Neurodiversity in Tech

Neurodiversity in the tech industry
Many companies in the STEM sector (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) struggle to find qualified candidates because they are overlooking people who think differently. However, some companies have realized this and are taking steps to solve this problem.

When did tech companies start to introduce neurodiversity programs?

In November of 2013, the Technology Councils of North America released a survey with 17,000 tech executives participants. 69% of the executives that participated in this survey believed that there’s a shortage of quality talent.

In the 2010s, Microsoft, SAP and DXC Technologies were struggling with many unfilled employment vacancies. Realizing they had to do things differently, they introduced a neurodiverse-friendly hiring and training program.

After Microsoft, SAP, and DXC technology introduced neurodiversity programs, the number of unfilled vacancies went down, there was a faster speed to hire, and wellbeing and collaboration were reported to have increased. These neurodiversity programs were so successful that they attracted a lot of media attention. Now, companies like Salesforce and IBM  also have major neuroinclusion efforts.

What makes a workplace neuroinclusive?

Kelsey is a UX researcher at Oracle NetSuite and an #ActuallyAutistic person. Here’s what neuroinclusion looks like from her perspective:

“I would hope that companies can focus more on learning about communication styles. They also need to be more understanding of narrow social constructs. Because these constructs limit a neurodiverse employees’ potential for success. “

The medical jargon surrounding neurodiversity creates low social expectations. Many of these terms include misleading and stigmatising words like “deficit” and “syndrome”. The estimated number of neurodiverse employees is 1 in 8 of the average workplace, but some neurodiverse adults keep their neurodiversity quiet out of fear of being considered less employable.

HPE’s support network and its benefits

HPE is an information technology company that factors in neuroinclusion by supporting rather than stigmatizing the differences of neurodiverse teams. HPE’s neurodiverse teams can access support networks that support and accommodate them.

HPE’s neurodiverse teams are now 30% more productive because of this neuroinclusive environment. Neurodiverse employees also bring new perspectives to the company.

HPE and other like-minded tech companies have paved the way for progress in the neurodiversity movement. Right now, neurodiversity is so much more than a popular hashtag.  Neurodiversity is also being factored into the conversations around diversity and inclusion policies.

Neuroinclusion: how does it benefit neurodiverse teams?

Neurodiverse professionals who experience neuroinclusion at work expect it at their next job. A great example of this an IT professional named Joshua Clay.

Joshua Clay has ASD and finds conventional office environments extremely difficult places to work and focus.  When Staffworks Group made Joshua the director of IT, he could finally work from home full-time. Joshua’s home office helped him create an environment where he could thrive:

“At Staffworks I’ve discovered that I can get more done, in a shorter time, and feel much more engaged and prouder of my work than ever before.”

Joshua isn’t the only one who has found office environments distracting. More than two thirds of people have said that unpredictable, acoustic noise is a source of stress and distraction in the workplace. To work around noise distractions, we need to give employees the flexibility to create an environment that suits their needs.

Why is neuroinclusion good for business? 

Anthony Rjeily is a partner at EY Canada accounting firm’s consulting practice. Anthony experienced positive results when EY decided to be neuroinclusive:

“We came to realise that the neurodiverse talent pool [brought] a lot of value for us. They’re talented and focused on detail. They bring a level of analytical and STEM skills that are above and beyond some of the other talent groups.”

Hiring neurodiverse people gave EY an opportunity to embrace new ways of thinking. New perspectives are valuable, because new perspective foster creativity and innovation. In an era of short product life cycles, innovation helps your organisation survive.

A marketable STEM sector skill present in a lot of neurodistinct people

Simon Baron Cohen is a cognitive neuroscience professor that has extensively studied tech communities such as Silicon Valley and Eindhoven.  When he started to study tech clusters, he noticed that people with autism are well represented.

Simon Cohen soon learned that a lot of the people who work in this sector have an important train in common: their above average systematising mechanism:

“Humans alone have a systemising mechanism in the brain that seeks out ‘if-and-then’ patterns. It’s these thought processes – such as, ‘if my boat is stationary, and I hold a sail perpendicular to the wind, then my boat moves forward in the same direction as the wind’ – that allow us to invent.”

The ability to hyper-systematize is a widespread trait of the STEM sector, and a common characteristic of autistic people. People who hyper-systematize often have strong pattern-seeking abilities, and an inventor’s mindset.

Individuals who have an inventor’s mindset are a valuable contribution to sectors such as data science and software testing. Neurodistinct employees who have this trait often find bugs and hidden errors faster than their neurotypical colleagues.

Other benefits worth factoring in

Organizations that accommodate neurodiversity experience the following benefits:

  • A 45% chance of generating market share value growth
  • A 70% chance of capturing a new market.

If your company wants to experience the benefits of genuine diversity of thought, factoring in neurodiversity is important.

In the 2010s some of the most influential tech companies realized that the benefits of neuroinclusion are far too important to ignore. That’s exactly why these organisations continue to excel at and prioritize neuroinclusion.

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