barrier to getting a job. I am really worried about the present process in that it is potentially more discriminatory now than ever when applicants will be expected to go through a rapid screening process that will disadvantage those with the skills for the job, but lack communication or technical skills to get through rapid questioning or online hiring.

The interview system is generally devised to enable lots of people to be interviewed in a specific way so you can manage numbers and all applicants can be quickly scored in a similar fashion. This is even more so now in a Covid-19 time, we have many many people applying for fewer jobs.

I am not saying standardisation isn’t helpful but in reality, human decision-making is often not really standardised and has inherent biases. One size doesn’t fit all but often we hire in our own like ( e.g. someone who gets your jokes). However, what we are learning is that with some awareness training people can adapt their questioning to be more inclusive and this results in a less anxious candidate who is more likely to present their skills and experiences.

By understanding and valuing differences, we can attract teams with a range of skills and this can impact not only on retention but better productivity and wellbeing. This has to be a good business decision, doesn’t it?

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"For many neurodivergent people, the interview is the greatest barrier to getting a job."

Simple steps can make a real difference to communication success in an interview

  • Ask a single part rather than multi-part questions.
  • Check for understanding and clarify the question if it appears unclear.
  • Avoid jargon where possible and acronyms.
  • Allow time for the person to respond and say they can take their time to think of their answers.
  • Allow notes to be brought into the interviews too as an aide-memoire.

How can Do-IT help?

Do-IT has developed an EMBRACING NEURODIVERSITY E-LEARNING COURSE that any organisation can access and more in-depth training and tools for HR, Diversity, and Inclusion leads and line managers.

With the ADHD FOUNDATION, they have launched the Neurodiversity Aware kitemark that organisations can show if a percentage of their staff complete the awareness training.

Contact INFO@DOITPROFILER.COM for more information for your organisation.

Amanda is also very excited as she is writing a book with the wonderful Theo Smith, out in 2021, all about Neurodiversity in the Workplace with much much more..

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