Is Your Organisation Considering Neurodiversity?
ManpowerGroup is proud to support Aspierations – a community interest company which aims to build a bridge between business and talented people within the Asperger community, to create employment opportunities that have a lasting benefit for all.
Around 700,000 people in the UK have an Autism Spectrum Difference, accounting for 1.1% of the population. This includes individuals with Asperger Syndrome – a lifelong development difference that affects how the person relates to their social and physical environment.
While there can be distinct challenges that come with welcoming people with Asperger Syndrome into the workplace, this community boasts a wealth of talent that many organisations are currently missing out on.
Laurel Herman, Founder of Aspierations, shares why neurodiversity should be a key focus area for organisations, and how Aspierations is helping organisations to become more inclusive for individuals with Asperger Syndrome.
“Most organisations are aware of the need for diversity in their workforce. All the research shows that if you have diversity in your working teams, you’ll get better outcomes in every way. While many companies are focusing on improving their gender and ethnic diversity, it’s in everyone’s interests that we consider the importance of neurodiversity too.
Individuals with Asperger Syndrome have a unique ability to challenge the status quo. They may lack certain people skills, but their capacity to challenge, disrupt and innovate is critical for business transformation and can make a significant impact on the bottom line. Yet, despite their many talents, individuals with Asperger Syndrome face significant barriers to employment.
Barriers to Recruitment
During the hiring process, certain questions can be alienating. Autism is binary, and individuals who are on the autism spectrum require very direct questions. They’re not well-equipped to read between the lines, so recruitment processes need to avoid ambiguity.
As an example, one HR team told us that they ask interviewees: ‘If we asked your three best friends what they think about you, what do you think they would say?’. They thought this icebreaker would help ease candidates into the interview. In fact, this type of open-ended question can cause immense anxiety for an individual with Asperger Syndrome, and could mean they don’t perform at their best.
Added to this, when an individual with Asperger Syndrome is employed, they often don’t get identified as ‘high potential talent’. They don’t do all the ‘people’ things that would make them visible and get their skills noticed. This means they often don’t get the support they need to progress, and can become disappointed and disenfranchised.
It does take time and effort to change hiring processes to make them Asperger-friendly. Some companies worry that it may dilute the process, but it’s important to have an inclusive approach. And, in fact, quite often it only takes a handful of minor changes to make the process much more inclusive for everyone.
How Aspierations Emerged
Aspierations was born when I gathered a group of senior executives and showed them that they were missing out on recruiting immensely talented individuals, because they had been eliminated before they got anywhere in the hiring process. Initially, very few of the companies had considered the importance of neurodiversity when hiring. Even fewer had taken action to make their processes more inclusive for individuals with Asperger Syndrome. But suddenly, lots of organisations started to engage with Aspierations to make improvements to their processes.
We support organisations in a number of ways to ensure hiring stands the best chance of success. We host awareness events and training sessions, so that people can learn about the different aspects of recruitment that can be challenging to someone with Asperger Syndrome. We also run appraisals of organisations’ recruitment practices, where we look at their hiring processes from end-to-end and help them to rectify the areas that may be difficult for an individual with Asperger Syndrome.
Along the way, ManpowerGroup has been an important supporter of Aspierations. They have developed an autism-friendly Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that allows individuals to upload their CVs and start the process of engaging with us. The candidates are then interviewed by someone from Aspierations so we can understand their skills, before we look to match them to suitable vacancies, or find other vacancies if none are currently suitable. This is a really major development for us, and we’re very grateful for ManpowerGroup’s support.
It’s a competitive world and, with many organisations facing significant talent shortages, it’s important that they’re inclusive to all parts of the talent pool. There’s a lot more work to do, but we’re increasingly gaining support, with more and more organisations recognising how important it is to be Asperger fit and friendly.
Many of the organisations who have engaged with us have seen their workforce’s performance, productivity, wellbeing and happiness levels increase. They wanted to be inclusive and knew that they should be – they just needed support in knowing where to start. Through insight, guidance and expert knowledge around neurodiversity, we can help to connect forward-thinking employers with people who have the ability and creativity to deliver innovation and results.”
To learn more about Aspierations or start the journey of becoming an Asperger fit and friendly organisation, please visit ASPIeRATIONS.org
This article first appeared in the ninth edition of The Human Age Newspaper.