Susan Everhart, VP Client Engagement and Partnerships, had the outstanding opportunity to represent GenSpark at the NACE Conference 2023 in Orlando. NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) is a professional association that connects college career services professionals, university relations, and recruiting professionals, with business solution providers as well as many Fortune 500 companies that serve this community.
Learn More About Her Experience Below
This was GenSpark’s first time attending NACE23 and we had a booth at the Expo which included a full pass, so I was eager to take part in as many sessions as possible. I quickly realized at our booth that there were a lot of passionate, hard-working people that are truly invested in what will be the next generation of our workforce. I was surrounded by many like-minded people that are curious and looking to identify new unique ways to make an even bigger difference in their programs and communities. It was great to get the perspective of both the University/College Career Center Teams and the large employers invested in their Next Gen Hiring Programs. It is also important to mention that both sides of NACE’s membership are equally focused on helping communities and employers diversify their workforces and they are getting creative and looking for partners to expand these efforts.
My number one focus and goal in attending NACE23 was to learn as much as possible about best practices and even tactics related to successfully launching a Neurodiversant Workforce Program. These programs are bringing so much value to the workplace. It was great to learn the level of commitment and investment companies have made to continue to diversify their workplaces and sustain their inclusive culture.
Research suggests that teams with neurodivergent talent in some roles can be 30% more productive than those without them. The inclusion and integration of neurodivergent professionals can also boost team morale. (Deloitte January 2022)
I was fortunate to find a seat so I could join a panel discussion session called “Breaking into Brilliance: Supporting Neurodiverse Hires”, hosted by Laura Mills, Head of Early Talent Insights at Forage. Laura led a discussion with Bruce Soltys, Head of Talent Acquisition and Sourcing Strategies, Travelers Insurance, and Robbin Beauchamp, from the Cooperative Education & Career Center at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
The thought of launching a program to support Neurodiverse hires is inspiring and yet it’s a little intimidating to me. I’ve had some trepidation to move forward because I didn’t want to make mistakes and certainly didn’t want to negatively impact anyone in the process. I have a renewed spirit after spending an hour in the session with these humble trailblazers and I want to share why.
Neurodivergent talent is on the rise. Here are some interesting facts that may surprise you:
- Neurodivergent people make up 15-20% of the worldwide population.
- Neurodiverse people are more likely to be unemployed than people with any other disability. Unemployment runs as high as 30-40% (three times the rate for people with a disability and eight times the rate for people without disabilities
- Research shows that conditions such as autism and dyslexia can bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics.
- While some people who are neurodivergent have diagnosed medical conditions, it also happens that a medical condition or diagnosis hasn’t been identified. However, ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia all fall within the spectrum of “Neurodiversity” and are all neurodiverse conditions.
Source: My Disability Jobs, April 12, 2023 https://mydisabilityjobs.com/statistics/neurodiversity-in-the-workplace/#neurodiversity-statistics
How do you start a Neurodivergent Workforce Program?
- Small is best. You will want to track the successes and challenges and a small program will allow you to focus.
- Set KPIs for expectations and make sure to take the time to evaluate your learnings and adapt if needed.
- Celebrate and share your wins and other learnings with your hiring managers and other key leaders.
- Identify more than 1 Champion (3 would be great). It’s best if they are part of the program from the beginning to build ownership and the same passion you have for the program.
- Understand you will need to change processes to attract and accommodate neurodiverse candidates.
- Make sure you have all corporate partners in place and onboard in recruiting, legal, and learning and development.
How can you create a positive recruiting & interview experience for neurodivergent talent?
- Always use clear direct communication.
- Put it right out there. The headline of the job description should be labeled with a bold statement explaining this job posting is aligned with your company’s Neurodivergent Talent Program.
- Include the essential job functions and the instructions for the interview process in the job description.
- Be specific about the skills required for the job and nothing beyond that – do not add Nice to Have’s.
- Skills-based screening methods, such as cognitive assessments or a job shadow can provide the benefit of focusing on the applicant’s ability to perform the specific tasks.
- Remove distractions from the interview environment, and it might be best to exclude candidates from large groups or panel interviews.
- Interview for function and skills vs personality and find ways for them to discuss their experiences.
- Be patient.
- You may find candidates take a little longer to consider questions and answers. You may want to provide the candidate with the interview questions to give them time to consider their answers.
- Transportation could be an issue especially if it’s an unfamiliar place or they don’t drive. You may want to create a little leeway on your schedule.
GenSpark is in the planning phase at the very origin of our Neurodiverse Workforce Program. We have much to do and lots to learn, but it feels good to know the trailblazers in this space will be there to learn from along the way and are very gracious to help other companies. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope the best practices the panel shared will build confidence and provide you with a good foundation. If you would like to learn more about the development of our Neurodiverse Workforce Program, contact us here.
Here are some additional resources to utilize when setting up your Neurodivergent Workforce Program:
- Your State & Local Government have resources available to help identify candidates
- Leverage Disability:IN networks and committees as well as informative materials like the Autism @ Work Playbook and Neurodiversity at Work Framework
- NACE and Disability:IN are great advocates for these programs and can get you connected with the companies that have mature programs