Lance is an accomplished military veteran who’s completed three tours and is skilled in data analysis, data mapping, and planning. After leaving the military, he repeatedly interviewed for jobs that were a perfect fit for his skillset yet never received an offer. Finally, he landed a job in the warehouse of a global logistics company that he was highly overqualified for. But once Lance got in the door, he immediately proved his value. Five years later, he’s used his data analysis skills to enhance operational efficiencies and heads up the business intelligence function influencing the company’s global sales strategy.
So why did Lance, who proved to be a capable and effective senior leader, have so much trouble finding a job after leaving the military? He is autistic.
Lance is representative of the thousands of talented professionals with extraordinary skills that go untapped by companies because they are neurodiverse.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences, like autism, dyslexia and ADHD, are normal, natural variations. Neurodiverse people think differently. They bring different perspectives and strengths to the table from neurotypical employees and often challenge the status quo.
What do companies have to gain from neurodiverse talent?
JP Morgan launched a pilot program in 2015 called Autism at Work and the results are remarkable. Employees in the pilot program were 48% faster at completing tasks and 92% more productive than their peers. Preliminary results from a pilot at Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) suggest that the organization’s neurodiverse software testing teams are 30% more productive than neurotypical teams.
That sounds almost too good to be true but it doesn’t surprise me. My 7-year-old son is on the autism spectrum, and he has memorized the details of every shipwreck in history. This type of focus, obsessive attention to detail and appetite for information has remarkable potential when harnessed in the right roles. Autistic talent is often ideally suited to some of the fastest growing segments of the knowledge economy including data analytics, tech services, software engineering and more. In fact, Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently revealed that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.
On the other hand, dyslexic talent is often composed of out-of-the-box thinkers. Just consider some of the dyslexic people who have changed the world: Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates. What they have in common in the ability to look at the world differently.
By bringing neurodiverse minds into the mix, companies can broaden their thinking and spur the big breakthroughs that keep them on the cutting edge.
Who is hiring neurodiverse talent?
JP Morgan is not alone in seeing the potential of neurodiverse hiring programs. Many of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies are actively hiring neurodiverse talent or running pilot programs to explore the potential of neurodiverse talent.
Look to any of these companies for inspiration: Chevron, Dell, Ernst & Young, Ford, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, and VMware.
How do I get started?
The traditional interview process usually places neurodiverse applicants at a disadvantage by prioritizing skills in communication and emotional intelligence, two skillsets with which many neurodiverse applicants struggle. That’s why companies successfully tapping into neurodiverse talent have specialized hiring programs for doing so.
Specialized workplace consultancies such as Specialisterne and Potentia are helping companies recruit and manage neurodiverse talent. In some cities, local nonprofits are also helping neurodiverse individuals access better job opportunities. For example, here in Houston, I’ve partnered with Avondale House, an outstanding charity that provides housing, education and employment services for adults with Autism.
Is your company interested in exploring a pilot program for neurodiverse hiring? Email me at email@example.com and I would be happy to connect with you for an introductory call and help you and your company start that journey.