Hiring? Consider Neurodiverse Employees for Your Small Business

September 8, 2022

During 2022, the Great Resignation created one of the tightest labor markets in recent memory. As a result, small businesses are now scrambling to find talent and fill key roles in their organizations. If your startup is having trouble locating outstanding candidates to join your team, it might be time to tap into a wider pool of applicants.

Neurodiverse workers represent an often-overlooked source of talent. Small businesses can find diligent, gifted and innovative employees by tweaking their recruiting strategies to actively search for candidates from this group.

Small businesses can find diligent, gifted and innovative employees by tweaking their recruiting strategies to actively search for [neurodiverse] candidates.

In making this effort, you will join some of the world's most respected corporate success stories. This article will outline how neurodiverse workers can improve your organization and what steps you can take to take advantage of this recruiting opportunity.

What is neurodiversity?

In its most basic definition, neurodiversity refers to the difference in brain function between individuals. This leads to varying cognitive abilities and methods of interacting with others. Neurodiversity can manifest itself in a wide range of ways, including areas like learning, attention spans, and approaches to social situations

To a certain extent, each person has their own way of perceiving and reacting to the world. However, some people have patterns of thought that make it difficult for them to operate in rigid organizations. These situations manifest themselves in identified conditions like autism, ADHD and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Research has indicated that up to one in five people are categorized as neurodivergent in a clinical sense. Meanwhile, these individuals face difficulty finding jobs. One estimate puts unemployment rates in this group at up to 40%. Meanwhile, one in three people with autism are currently employed.

This creates a broad pool of underutilized talent. You can gain a competitive advantage by opening yourself up to this group.

The benefits of neurodiversity hiring

Michael Burry is a hedge fund manager who became famous for his bet against the housing market during the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008. Portrayed by Christian Bale in the hit film The Big Short, Burry scored hundreds of millions of dollars by becoming one of the few investors to spot the extent of the weakness in the subprime lending market during the 2000s and figuring out a way to capitalize on its eventual meltdown.

Burry is also well known for another reason. He has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This neurodiversity has added challenges to his career. However, he also clearly offers significant value to his clients and business partners (just ask the people who have earned millions through his ability to predict market events).

It’s often difficult to pinpoint whether an individual has a clinically recognized neurodiverse condition. Many who have behaviors or preferences associated with conditions like autism never receive a formal diagnosis. Meanwhile, there are a large number of historical figures who showed signs we would now identify as fitting terms like "neurodiversity" – but they lived before such considerations had reached the mainstream.

Still, a wide variety of creative and successful people have either publicly disclosed or been widely considered as neurodiverse. Business leaders include people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, as well as historical figures like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

Given the upside associated with minds like these, many companies have made a concerted effort to recruit neurodiverse employees. The list of companies that have received attention for their open policy in this direction include SAP, Dell, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft, among many other big names across varying industries.

These firms can reap big rewards from these efforts. One study conducted in Australia suggested that teams that include neurodiverse members see a 30% improvement in productivity compared to those that don't. As such, your small business should consider following the example of some of the world's most high-profile companies and open your doors to these potentially amazing team members.

One study conducted in Australia suggested that teams that include neurodiverse members see a 30% improvement in productivity compared to those that don't.

Getting the most out of neurodiverse hiring

You probably already have diversity programs in place. However, it's important to realize that this commitment to inclusion should have a broad definition. This includes reaching out to neurodiverse candidates. With that in mind, here are some ways to get the most out of this process:

Communicate Your Intentions

The widespread prejudice that neurodiverse workers face can make them reluctant to apply for jobs. Assuming employers will look past them, they get shy about pursuing certain opportunities. To break through this barrier, make it clear that you have an inclusive hiring process.

State your intention to build a heterogeneous workforce, including neurodiverse team members. Post job descriptions on websites focused on neurodiverse communities, like those centered on conditions like autism. At the same time, use social media and your website to underline your commitment to inclusive recruiting.

Consider Team Dynamics

Neurodiverse workers sometimes face challenges with communication and collaboration. Some conditions come with stumbling blocks related to social interaction.

As such, you might need targeted efforts specifically related to communication. Take the steps necessary to integrate your neurodiverse workforce into their teams. Work with the individuals involved to create as smooth a process as possible.

Make the Appropriate Accommodations

Experts recommend offering reasonable accommodations for workers with special needs, including those with neurodiversity concerns. These can include:

  • Work-from-home options
  • Flexible hours
  • Modified work environments
  • Targeted communication requirements

Treat Each Employee as an Individual

The lessons you learn by working with neurodiverse employees can carry over to your general HR policies. After all, everyone who contributes to your organization presents a special mix of strengths, weaknesses, and personality quirks.

Rather than trying to fit them into a preconceived rigid structure, approach each one as an individual. This way, you can maximize the value of each contributor

Enhance your team by embracing neurodiversity

More and more companies are hiring neurodivergent workers. They can bring a new wave of creativity, innovation, and productivity to your business. This community offers an under-utilized source of talent, letting you get the most out of your hiring effort. Use the information provided here to determine whether this hiring strategy is right for you.