A report by recruitment company Hays suggests that companies may be overlooking the issue of neurodiversity in their organisations, and missing out on talent as a result.
“Figures show that a large percentage of adults with conditions such as autism and ADHD are being left out of the world of work,” says the company’s head of diversity and inclusion Yvonne Smyth.
She says that while many organisations are benefiting from the inclusion of workers from different ethnic groups, genders or social backgrounds, other areas are being overlooked.
Skills linked to autism
Hays cites figures showing that, in the US, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed, while in Australia, just 40% of people with autism are employed, compared with 83% of people without a disability.
In the UK, only 32% of autistic adults have ‘some form’ of paid work, with 16% holding full-time roles.
Autism Europe suggests that while people with autism often struggle with social interaction, communication and some cognitive functioning, they are also pre-disposed to display high levels of concentration, hold detailed factual knowledge or technical skill and have the ability to excel at repetitive tasks. Similar skills are also often seen in people with Asperger’s syndrome.
A 2019 EY report also indicated that people with dyslexia often display the most in-demand skills for the workforce of the future – leadership, creativity and initiative.
Hays says some of the abilities that many people with these conditions possess are particularly useful for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries.
Its report cites Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Programme and IBM’s Ignite Autism Spectrum Disorder programme as two examples of schemes set up by big technology firms to hire more neurodiverse employees.
Ms Smyth says that while these reports and experiences show the many benefits of improving neurodiversity in the workplace, the reality is that many organisations are simply not set up to help these employees be successful.
She says organisations need to ensure that, culturally, colleagues are aware, accepting and thoughtful of their peers’ different needs.
US software and quality-assurance-testing non-profit Aspiritech, whose entire workforce is made up of people on the autism spectrum, says companies should adjust their recruitment practices, as weak social and interviewing skills can often hide candidates’ true abilities.