At the recent SXSW EDU event, Texthelp’s Founder & CEO, Martin McKay, joined a panel exploring, ‘The Power of Different Thinkers’. During this session they explored the strengths of neurodiversity, highlighting why workplaces should, and how they can, become more neuro-inclusive. Below, we highlight key insights.
Discover advice shared by:
But first, what is the SXSW EDU Conference?
The SXSW EDU Conference & Festival is an annual event that fosters innovation and learning within the education industry. Over four days, attendees enjoy sessions and workshops that aim to inspire change for the future. The event brings together learners, practitioners, and entrepreneurs, creating a space for us to drive impact collectively.
Educators have long adopted the process of Universal Design, creating classrooms where learners with diverse abilities can work together side by side. Through this process, learners are provided with multiple means of perceiving, comprehending and expressing their learning. They’re able to engage with material in the way that benefits them the most.
This system is serving to make work-ready employees. The next generation are entering the workforce with an understanding of how they work and learn best.
Workplaces need to be ready to adopt them into an environment that’s as flexible as the one they’ve left.
Martin explained that often, learners are supported with tools and resources in school. But too often, they don't have the same tools in the workplace. For neurodivergent learners in particular, these tools are often essential in supporting them to play to their strengths, and boosting confidence. We mustn’t strip people of the toolkit they’ve carefully gathered throughout their fundamental years.
Prat highlighted that workplaces must design inclusively, and account for the fact that many of their employees are neurodivergent. Whether they know it or not. As many as 1 in 5 people are neurodivergent. Yet, 76% don't feel comfortable disclosing their neurodiversity at work.
Bhakti also shared that becoming neuro-inclusive isn’t just the right thing to do, it can also add lots of value. Neurodivergent people often think and behave in ways that are more unique to the typical population. With this comes the benefits of outstanding pattern recognition, creative solutions and more.
Adding to this, Martin shared that through diversity of thought we’re able to look at things from many different angles. As Founder of an inclusive technology company, this is beneficial because it means being able to make products that are fit for the society they’re created for. All products and services should be designed with neuro-inclusion in mind.
Graduating into the world of work can be daunting for anyone. But for someone that’s neurodivergent, entering the corporate world can come with extra challenges.
According to research from The Institute of Leadership & Management, half of leaders and managers would not employ a neurodivergent person. From negative stigma, to non-inclusive recruitment processes, there’s many barriers preventing this transition into work.
Clare highlighted the prevalence of unemployment among neurodivergent people. For example, analysis from Deloitte found that 85% of those on the autism spectrum are unemployed. This compares to 4.2% of the overall population. She explained that recruitment processes are key in ensuring neurodivergent talent can get in the door.
In agreement, the rest of the panel shared key advice;
Bhakti began by stating that we must revamp the recruitment process and remove outdated processes. For example, allow people to show evidence that they can do the job, rather than asking all people to sit an interview. This may not suit all types of people. We must place the spotlight on the work, and focus on skills first.
Prat elaborated, stating that recruiters and interviewers must be made aware of, and have what they need, to create a more equitable process. There are many traditional views that are outdated, and if continued, will not improve neurodiversity in recruitment. An example being that eye contact relates to how interested or confident someone is during an interview. Placing importance on eye contact can automatically exclude many people with Autism, who often have difficulty maintaining eye contact.
Martin also shared the importance of language choice, and cognitive accessibility, when it comes to advertising job roles. He referenced Vanrath as a company that’s leading the way in recruitment in the UK. In a recent webinar with Texthelp, Vanrath shared how they’ve made their recruitment website accessible and neuro-inclusive.
Beyond recruitment, and indeed onboarding, we need to be able to support neurodiversity across the full employee lifecycle.
With this in mind, Prat spoke of a four part process involving;
Throughout the discussion, our panel shared a lot of great advice which can be applied to each part of this process.
Concluding the discussion, our panel reflected on what neuro-inclusion means for the future world of work.
Clare began by highlighting the expectations of today’s working population. Employers of choice are those that prioritize diversity and inclusion. Flexible ways of working, and neuro-inclusive practices are expected.
Emphasizing this, Martin spoke on the role of neurodiversity when it comes to Environment, Social and Governance priorities. When it comes to investment, investors look for inclusive practices. In fact, diverse and inclusive companies are more likely to be sought because they generate 4.4% higher return on equity and paid 19.2% more in dividends. Expanding further, Prat highlighted research by Accenture which found that companies that think about neurodiversity perform 3-4 times better than those who don’t.
Looking to the future, Prat also spoke on the accountability placed on companies to do better. Organizations are required to report on ESG, meaning that there’s a method for holding companies accountable for how we’re impacting the world.
Being neuro-inclusive not only makes the world of work a better place, it offers a huge business advantage. We must make it a priority, for our current generation and the next.
Webinar & Guide: Introduction to inclusive recruitment & beyond
In this webinar series, discover how to create a recruiting and onboarding process that's welcoming, accessible and inclusive.
You'll receive 3 sessions including:
You'll also receive our downloadable guide to inclusive recruitment.