How to recruit and manage neurodivergent teams

A new white paper from WM People explores best practice in recruiting for and managing neurodivergent teams.


How should managers recruit for and get the most from neurodivergent teams? A new white paper from WM People,’s parent group, is based on a roundtable with employers and neurodiversity experts in March.

Sponsored by Roche, it brought employers and experts together to discuss best practice. Experts included Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge who spoke about his new book, The Pattern Seekers: A New Theory of Human Invention, which argues that people on the autistic spectrum have valuable skills on which have been an important factor in human innovation over the centuries.

Other experts included Matthew Boyd and Tim Lang from Exceptional Individuals who work with employers to advise them on getting the most out of neurodiversity. Eighty per cent of their team are neurodivergent.  Boyd said a lot of traditional recruitment processes focus on neurodivergent people’s challenge areas rather than their strengths. 

The recruitment process should set expectations from the start, they say, giving people choices and preferences about how they do things. Any sense of judgement, for instance, about lack of eye contact, should be removed as should complicated questions. The interview should focus on people’s strengths and line managers need support to understand the bigger diversity and inclusion picture and where something might be a barrier. 

Neurodiversity encompasses everything from autism to dyslexia and dyspraxia. The roundtable discussion with employers and experts covered everything from the recruitment process and onboarding process to career progression for neurodivergent individuals.

Key takeaways include:

  • Focus on the strengths of neurodiverse people, such as their ability to drive innovation and to understand how systems work
  • Understand where they face challenges, such as with face to face communication and offer a range of ways to apply for jobs, bearing in mind that traditional recruitment based on application forms, face to face interviews and assessment centres highlight areas of challenge for neurodivergent people
  • Focus on self awareness for all staff when it comes to bias and on empathy
  • Be clear in any communications, back up information delivered face to face in email and make things easily understandable
  • Set expectations before recruitment or promotion processes and prepare people for how it will work
  • Don’t judge based on eye to eye contact or spelling
  • Offer line managers training so they understand the potential barriers for neurodivergent people
  • Address any problems early
  • Ask all new recruits how they work best as a matter of course
  • Allow for minor adjustments to lighting and sound in light of possible hypersensitivity to noise and bright lights
  • Get feedback on processes and any changes made
  • Consider a mentoring scheme and use ambassadors and champions who understand the issues.

*To order your free copy of the white paper, please click here.

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