Wells Fargo Reveal Neurodiversity Success Strategies

Texthelp recently hosted a webinar where leading voices such as Stephen DeStefani, SVP (Diversity, Community & Sustainability) at Wells Fargo, Judy Reilly, Neurodiversity Employment Leader & Director of University of Connecticut (UConn's) Centre of Neurodiversity and Employment, and Martin McKay, CEO & Founder of Texthelp, discussed inclusive workplace strategies and the benefits of neuroinclusion in the workplace.

The session delved into the success of Wells Fargo's Neurodiversity Program in partnership with UConn. Launched four years ago, it has harnessed the vast talent pool of neurodivergent individuals, hiring nearly 300 employees with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and more. This program isn't just fostering a diverse workforce – it's demonstrably contributing to Wells Fargo's business success, such as a retention rates as high as 98% and more.

Missed the live session? Register to receive the exclusive webinar recording and access the transformative insights. In the meanwhile, we've highlighted some of the key takeaways from the discussion below.

Building the case for Neurodiversity

The speakers discussed how it is important to win leadership and stakeholder buy-in that will enable you to drive positive change in your organization. When building your business case for neurodiversity, emphasize the tangible business benefits linked to neuroinclusion such as unlocking talent, boosting innovation, and future-proofing success. Stephen explained: "Neurodiversity inclusion is not a philanthropic effort, but a strategic move to tap into a highly skilled, deeply diverse, and critically underserved talent pool.”

Talent acquisition advantage: Highlight the vast, untapped talent pool represented by the neurodiverse population. With 15-20% of the global population being neurodivergent (a number expected to grow to 50% by 2050), creating a neuroinclusive environment allows you to attract highly skilled individuals who may be overlooked by traditional recruiting methods.

Unlocking potential & productivity: Frame neurodiversity as a source of strength, not a limitation. Emphasize the unique skills and benefits of neurodiverse workforces, like exceptional problem-solving, innovative thinking, and meticulous attention to detail. Martin, CEO & Founder of Texthelp shares his experience with Dyslexia, explaining how neurodivergent individuals have "spiky profiles” which allows them to excel in some areas but face challenges in others. By providing the right support, these strengths can translate into significant productivity gains and enhanced team performance.

Return of Investment (ROI): Present research that shows a clear correlation between inclusive cultures and stronger financial performance. For example, companies who champion inclusion can benefit from 28% higher revenues, double their net income, and 30% higher profit margins.

Market expansion potential: Showcase how a neurodiverse workforce can help you reach new customers. Neurodiverse individuals can provide valuable insights into the needs of users who may share similar challenges, effectively increasing your addressable market by 10-20%.

Inclusive hiring and onboarding

Wells Fargo recognizes the common challenges that exist within traditional hiring methods, which often lead to unconscious bias and stigma against neurodivergent individuals. 

Skill-Based Evaluation: To combat this, they've introduced a skills-based evaluation at the interview stage. This evaluation focuses on candidates' strengths and potential rather than social cues and interactions, aiming to reduce what they term as "uneducated bias" in their recruitment and onboarding processes.

Manager Selection: Wells Fargo employs a specific method for selecting managers in the neurodiversity program. This selection process prioritizes individuals with above-average emotional intelligence, strong people management skills, and deep empathy. These managers are then trained to conduct interviews with a keen focus on inclusivity, drawing from past sessions to inform their questions.

Interview Support: Recognizing the importance of support during the interview process, Wells Fargo provides candidates with relevant examples and experiences to prompt situational questions and assess answers effectively. They incorporate breakout sessions to instill experiential content for candidates to draw upon, fostering an environment where candidates can showcase their skills comfortably. Furthermore, they ensures an applicant-centric conversation, aligning candidates with roles that match their skills and needs.

Building support systems from day one

Stephen from Wells Fargo discussed the impact of offering a buddy program to connect new hires with experienced colleagues who can answer questions and provide support. Additionally, job coaches can be a valuable resource for ongoing guidance and development. 

Buddy programs proved particularly useful for neurodivergent employees by introducing them to the social aspects of the workplace and helping them navigate social interactions and the company culture. It also can connect them to relevant Employee Resource Group (ERG) that allows them to use their voice for change and foster an overall sense of community. 

Job coaches can be anyone at any level of the company who want to volunteer to learn more about neurodiversity and advocate change. Inside Wells Fargo, they leverage content co-developed with the UConn Center for Neurodiversity and Employment. This ensures "educated coaching” that provides ongoing guidance and development for new hires by helping them adjust to their work environment and equipping managers with the right support to lead a neurodiverse team.

Education, training & cultural competency

Leading with education first was described as the foundation for success when it comes to building neuroinclusive workplaces. Invest in comprehensive neurodiversity education for managers, HR professionals, and all employees. Working with UConn, Wells Fargo can improve education around neurodiversity to reduce unconscious bias and build cultural competency. This highlights the power of strategic partnerships between organizations on the journey to neuroinclusion. 

Both internal and external communication must be an ongoing commitment with practices implemented throughout the employment lifecycle. Some examples shared was, Texthelp's dedicated DEI Council, mandatory neurodiversity training, and opportunities to share neurodivergent experiences. By reducing unconscious bias and building understanding, you empower your workforce and unlock the full potential of neurodiversity.

Managers: Equipping them to recognize and support neurodiverse employees, fostering an inclusive work environment.

HR Professionals: Ensuring they can effectively recruit, hire, and onboard neurodiverse talent, removing unconscious bias from the process.

All Employees: Building a foundation of understanding through company-wide education. This creates a more welcoming and supportive environment for everyone.

Inclusive technology to unlock talent

The webinar highlighted the transformative power of assistive technology in creating inclusive workplaces that embrace neurodiverse talent. Texthelp's Read&Write served as a powerful example, showcasing how implementing small changes can have a significant impact. Assistive technology offers a diverse range of features that empower neurodivergent employees to work to their strengths. Text-to-speech and screen simplification tools can reduce cognitive load and minimize distractions, boosting productivity and fostering confidence. 

Woman using the Read&Write in her home office, reviewing a large paragraph of text

Although many free tools and support options may have similar features, Read&Write’s innovative toolbar was created by inclusion experts with Universal Design in mind to support a diverse range of users and enhance employee engagement. It goes beyond free solutions with maximum customization, offering support in over 100 languages, multiple accents, and unique features such as Similar Word Checker, Voice Notes, Audio Maker, and more.

The discussion extended beyond specific software solutions, emphasizing a more strategic approach. Experts advocated for framing assistive technology as a valuable staff benefit, not just an accommodation. This positions the tools as a way to enhance productivity and performance for everyone. Furthermore, a proactive approach of making these tools readily available to all employees removes the need for disclosure and ensures everyone has access to the support they may need.

Feedback and continuous adaptation

Effective neurodiversity inclusion goes beyond one-time initiatives. It requires ongoing monitoring and adaptation to ensure a truly supportive environment where your neurodiversity efforts remain effective.

Regular employee feedback: Move beyond traditional HR metrics and regularly survey employees, including questions that gauge their perception of the organization's commitment to neurodiversity. Martin suggests phrasing questions to avoid pressuring individuals to disclose disabilities. For example, "Do you feel the company provides adequate support for new and diverse employees?".

Data-driven decisions: Analyze the feedback data to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time. Setting benchmarks allows you to measure the effectiveness of your initiatives.

Statistics shared at the event: 

  • 15 - 20% of the population is neurodivergent (1 in 5)
  • By 2050, 50% are expected to be neurodivergent
  • 53% of Gen Z identify as neurodivergent
  • Companies who champion inclusion can benefit from 28% higher revenues, double their net income and 30% higher profit margins
  • Neurodiverse individuals can provide valuable insights into the needs of users who may share similar challenges, effectively increasing your addressable market by 10-20%.
  • 76% of people with a disability or neurodiverse condition do not fully disclose this at work

Register to watch + get additional DEI resources!

Building the Case for Neurodiversity

Includes research results and statistics on neurodiversity in today's workplaces. And, 13 key factors to improve the employee experience in your business.

Inclusive Recruitment and Beyond

A guide to attracting, recruiting and retaining disabled and neurodivergent talent. Learn why inclusive recruitment matters and how you can become an employer of choice.

Unlock Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Insights from Network Rail, Sainsbury's and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Get insights into diverse work styles and perspectives. Learn practical tips from inclusion experts.