The Tech industry is starting to recognise the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce.
Research points to specific strengths and skills associated with neurominorities, like ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism and more.
Assumptions on neurodiversity often dismiss people’s experience and skills, and mustn’t be overlooked.
To understand the benefits and opportunities of championing neurodiversity, awareness is key. Tech houses must recognise that neurodiversity includes a wide range of conditions, and that every individual is an individual. The tech industry is now recognising the benefits of a diverse balanced workforce. Some tech firms are starting to encourage diversity in any form, and things are starting to change. But change – across any demographic – is historically a long game.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and Tourette syndrome (amongst others), are natural variations in the human population rather than disorders or disabilities that need to be cured or fixed. It is a concept that recognises and respects differences in cognitive functioning, communication, and social skills. It seeks to create a more inclusive society where people with neurological differences are valued for their unique perspectives, skills and contributions. The neurodiversity movement aims to promote equal rights, opportunities, and acceptance for neurodivergent individuals and to challenge stigmatisation and discrimination based on neurological differences.
Around one in eight people are considered neurodivergent, but many remain undiagnosed. ‘Autism’ and ‘neurodivergent’ are sometimes used interchangeably; however, neurodiversity covers a range of conditions. These can be broken down into four categories:
Clinical neuro minorities: conditions you are born with that impact behavioural skills, such as communication. This includes Autism, ADHD and Tourette Syndrome.
Applied neuro minorities: conditions such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Dyspraxia which impact applied educational skills.
Acquired (Chronic): neuro minorities linked to neurological illness or brain injury.
Acquired (Transient): neuro minorities develop in response to a physical or mental health condition.
Neurodiversity in Technology Recruitment
Neurodiversity in technology recruitment refers to actively seeking and hiring individuals with neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette syndrome, and others, in the technology industry. This approach recognises that neurodivergent individuals may possess unique skills and strengths that can benefit tech companies, such as high attention to detail, pattern recognition, analytical thinking, and creativity. Within the tech world, focus, creativity and analytical talents could help leaders address existing skills gaps and widen their talent pool.
To recruit neurodiverse talent, companies may need to adjust their recruitment strategies and processes to ensure they are inclusive and accessible to candidates with different communication styles and preferences. This can include providing clear job descriptions, using plain language in interviews and assessments, and offering accommodations such as extra time or assistive technology.
By embracing neurodiversity in recruitment, tech companies can foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce, improve innovation and problem-solving capabilities, and create a more supportive and accepting workplace culture for all employees. Skills Development Scotland identified a range of traits linked to neurodiverse conditions that can benefit any business looking to recruit tech talent. These include:
Creativity and innovation: Design, Gaming/games development, Product and process development, Software development, Business development/sales
High levels of concentration/ ability to work on repetitive tasks: Software quality assurance, software testing, image analysis, cyber security, Compliance
Methodical and focused on details: Identifying defects in software, websites and graphic projects, Data analytics, Programming, Coding, Compliance
Pattern recognition and identifying anomalies: Data analytics, Cyber security, Quality assurance
Investigative nature and inquisitive mindset: Cyber security, Testing
Understanding rules and sequences: Computer programming
How to Interview a Neurodivergent Person
Neurodiverse candidates may struggle to make eye contact, fidget, or exhibit physical tics. The interviewer should avoid this affecting their decision-making as these are natural displays. As the interviewer, you should avoid interrupting the candidate if they take longer to answer a question or give reasoning. Consider the following during the interview process:
The interview environment - clear clutter and any distractions.
Breaking up the interview - if multiple people are conducting it, try to break it up into different sessions.
Being patient and direct - give the interviewee extra time to answer questions. Employers should choose their questions carefully and be direct.
Focus skills - focus on skills-based methods, questions, and tasks will help them understand how the candidate can perform and deliver.
How can Neurodiverse people benefit my tech team?
A neurodiverse tech team in the workplace can offer several benefits, including:
A neurodiverse team brings diverse perspectives, ways of thinking and problem-solving. This can lead to more creative and innovative solutions, as team members approach problems uniquely.
Enhanced Problem-Solving Abilities
Neurodiverse team members can offer enhanced problem-solving abilities because they often process information differently - identifying patterns or making connections that others might miss.
Neurodiverse team members often have strong attention to detail, focus, and determination. Leading to increased efficiency in tasks requiring high accuracy or consistency.
Different communication styles are often adopted, which can benefit the team's communication abilities overall. Team members can learn to communicate more effectively with one another and build stronger relationships.
Positive Impact on Workplace Culture
A neurodiverse team can help foster a more inclusive workplace culture, where differences are valued and celebrated. This can lead to increased employee satisfaction and engagement, which can positively impact the overall success of the team/ organisation.
“The clear result of this difference (in cognitive specialisms) is that we have a group of complementary specialists scattered among a population of generalists. Anyone wanting to hire a well-balanced team would of course find this very useful.”
Benefits of a balanced team
A balanced team in technology includes individuals from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. There are several benefits to having a balanced team in technology including: Increased innovation, better decision-making, improved communication, increased employee engagement and retention and an expanded customer base.
Overall, a balanced team in technology can lead to better business outcomes, improved workplace culture, and increased customer satisfaction.
However, celebrating neurodivergent strengths is meaningless until we learn to accept neurodivergent struggles. It’s easy to celebrate neurodivergent strengths - creativity, ability to see things differently, passion and attention to detail. The real challenge is learning to celebrate, or at least accept, even the parts that aren’t as palatable or convenient to manage - emotional dysregulation, need for clarity, meltdowns and shutdowns, and refusal to conform to neurotypical norms. Neurodiverse people’s worth isn’t defined by productivity. If you can only see neurodivergent value because of their strengths, you may be missing the point.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week takes place 13th -19th March 2023.
Read more about Neurodiversity Celebration Week here.