Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is a core value for many companies. But diversity can mean more than race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. A few companies are adding neurodiversity programs to the list.
Neurodiversity is rooted in the notion that differences in learning and attention, such as those with autism, are normal and can be an advantage in the workplace, not a deficit. EY's Neurodiversity Center of Excellence is one of the first efforts to take steps into expanding a talent pool to include neurodiverse workers.
"A neurodiverse world is a better world," said Jamell G. Mitchell, associate director of EY's Americas ASA Program, at the 2018 Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Annual Conference.
These individuals are often technologically inclined and detail-oriented, with strong skills in analytics, mathematics, pattern recognition, and information processing—the very skills businesses most urgently need. They thrive on predictability and can be especially tenacious and loyal workers.
But the typical recruiting, training, and onboarding practices don't necessarily apply well to this cohort, so EY has had to create new ways of doing things. For instance, avoiding jargon in hiring notices has helped attract and source job candidates. Hiring managers who have taken formal training in autism conduct onboarding and training, and neurodiverse workers are seated together in a relatively quiet, low-traffic location. Finally, an external coach visits the office and consults by phone to help them navigate interpersonal and life-management issues.
"Accommodations we made for individuals for the spectrum actually helped the whole team," Mitchell said.