Most people are described as neurotypical. This means their brain functions according to society norms. However, 15% of the UK population (or 1 in 7 of us) are estimated to have brain function classified as neurodivergent, meaning the brain functions differently and has diverse ways of processing information, thinking, learning and behaving.
Neurodivergent traits are present from birth and develop in childhood and adolescence. But conditions can also be acquired throughout one’s life as a result of stroke, tumour or other brain-altering experiences.
Neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia, autism, dyspraxia and ADHD, to name a few, are more commonly recognised and understood in today’s society. However, our workplace is typically set up for neurotypical ways of thinking and doing, so neurodivergent employees often spend a lot of time trying to adjust their work environment to suit their needs. This can hinder their contribution and undermine their confidence as well as lose the business valuable productivity.
Data suggests that neurodivergent employees can increase the productivity of a company by nearly as much as 50%*, resulting in increased profits and customer satisfaction. Innovation increases and problems are solved quickly and more effectively.
By understanding the strengths of a neurodivergent workforce and accommodating their needs, companies can strengthen their workforce with out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions, and more.
Here are some examples of how neurodivergent individuals can contribute to productivity and creativity.
Dyslexics are more likely to think in images and are skilled in visual processing so they can consider objects from numerous angles. They have the ability to see the big picture making it easier for them to spot patterns and data trends. Their ability to think outside the box allows them to excel at problem-solving as they can discover connections that others may miss. They can also be original thinkers and inventors, bringing together information and resources from different disciplines.
People with autism have the ability to focus intensely on a given task, especially if they have a special interest in the subject, demonstrating superb attention to detail. They excel in a structured environment and their love of routine means that they are extremely reliable and punctual. Their ability to approach problems differently and their logical, straightforward thinking can help improve processes and increase productivity.
So how can employers best accommodate neurodiversity in the workplace and enable neurodivergents to excel and perform to the best of their ability?
Provide the right tools for staff to do their job. Understand the needs of your employees, consider the range of support available and match them according to their needs. Ask what they reasonably feel they need to help them work more efficiently.
For example, noise-cancelling headphones for employees with autism or ADHD, to avoid distracting or confusing noises.
Assistive technology features such as screen filters can help employees who are sensitive to the intensity or frequency of light.
Text to speech tools can help dyslexics process information more effectively through audio.
Time-management software containing calendars, planners and alerts can help people with autism or ADHD to plan daily activities, manage their time more effectively, and support any memory challenges.
Instant messaging such as Google Hangouts may be a more motivating tool for communicating with colleagues.
Mind mapping software facilitates the understanding of concepts by breaking them down into their component parts. It enables the visual development and organisation of ideas and information making it easier to see how information fits together. This tool can help employees with dyslexia to more readily understand concepts and scenarios and contribute valuable ideas and suggestions.
The leadership team play a key role in championing and promoting diversity in the workplace by supporting an inclusive working environment and educating their teams. Win their support by preparing and presenting a clear business case, providing a clear statement of the business requirements and potential solution, the consequences resulting from specific actions and metrics for the proposed solution.
As well as support from the top, educate and train all staff on neurodiversity awareness. Accredited training can help line managers to spot any potential barriers to diverse ways of working, identify employees that may be experiencing challenges and provide neurotypical employees with the knowledge and confidence to offer support where necessary.
Educating employees about neurodiversity can also help to remove any preconceptions and encourage teams to adapt so that the specialist talents of neurodivergent employees can flourish.
Appoint DI&E Champions at all levels across the organisation. Champions are the visible role models for inclusion and take action to ensure that objectives are achieved. Their passion and knowledge on the strengths and benefits of neurodiversity can drive change and influence – sometimes helping with business cases by reporting successes and giving feedback on a regular basis. Provide them with the necessary training and support to equip them with the skills required to achieve an inclusive culture
Finally, create a more inclusive working environment with a few simple changes that can make the biggest impact for neurodivergent employees.
For example, provide flexible working hours that allow them to arrive earlier and leave earlier, avoiding large groups of people and making travelling and/or parking less stressful. An early start can also mean they benefit from quiet time to focus on tasks without the usual daily office distractions.
Working from home allows them to work in their own quiet and familiar space. This can be beneficial when completing tasks that could cause anxiety in a busy workplace, for example, preparing for and practicing delivering a presentation.
Provide ‘thinking spaces’ for quiet contemplation. Noise and distractions can be counterproductive for neurotypical employees at the best of times, and this can be significantly worse for neurodivergent individuals. Quiet areas provide a sanctuary from the busy open plan office, enabling them to concentrate and focus on getting the job done.
Desk location should also be considered. Some individuals may prefer to be located in a corner – away from visual and audio distractions.
Ultimately, what underpins the success of all these measures is a workplace culture that considers individual needs and has the capacity to meet them.
An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a software application that helps manage your recruitment workflows.
It streamlines the entire recruitment cycle from posting jobs onto numerous websites to receiving, filtering and screening applications, sharing candidate details with multiple stakeholders, communicating with candidates, scheduling interviews and giving candidate feedback.
Some ATS can also integrate with other HRIS to generate new employee records, prepare employment letters and contracts, start online induction processes and add new starters to payroll, thus reducing the admin workload and ensuring that all the proper hiring steps are followed in a timely and accurate manner.
ATS have mostly been used for volume recruitment, but an increasing number of SMEs are now using them to facilitate their recruitment activities.
When all works well, an ATS can make life much easier for recruiters, saving time and reducing costs.
In recruitment, speed is of the essence, and a good ATS can help speed up the hiring process by reaching out to candidates more quickly, retaining their interest and motivation so you don’t lose out.
It can also produce a shortlist of candidates with screening tools that enable you to set out skills, education and skills requirements, allowing you to focus on candidates who meet the necessary criteria.
However, be aware that this process can also run the risk of missing out on good candidates who have a different accreditation that is equally valid but may not be recognised by the system.
Other faults may be caused by applications being rejected if the scanner is unable to fully read CVs or fails to recognise the format.
If the system malfunctions or times out when the candidate is completing their application, is incompatible with certain browsers, is difficult to access from mobile devices or is tedious to navigate, candidates may become frustrated and give up altogether.
On the plus side, interviews can be scheduled easily and more promptly, follow up emails sent in batch and reminders set, reducing the number of hours spent in labour-intensive and repetitive processes, freeing you up to focus on interviews.
If your hiring process involves multiple stakeholders, the ATS can facilitate communication and collaboration by allowing users to access candidate profiles, make notes, leave ratings or check where they’re at in the pipeline.
Crucially, an ATS allows to you to immediately contact those that have not been successful, helping you to follow best practice and promote your reputation as a good employer.
The metrics produced by the ATS can help you to measure and analyze your recruitment statistics such as time to hire, cost per hire, most successful job sites and acceptance rates. This will enable you to make continuous improvements in your search for talent.
It can act as a repository for storing all your recruitment-related information and retains candidate records for the future in the form of a talent database.
You can create a GDPR-compliant talent pool of good candidates who may have been unsuccessful first-time round, enabling you to reach out to them as soon as another suitable position becomes available.
However, be aware of your candidates’ rights in relation to their personal data and ensure that your team has the right processes in place to manage candidate requests effectively and in line with the GDPR requirements.
Under GDPR, recruiters need to respond to candidate requests, such as updating or erasing their details, within one month and be able to prove when or how they have actioned a request.
Provide candidates with your privacy notice explaining how you process personal data when collecting information. This also applies to all candidates, including those who apply indirectly via recruitment agencies or social media.
Under GDPR, candidates will have the following rights of access:
To obtain confirmation that their data is being processed
Access to their personal data
Access to any other information relating to their data.
Any requested information must be provided free of charge unless otherwise stipulated in the ICO guidance and within one month of the request being submitted.
If a candidate asks you to correct or update their personal data, you must do so within one month. If you have shared the personal data with other parties, you must also inform them of the update.
Candidates can also request the deletion of their data although you can refuse the request in accordance with ICO guidance.
Transparency is the key principle of the GDPR and an ATS can build an audit trail of when candidate requests have been met, providing a clear history of all communications.
Storage limitation is another core principle of the GDPR, and proper steps must be taken to ensure you don’t retain your candidates’ data for any longer than is necessary. An ATS can set up an alert system warning you when a candidate is approaching their data retention limit. Their details can either be archived (if appropriate) or completely removed from the system.
Should you ever be audited or receive a candidate complaint, you need to be able to access the associated data quickly and simply and an ATS can make this process fast, simple and reliable.
The right ATS will also provide confidence in where and how your data is hosted, ensuring you do not breach any significant data storage requirements.
If this all sounds too complicated, remember that the pros can easily outweigh the cons, and a reputable ATS will provide you with the necessary tools to manage your recruitment processes effectively, professionally and ethic
Diversity and Inclusion is at the heart of every business agenda. Now more than ever, HR professionals need to demonstrate the ability to develop D&I strategies to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce. In addition to the moral importance of adopting an inclusion strategy, a study conducted by McKinsey and Company found that businesses with a diverse workforce performed 15 -35% better than the national industry median. In another study, they also found that companies with gender diversity at the executive level were 21% more profitable than their less diverse competitors.
According to a white paper prepared by Robert Walters, 85% of employers said that increasing diversity in the workforce was a priority. Yet only 46% do not have programmes in place to attract diverse candidates. When attracting and recruiting a diverse workforce, posting the company’s policy on D&I is simply not enough. Actions and results speak louder than words. So, what can businesses do to ensure that they are not just paying lip service to D&I and taking positive action?
Recruitment tools, resources and techniques
When working with recruitment consultants, ask recruiters to provide a diverse network of candidates. Team up with consultants who have an awareness of current diversity and inclusion best practice and who can demonstrate a credible track record of building diverse candidate pools. Including diversity in your SLA with clear objectives and outcomes and highlighting the commercial implications if these are not achieved, is also a powerful lever in ensuring your diverse recruitment needs are met.
Job ads can be more carefully worded to ensure that the language targets a diverse background of candidates. Proofing tools such as Textio or Unitive can help ensure your job posts and recruitment material covers all social groups, by identifying words or phrases that may subconsciously put off professionals from certain backgrounds from applying.
Using social media as well as LinkedIn to promote your recruitment can also expose you to a wider and more diverse audience. Other tools such as gamification can help identify skills that may not normally be assessed through traditional techniques. It can also attract skilled candidates who may otherwise be discouraged from applying.
Extending recruitment fairs to non-graduates will expose your company to a wider range of potential talent that may not have academic experience but can demonstrate the right skills, capabilities and behaviours to successfully fulfil the needs of the role.
Consider how accessible your business website is to disabled users. One way to do this would be to have it tested by a group of users with different disabilities such as visual or hearing impairments, motor and cognitive disabilities, then make any adjustments where necessary.
Referral schemes offer a good incentive for existing staff to refer new candidates to the business. However, whilst this is a cost-effective aid to recruitment, be aware that it could also add a risk of unconscious bias through the perpetuation of a particular candidate type or background.
Unconscious bias is an unquestioned or automatic assumption about an individual, usually based on positive or negative traits associated with a group they belong to. In recruitment, unconscious bias prevents the recruiter from treating candidates as individuals and making automatic assumptions about the suitability of the candidate based on factors that are non-role related such as age, gender or background.
Some techniques for overcoming unconscious bias during recruitment involve providing anti-bias training for recruiters and hiring managers. Helping recruiters and hiring managers to identify areas where they may have their own unconscious biases, will help them to approach recruitment in a more fair and objective manner.
Removing certain information from CVs that are not relevant to the role, such as the name and gender of the applicant or the name of the school, college or university, channels the recruiter’s attention to focus solely on the candidate’s qualifications and experience.
Having CVs assessed by a wide range of stakeholders across the business, including staff at the same level of seniority as the candidate, provides a broader and more objective range of perspectives on the candidate’s suitability.
Avoid hiring decisions being made by one individual as this will allow unconscious bias to subtly filter out certain types of candidates who may be capable of performing the role. Include a range of stakeholders in the process to ensure fair and objective decision-making. Ensure any hiring decisions and rationale are clearly documented and transparent so that they can be easily reviewed, challenged or defended.
Finding diverse candidates for senior-level roles can be more challenging as the skills and experience required at that level is more specialised and the membership of certain professionals can be less diverse.
This creates a significant obstacle to achieving a diverse leadership team and there is a clear lack of diversity in business leadership as a whole. In order to create a more diverse workforce at senior levels, recruiters should be open to considering candidates from a variety of professional, industrial and national backgrounds who possess transferable skills, as well as considering candidates from overseas.
Mentoring can help junior employees from all backgrounds to develop into senior-level roles and encourages the nurturing of future talent from within the business. Providing training and development opportunities to all employees for future leadership roles is also an essential long-term solution.
Mentoring schemes that partner with other organisations can help improve diversity for senior management by allowing high potential staff from diverse backgrounds to connect with mentors who are also from diverse backgrounds and who can offer advice and support for their professional career development.
Onboarding can easily be overlooked as a key component to promoting D&I. Communicate your D&I goals to new employees and share any survey results, targets and action plan to demonstrate the company’s commitment.
Invite a diverse line-up to deliver the induction programme so that new joiners feel more welcomed and can see where they can succeed.
Finally, collating, preparing and analysing accurate and relevant metrics can help pinpoint any issues in recruitment and diversity. Hard facts will build support amongst stakeholders and assist in the implementation of any necessary changes in recruitment processes to ensure best practice measures.
When does the recruitment process end? Is it considered done and dusted as soon as an offer of employment has been made and accepted, once the contract has been signed or when the new recruit arrives for their first day of work?
The reality is that the recruitment cycle continues well into the employee’s first 3-6 months of employment whilst they undergo a thorough onboarding process. During this time, they will undertake any necessary training and have regular conversations with their line manager to discuss and review their performance.
The recruitment cycle concludes once the new recruit has successfully completed and passed their probationary period. Therefore, when establishing a stable, long-term working relationship, the first few months are critical.
Embarking on a new career can be an exciting, albeit daunting experience for new joiners. They are motivated, enthusiastic and keen to learn and to perform well.
Induction is the most important part of forming the employee relationship. Welcoming a new joiner and making them feel included, respected and valued reinforces their feeling of wellbeing and alleviates any anxieties or concerns they may have.
In addition, as more organisations are working remotely because of Covid-19, it is especially important to tailor induction programmes so new joiners have a positive experience and additional support to connect with new colleagues.
However, induction can often be overlooked and rushed, leaving the new employee feeling unproductive and demotivated. Statistics show that up to 40% of new recruits leave within the first 6 months of starting a new job and the cost of a replacement, including fees and loss of productivity, can be up to £30,000* per head. After all the time and effort spent sourcing the right candidate, it is disappointing, costly and damaging to the business to have to start the whole process again.
Like the strong foundations of a new high-rise building providing a safe and solid base for construction, a robust, well-planned and thoroughly executed induction will form the basis of a fully engaged and motivated employee who performs well, is highly productive and shows long-term commitment.
Therefore, it is important to take time to carefully plan the induction process, ensuring that all key aspects regarding the business, the office, the role, the teams, the systems and processes are covered, that training is provided and regular feedback encouraged.
By setting a good first impression, new joiners will feel confident in their choice of employer and in their new role.
Start the induction before they come on board by sending a welcome pack with some goodies such as a personalised company mug or t-shirt, creating a positive feeling in connection to your company. Provide an outline of what they can expect on their first day/week/month of employment, so there are no sudden surprises. Include any company literature or media that gives the employee an informative and engaging introduction to the company, the business and its people. Avoid bombarding the employee with too much information and ensure that any information you do provide is relevant to the employee and their employment with the business.
Any pre-employment matters such as the right to work and starter forms should be dealt with before the start date.
Prior to their arrival, ensure their workspace is set up and fully equipped, with all the necessary resources they need to hit the ground running. Where applicable, ensure their PC is connected and working properly, their email is set up and all furniture and equipment are in good condition.
Some new employees have been known to spend their first few days setting up their own workstations, chasing logins and passwords and setting up accounts. This is time-wasting and unproductive. It is also frustrating and demoralising for the new joiner.
Depending on the nature and size of the company, induction can be conducted by HR and the line manager as well as other directors and team members. The induction can be delivered in many ways, via a combination of individual and/or group talks and presentations, social media and/or other media resources.
Some companies prefer to address practical matters as a priority, such as on-site health and safety, workplace compliance, facilities and IT, company benefits and policies. Others prefer to focus on organisation information, culture and values, role-specific information and learning and development in the first instance, as this is the more interesting and engaging part of induction. In any event, avoid treating induction as a tick-box exercise and keep it as informal and engaging as possible.
There are many tools available to facilitate the sharing of information and improve internal communications and interactivity. An intranet app such as Actimo can be uploaded onto smartphones and used as an effective social media and company communication tool, introducing new joiners, sharing knowledge, company news and information.
Implementing a peer buddy system enables new joiners to integrate and settle in more quickly. Introducing new joiners to key employees will also help them to better understand the organisation’s structure and key responsibilities across all teams. Organising regular social events encourages newbies to meet their colleagues and make new friends in a relaxed and informal setting. Some companies like to arrange fun activities specifically aimed at encouraging new recruits to meet the teams, such as inviting them to distribute beers and drinks during Friday night socials.
The induction process should be evaluated to determine whether it is meeting the needs of the new recruits and the organisation. Providing opportunities for feedback at the end of the induction process and inviting ideas and suggestions for improvement is always good practice.
As well as gathering feedback from new employees, it’s important to identify key measures of success of the induction process and evaluate the process against these metrics. Information from turnover statistics or employee feedback can also be used, particularly from those who leave within the first 12 months of employment.
The kind of start they get off to is crucial to shaping their attitude to the company and their job, so planning an induction will be more than worth the effort involved.
*ACAS – Oxford Economics
* Work -force insights arm of credit-reporting agency Equifax 2013
What is an Employer Value Proposition (or EVP) and what does it mean? How does it differ from the Employer Brand (or EB) and why is it so important for companies to define and promote their EVP?
One way of defining the difference between the EB and EVP is to imagine the EB as an outward-facing marketing proposition and the EVP as an internal exercise that outlines the offerings provided by the company in return for the skills, experiences and capabilities an employee brings to the business.
The EVP is a strategic statement that defines how your business wishes to be perceived and outlines the company’s vision, mission and values. These are supported by the company’s offerings in terms of learning and development, career progression, benefits and remuneration thus shaping, supporting and giving credence to the EB.
The EVP and EB go hand-in-hand so that the experience matches the promise. Any mismatch between the two would undermine employee trust and engagement and no doubt lead to poor reviews on review sites such as Glassdoor.
A well-defined EVP can give employers a competitive advantage in the war for talent as candidates become more selective and discerning in their choice of employer. This is especially helpful if the business doesn’t have the budget to compete with the remuneration offered by its larger competitors. The EVP can promote other unique qualities that differentiate the business from its competitors, thus attracting the right talent.
An EVP should provide incentives that reward hard work and create a supportive, inclusive working environment.
According to research from Gartner, “Organisations that effectively deliver on their EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by just under 70% and increase new hire commitment by nearly 30%”
So how do we go about developing an EVP?
This should not be a top-down exercise dictated by senior management since leadership teams will see things differently from employees. Developing an EVP should be an inclusive activity involving HR, management and employees to ensure that strategy, vision and working philosophy tie in with reality.
Use works councils where they exist or create focus groups that represent a fair and diverse cross-selection of all employees. Ensuring inclusion across different levels, functions and disciplines, will help to make sure that any subsequent messaging resonates within each target group.
Start by identifying all the benefits of working at your company and the unique strengths of the organisation versus its competitors in terms of remuneration, working environment, career progression, learning and development and culture.
This could be done as a focus group exercise and/or through the use of a simple questionnaire. Alternatively, consider using the results of the questionnaire as a basis for your focus group discussions.
When considering remuneration, it’s worth bearing in mind that a generous remuneration package does not always compensate for a poor working environment and a lower-than-average remuneration package will need to rely on other unique selling points to attract key talent. A pleasant and welcoming working environment is as important as remuneration. A comfortable workplace with good facilities, bright open spaces, breakout zones and stylish furniture can be a very attractive feature. Supplying free healthy foods and snacks is also a welcome offering.
Covid has changed the face of the working environment and more companies are adopting a hybrid working solution. Where this is not possible (i.e., in customer-facing roles such as leisure, fitness and hospitality), businesses are providing more flexible working solutions such as job sharing and condensed hours to attract target audiences who value flexibility and a healthier work-life balance.
Opportunities for career progression is also an attractive proposition for high potential individuals who are looking for challenge and growth. Many employers like to showcase success stories of people who have risen in the ranks and who have been encouraged and supported throughout their career journey from entry-level positions to senior-level roles.
Examining the company’s policies on training, performance development and promotions will give clarity on the company’s attitude towards career progression and growth and how the company supports this by providing opportunities for learning and development and supporting good performance management and development practices.
The culture reflects everything from human, social and even political issues. Identifying with the corporate culture can help candidates determine whether or not their values and beliefs are aligned with those of the company. If candidates share the same beliefs, attitudes and behaviours as those identified by the company, this gives them some reassurance of a harmonious working environment which could lead to a longer-term working relationship.
Other benefits can also cover aspects such as financial strength and constant growth, unique products and services and a strong commercial footing, reassuring candidates in terms of security, stability and longevity.
In each stage of the EVP definition process, consider how the company fairs against its competitors in terms of remuneration, working environment, culture and career progression. This will help to establish the company’s USP against the competition and promote aspects that are more generous or attractive than its competitors.
These exercises will help analyse and define the company’s strengths which will form part of the EVP and give it more honesty and credence.
Where can you go from here?
For inspiration, take a look at EVP statements from corporations such as Nike, Airbnb and Starbucks who have invested time and effort in establishing strong EVP statements, testimonials, quotes and blogs providing a diverse and varied view of life at their organisation.
By giving detailed descriptions that support a few key points, you can present realistic and honest EVP statements that support the recruitment, retention and motivation of employees and unite current employees under a common manifesto.