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Neurodiversity in the Office

Neurodiversity in the Office

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Meet Marco.
He has a deep understanding of databases, communication protocols, cloud computing and web frameworks. He is analytical, detail-oriented and can focus on a task for hours. He regularly finds software bugs that other QA testers miss. He has an MS in computer science from a local university. He is honest to a fault. He’d be a great addition to any tech team - but he struggles in interviews and can’t seem to land a job.
Marco is an amalgam of the 35 percent of adults on the autism spectrum who go to college; within that group, a whopping 85 percent are unemployed. These individuals are part of a larger neurodiverse group that includes people affected by dyslexia, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and more - many of whom have skills that the tech world really needs right now.
Some neurodiverse people are gifted with exceptional talents in math and pattern recognition; one study found that people with autism were up to 40 percent faster at problem solving. Alan Turing, the genius who cracked the Nazi Enigma code and helped the Allies win World War II, is widely believed to have been on the spectrum.
If you’re looking to expand your QA or cybersecurity teams, a neurodiverse candidate might be the best hire you can make. Here are some ways you can encourage neurodiversity acceptance at work and find job candidates who will help your business grow.

Adjust your recruitment style.

Updating your candidate searches to include neurodiverse jobseekers doesn’t mean revamping them completely. If you’re using AI to scan job applications, it may be filtering out candidates who have resumes that are out of the norm, so you may want to review the parameters you’ve set for a job search.
Work with organizations such as Integrate and Autism Speaks to see if they have any candidates that fit your needs. (In fact, HP is one of the pioneers in neurodiverse hiring, spearheading an initiative in Australia that’s now known as the DXC Dandelion Program.)

Reconsider your interview process.

Instead of a face-to-face interview full of open-ended questions, which may make a neurodiverse job seeker freeze up or come across as awkward, consider working through a typical project that allows them to showcase their skills and talents.
A take-home project that allows them to work in their own comfortable environment is another good approach. Tailor any interview questions to include a quantitative angle; instead of “Tell me why you like QA work,” try “Give me an example of a bug you found and how you found it.”

Be a straightforward manager.

You’ve found a neurodiverse candidate who’ll be a big asset to your team. Great! Don’t just hand them their laptop and the Wi-Fi password on the first day. It’s important spend some time going over the processes of their day-to-day work.
Be as concrete and specific as you can be about what’s required of them during the onboarding process. This hands-on time won’t last forever; once they’re familiar with their duties they’ll probably prefer to work on their own.

Make your workplace a welcoming space.

Neurodiverse employees often need special accommodations such as private offices, which may frustrate other team members sitting in an open-plan space who’d like some privacy of their own. They may avoid office happy hours and appear antisocial. They might be blunt or off-putting in conversation. Spend time educating your staff about their teammate’s situation so they understand what’s going on.
Some integration programs assign a neurodiverse employee a “buddy” to occasionally check in on them or remind them to take breaks. Tell them they can come to you anytime a question or issue comes up.
Transparency and open lines of communication will keep everyone in the office comfortable, productive and on track to succeed.

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