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ATD Blog

Broadening the Talent Tent

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

“The block is hot for AI in the supply chain industry and as companies turn to artificial intelligence for solutions, leaders are stepping out of the box to make room for neurodiverse talent,” begins Caroline Colvin’s HR Dive article. The article continues by discussing a partnership between an organization that needs tech talent and an organization with neurodiverse job-ready talent: “Along with career opportunities that can lead to systemic change, partnerships like that of [materials management software company] Verusen and [job-readiness organization for neurodivergent job seekers and talent with disabilities] Daivergent aim to create solutions for the pressing issues of supply chain management.”

Many businesses, both within the tech industry and outside of it, are expanding their talent pools to include neurodiverse talent. In his Entrepreneur article that appeared on My San Antonio, Chuck Shelton writes that neurodiverse employees may bring strong talents in the areas of concentration, loyalty, timeliness, and satisfaction with routine. A team comprised of neurodiverse and neurotypical employees can outproduce teams made up of only neurotypical employees, Shelton continues.

Approximately one in eight individuals in the workplace is neurodivergent, or “different brain,” writes Beth McCormack in her issue of TD at Work, “Welcome Neurodiversity.” In her guide, McCormack offers a three-prong strategy for incorporating inclusion for neurodiverse talent: accommodate, individualized development, and support.

It’s important to note, as McCormack points out, that in the US, it is illegal to ask individuals if they are neurodiverse.


American schoolchildren diagnosed with learning differences have access to legal accommodation frameworks such as 504 plans, provided for under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, or to individualized education programs. Organizations can similarly provide neurodiverse employees with accommodations, many of which come at no or low costs. These accommodations assist neurodiverse employees prone to high stress, have difficulty managing details, don’t do well in isolation, or have challenges dealing with difficult customers. It is worth noting that other neurodiverse individuals do well with routine tasks, managing details, and more.

Among such accommodations are assistive technology such as speech-to-text software, time-management apps, adjustable-height desks, and flexible work schedules. As we have seen and are becoming more aware, some or many of these accommodations can benefit neurotypical employees as well, such as flexible work schedules and adjustable-height desks.


Individualized Development

Along with such legal access to accommodations, schoolchildren have access to individualized education plans, which can include faculty and staff specifically supporting the student, and individualized SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals with a breakdown of how these goals are to be met and the duration for special education services.

Neurodiverse employees—working with their manager, talent development team, and HR—can also benefit from a workplace individual plan that outlines their goals, the timing of periodic check-ins, and any accommodation they may be given to help them utilize their talent to the fullest such as additional time to complete a project.



McCormack reminds talent developers and others wanting to welcome neurodiverse employees: “You can take more intentional steps to ensure neurodiverse employees feel connected, included, and safe.”

In addition to the support via accommodations and individualized development, organizations can provide an array of training: company-wide, leadership, and manager training among them so that neurotypical people can be inviting and sensitive to neurodivergent people’s talents and needs. Further, employee resource and affinity groups can serve neurodivergent employees directly and neurotypical individuals who want to show their support and be allies. And mentorships, sponsorships, and social peer partners are additional ways to intentionally support and include neurodiverse employees.

Widening Your Talent Net

“A significant portion of people with cognitive disabilities have above-average intelligence and advanced abilities in pattern recognition, arithmetic, and memory,” writes McCormack. That’s why many companies, including Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, EY, and SAP are intentionally leveraging neurodiverse talent.

As a global society, we are becoming more aware of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging; you can take advantage of this time to include neurodiverse talent in that diversity tent.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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Lovely article! Thank you for bringing this to light!
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