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Why digital accessibility is key to recruiting a neurodivergent workforce

A new and important government-backed report has outlined a raft of recommendations that are designed to support autistic people getting into, and staying in, employment.

The Buckland Review of Autism Employment was commissioned by work and pensions secretary Mel Stride and led by Sir Robert Buckland KC, after figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed that only around 30% of working-age autistic people are in employment. 

Neurodivergent people are increasingly recognised by organisations as bringing unique perspectives, ideas and talents to the workplace. In fact, ‘dyslexic thinking’ is now a recognised LinkedIn skill. 

Harnessing the rich potential of neurodiverse talent

So, how do you make sure your organisation is able to recruit neurodiverse people and enable them to thrive in your working culture? 

Making digital accessibility a priority 

Included in the review’s 19 recommendations is ‘working with software suppliers to develop IT systems that meet autistic people’s needs’.  

We know that from recruitment and onboarding to training, there are at least 10 points in the employee journey where digital accessibility needs for the neurodiverse community could come into play.  

The challenge is that everybody with a neurodiverse condition is unique, which means their accessibility requirements are unique as well. HR teams, designers and content authors want guidelines to say yes or no, black or white. But, that doesn’t really work in this context, when there are many different preferences. 

Neurodiversity in the workplace: why office life isn’t for everyone

We have worked with the National Autistic Society to research and develop a set of guidelines to help companies understand how to design for these important audiences. Based on user research with people with autism and dyslexia, these capture and help companies understand people’s user needs.

With that in mind, there are a few key points that HR teams should consider if they want to unlock the talent within a neurodiverse workforce: 

  1. Attract new recruits with inclusive design: Many people get overwhelmed by too much detail, so keep your website simple. Don’t have pages that require lots of scrolling and only include information your potential recruits will need. It is also preferable to support personalisation when it comes to websites. Allowing the user to change the text and background colours on your website would help potential neurodivergent talent to engage with your company. Similarly, ensuring your website’s colours respond to dark mode shows you’ve considered different people’s preferences. 
  2. Adapt the recruitment process: Simple adjustments to how you recruit potential employees can transform a neurodivergent candidate’s experience. On application forms, ensure that people have time to apply for the job and there are no timeouts. Ask people if they need any adjustments to your interviews or competency tests to suit their needs, for example, additional time to complete tests, and interview rooms or video calls without bright colours (especially red) which can cause distraction and anxiety.  
  3. Training and employee engagement: Many neurodivergent employees don’t necessarily like face-to-face communication. As such, requiring them to make eye contact in interviews may stop them from giving their best answers. And e-learning, or at least remote learning, could be a more preferable way of conducting training or communicating company news than face-to-face; just ask if they have a preference.  

Designing for inclusivity 

Without doubt, when it comes to attracting the best talent, great minds don’t always think alike. A neurodiverse workforce can bring new and valuable perspectives to your organisation – employees are often creative thinkers and strategic problem solvers. As a result, many companies, particularly those in the creative and technology industries, are recognising the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, which also include increased productivity and employee loyalty, and improved reputation. 

Workspaces failing needs of neurodiverse employees

This is why it is so important to ensure your digital communications are accessible to all, it could open the door to a pool of untapped talent.

By Jonathan Hassell, CEO at Hassell Inclusion