By Marcus Murph, CIO Advisory Practice Leader and Principal at KPMG U.S.
Neurodivergent individuals, or individuals who have a less typical cognitive variation such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia or dyspraxia, have skills that make them highly valuable in many roles across organizations, and technology is a space where many of them can add value and thrive. Some of the skills neurodivergent individuals may possess include strong attention to detail and hyper focus: Having neurodiverse perspectives allows a team to be more creative in their solutions, in the same way that overall diversity does.
Here are five conversations organizations should be having about neurodiverse talent in technology:
1) Widening the perspective. The world is built for neurotypical individuals, but everyone is diverse neurologically. This conversation should not just be about one group of people, but also about everyone across the entire range of neurodiversity. If organizations understand how neurodivergent individuals may think differently, they will be able to unearth a new talent channel to engage with.
2) Expanding the talent pipeline. The goal should not be to create new jobs for neurodivergent individuals, but to connect the dots between roles and the skills required to do them. Neurodivergent individuals can have an abundance of skills that align them closely with many roles, including technology, such as data analytics, cybersecurity, user stories, scrum, software development, software testing and quality assurance. For example, skills such as attention to detail and hyper focus could deem a candidate a good fit for a role in software testing and quality assurance.
3) Changing recruiting and interviewing methods. If organizations are looking to tap into the opportunity to leverage neurodivergent talent, they must be willing to rethink how they source, recruit and interview these individuals. Different channels for sourcing, such as talent incubators for connecting employers to neurodivergent talent, can identify candidates who may not have come across a recruiter’s desk otherwise. Additionally, interviewers should be trained to interview differently and be more flexible in how they engage with and evaluate candidates. Crafting job descriptions to be more inclusive and welcoming to candidates, selecting interview questions that focus on capabilities and considering interview settings, such as team interviews, are great ways to begin focusing on job skills.
4) Rethinking traditional business norms. Retaining neurodivergent talent and helping them thrive requires acknowledgment of barriers that must be addressed. Organizations must move away from an inflexible mindset to an accommodating and open one.
Headphones are traditionally considered negative, but maybe they can help drown out distractions. Traditional workspaces may be too noisy or bright: How can they be restructured? And could there be a more direct way to communicate that is more inclusive and avoids business jargon? Many managers may not initially have the skills and knowledge for developing the full potential of neurodivergent individuals, so managers should be trained to unlock the value of neurodivergent individuals and provide them a working environment in which they thrive.
5) Tapping into the opportunities of a hybrid workplace. The pandemic started a conversation about the future of work that is a gift in many respects. It offers an opening to rethink how to incorporate neurodiverse individuals into the future of work.
Unlocking the power of neurodiverse talent in technology is at the intersection of humanity and real business opportunity, and organizations must change their perspective to see the value of neurodivergence.