Why the world of data and tech should be crying out for neurodiverse talent.

The business argument for identifying unforeseen issues.

Diversity of talent breeds diversity of thinking, and those from neurodiverse backgrounds are an underrepresented section of the workforce, with different perspectives to offer. A failure to diversify your workforce is a failure to foster an environment where good business decisions are likely to be made.

Because of the different ways that those with neurodivergent tendencies think, they can identify any unforeseen issues or challenges that others might have missed. This is hugely valuable in areas such as brand reputation. Whilst everyone makes mistakes, imagine being able to avoid those pitfalls in the first place, by anticipating what problems consumers might have with the offering.

This will ensure that anything that is released to the public and potential customers is appealing to all. If 15 to 20 per cent of the population identify as neurologically diverse, and you don’t have people in your workforce presenting those people’s perspectives, you are automatically cutting down the pool of customers that you are addressing. It’s bad business, simple as that.

Two-fold productivity

That’s not to say that there aren’t setbacks to being neurologically diverse; it could be social anxiety or struggling to focus on one thing. However, these usually come with huge advantages that far outweigh any challenges. So, if you hire people that come from a neurologically diverse background and can support them in harnessing their strengths, you could receive twice the work that you would from anyone else. For a business this means reaping the swathe of benefits that come with increased productivity such as saving time, money and resources.

Improving product offerings

In the world of Data & Analytics and tech in particular, the implications of not including those who are neurodiverse can be severe. A team of people that all think similarly does not lend itself to innovation and this can result in glaring issues being missed.

This might mean a piece of software that isn’t programmed to pick up on different skin types, or even different language styles. For example, we have clients that create software designed to identify safeguarding issues by flagging triggers or vulnerabilities. But if you don’t have neurodiverse people working on the software, it may be designed to only recognise one style of language or even a particular sentence format, such as certain pauses in a conversation, and therefore miss that this person needs safeguarding. This could mean failing to identify that this person isn’t processing or understanding the terms and conditions being read to them and instead need to see it in writing.

Building these considerations into an algorithm or software product will have a knock-on effect on the consumer base. If your compliance team includes someone who is neurologically diverse, they might be able to implement an alternative route that ensures that the potential consumer is being safeguarded, but also the business itself.

A workplace where difference isn’t hidden is a more productive one.

Embracing different types of learning in a workplace will benefit everyone, neurodiverse or not. For example, as someone who is neurodiverse, I favour reading my emails out loud. By doing this, junior members of my team might not only learn from this, but also benefit themselves. The same goes for training, if you have people that come from neurologically diverse backgrounds in a training group, the trainer will have to adapt or alter their style, which might offer a refreshing approach to others in the group.

We need to move the focus away from diagnosis as it’s often not that clear cut – neurodiverse people may have overlapping conditions, and more than this, most people think differently from one another. We therefore need to consider how that individual learns, not how their diagnosis says that they should learn.

By being open about neurodiversity in the workplace, it will allow all employees to learn and improve. Those who identify as neurotypical might be open to educating themselves about it and supporting their colleagues. For a business, there’s nothing more valuable than creating an inclusive environment, where these topics are openly discussed, and everyone feels comfortable.

A workplace where difference is embraced and seen as a good thing, rather than something to be hidden, is one where innovation thrives. Neurodiversity isn’t always obvious and may fly under the radar, making it even more important that people feel able to discuss it.

So how can businesses embrace neurodiversity?

Because of how neurodiversity has been categorised previously there is a tendency for neurodiverse people to feel like a burden on an organisation and therefore be wary about raising it at interview or even once employed.

Businesses can still be guilty of asking what more this person will need, rather than considering them in terms of the benefits they can bring. It requires us to reframe our way of thinking.

In the working world, everyone wants to add value to an organisation, so if the first question you’re asked in interview is “will you need any adjustments?” as opposed to “what are your strengths?”  then you are likely to feel like a drain on resources from the start, rather than the asset that you are.

About the Author

Kirsty Garshong is Associate Director at Harnham. Established in 2006, Harnham were founded as a specialist recruitment business for the Data & Analytics market. Over the past 15 years, we’ve grown into the global leader in Data & Analytics recruitment with over 200 consultants, covering permanent and contract vacancies across the UK, Europe, and USA, and winning several awards along the way. Our unique networking style has meant that we’ve established a client and candidate base built on trust, focus, and efficiency. As a result of this, our clients have given us a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 83, whilst our candidates have given us 88, both far above industry averages.

Featured image: ©Gorodenkoff