The world needs neurodiversity, but employers still don’t seem to get it

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Meet Liam. He’s a wiz at data analytics. He loves Microsoft Excel. His CV features a bachelor’s degree in computer science from QUT. An obvious choice for any company to scoop up, right?

Until recently, no. When Liam was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome 15 years ago, he was told that he would never be able to hold down a job or work a day of his life.

Meet Mitchell. He has an unparalleled attention to detail and an ability to spot patterns and anomalies. These skills make him uniquely suited for those vital, repetitive tasks that no one can seem to handle. Without question the perfect job candidate, right?

Apparently not. Companies out there desperately needed the skills he possesses, but he just couldn’t find one to give him a chance.

Meet Steph. She’s a gun creative. Her work has been exhibited in professional art exhibitions. Her CV boasts a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and an advanced diploma in graphic design. Surely a top candidate?

Unfortunately, not. She spent months unsuccessfully applying for job applications and failing to progress through the interview round. Candidates were expected to network and gain a position through insider contacts.

With the help of EPIC Assist, all three of these individuals have now successfully landed their dream jobs and are working for amazing organisations. But why did they face such tribulation to get to this point?

It’s simple – employers don’t understand neurodiversity.

Neurodiversity in the workplace

Liam, Mitchell, and Steph are all on the autism spectrum. They make up part of the 10% of the population that are neurodivergent – people who have natural differences in human thinking. This term encompasses a broad spectrum of unique conditions from autism, to ADHD, to dyslexia, to dyspraxia, to Tourette’s syndrome.

And while Liam, Mitchell, and Steph all eventually found employment, their story is an unusual one in the neurodiversity community. 1 in 3 Australians with autism are unemployed and over half (54%) have never held a paid job despite possessing (or exceeding) the required skills and qualifications. When looking at the neurodiversity community as a whole, the number of employed individuals shrinks to 1 in 5.

So, why is unemployment so widespread within the neurodiversity community?

It’s not a difficult question to answer. Most organisations just aren’t hiring them.

Neurodivergent individuals think differently and this uniqueness is often overlooked or flat out ignored by employers who don’t understand their diversity of thought.

In a time when we desperately need to think outside the box, many employers seem insistent on staying inside.

Standard recruitment approaches don’t always work for neurodivergent individuals, and this traditionalism has the power to exclude an entire cohort of candidates from organisations.

Even when they make it through the recruitment stage, workplaces tend to be designed to suit the 90% of the population that are neurotypical. And although simple workplace adjustments go a long way, many organisations are stuck in the mindset that staff need to adjust to fit in with an organisation’s practices, not vice versa.

We don’t need to change neurodivergent individuals. We need to support them to be the best employees they can be.

In the incredibly competitive world of business, this untapped talent and diverse thinking is something that organisations can’t afford to miss out on.

So, how can we change this?

This April is autism month

Awareness only goes so far. What we’re looking for is change.

This autism month, we have a challenge for employers.

We dare you to think differently. We dare you to commit to making a change this year to understand neurodiversity and accept it in all of its uniqueness.

We dare you to take action and recognise workplace adjustments and practices that you can implement to be more inclusive of neurodiversity.

We dare you to see things from new perspectives. We dare you to take a good hard look at your staff diversity profile and see where you can improve.

Diversity of ideas should be celebrated, not censored. We dare you to make different the new norm.

Be part of the change

Here at EPIC Assist, we believe that everyone has a right to meaningful employment. Our disability employment services are committed to helping businesses and people with disability connect. We have over 30 years’ experience in moving and breaking down the barriers to meaningful employment, and we’re passionate about using our services to encourage a worldwide shift for diversity and inclusion.

If you’re interested in hiring someone with disability, get in touch with us today.

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