My six-year-old nephew was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and borderline autism – a very young age for such a diagnosis you may say. Is it that he can’t understand that he must sit in class as a participant rather than run the class and have everyone listen to what he has to say or is it that he doesn’t want to be told that he must follow a curriculum or play during recess when he would rather take a toy car apart and learn the mechanics of how it fits together.
His mother is often asked to come into school to talk about her son’s day and his apparent intention to collapse the teaching structure that society imposes on young children. So why keep him at school if he insists on breaking all the rules? According to his teacher, it’s because “he has the potential and the ability to absorb information quickly” and “he seems older than his years, like talking to a 10-year-old rather than a 6-year-old.” His mother often wonders what kind of life he will have as an adult – will he be able to go to university, to go to work? And thus, began my interest in the subject of neurodiversity.
The term neurodivergent refers but is not limited to a group of people who suffer from autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, or ADHD. Why is this important to the corporate world? This group makes up 10% of the population and so includes job seekers, our customers and partners, and our current employees. For this reason, it is important that Capgemini, like other companies, ensures that their workforce is aware of their neurodiversity-at-work-initiatives. Capgemini has rolled out ‘CAPability: the ability and caring network’ which is open for all members of the organization to connect on their experiences and share links and resources in this space. The aim of the network is threefold:
- Raise awareness across the business.
- Support and connect colleagues through their network, to help find support and share their experiences.
- The two-way feedback loop on policies and practices.
Moreover, it is imperative that such talent is considered within the recruitment process. Too often, the hiring process fails to cater to this group and focuses on neurotypical individuals. Hiring managers should be encouraged and trained to build (neuro)diverse teams and tap into this high-potential talent pool. Hiring managers may confuse a lack of eye contact or unconventional body language as signs of uninterest. Training should be provided for hiring managers to look out for the valuable skills and traits these individuals bring with them. ADHD traits include being able to multitask and being calm under pressure. Autistic people can retain large amounts of data, have high attention to detail, and amazing analytical skills.
Other things that organizations can do is include a statement in the job descriptions that they are happy to discuss reasonable adjustments and candidates should be encouraged to disclose they are neurodivergent without the fear of being penalized. All hiring managers should be made aware of the key dos and don’ts, should candidates choose to disclose this information.
Such steps will ensure that organizations are truly inclusive which is very important for the brand as this, in turn, will not only have a direct impact on job seekers but also on the potential customers who prefer to work with and for diverse and inclusive organizations.
A good example is Britain’s leading motor and home insurance company, which has adopted its own “Neurodiversity Employee Group” which supports several initiatives in this space with an aim to raise awareness and share knowledge and push the “think of people first rather than their roles” approach.
There is no right, or wrong way of thinking this complex issue and we certainly can’t tell a six-year-old, whose thinking is very literal, that he can’t lead and play teacher for the day because society and the law says so and that his role is to learn and not teach. It remains to be seen if schools and organizations can truly be socially inclusive for future generations and adjust their practices to include this group.
I hope this blog not only raises awareness but also removes some of the stigma attached to these very brave and bright people and that when they enter the world of work and join large corporations, they will be in an environment where they can truly flourish and thrive. Should you have any thoughts about this blog post, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authored by: Hardev Wahiwala