Why neurodiversity is good for business



Kirsty Garshong Associate Director at data and analytics recruitment specialist Harnham discusses how her dyslexia and dyspraxia are seen as a benefit in the tech sector.

Why is it important to have a diverse tech team and workforce?

It’s vital to have a diverse tech team because it’s more than likely that the community you serve is diverse. If you are aiming to appeal to the biggest marketplaces and to reach the widest pool of people, then you need teams who can think like them and have similar experiences to them – and having a diverse tech team is only going to be able to enhance that.

This may sound like common sense but there can be significant consequences if this isn’t taken seriously.

For instance, one example is that of a security system that was tracking people authorised to go onto a construction site. The team that had developed the software in this instance were predominantly white males, and as a result, the software that they had developed detected only white workers, so anyone who was not of that skin colour, was not allowed entry despite having authorisation.

How do neurodiverse people add to the richness of a team? How do their ideas benefit the team and company? 

By providing valuable and different ways of thinking and learning, as well as diverse techniques as to how to deliver and approach processes. An example, as someone who has dyslexia and dyspraxia, reading an email does not work for my way of thinking, so I favour reading it out loud. Now what happens, as a result, is that it helps others in my team to hear and learn how their own email and tone sounds and amend it accordingly. Not only is this time-saving, but it could potentially give someone a new teaching technique – not to mention improve the quality of the content that they are writing and editing.

It’s easy to become blinkered into thinking that your approach is the only way. This narrows down how messages are communicated, accepted, and understood. A lot of the time people believe that they are communicating a very direct message but in fact, it isn’t necessarily being received clearly by the team, and that goes for those who are neurologically diverse or not.

Why should neurodiverse people believe in themselves and their talents and realise they are a value-add to businesses?

Because we offer a unique perspective, and without that, businesses are completely missing out on methods of learning, communicating and targeting.

So, to ignore that and to devalue yourself as somebody who is neurologically ‘challenged,’ a term previously used in discussions around neurodiversity, would be to suggest that a part of the population is not valuable, which is simply not the case.

“As a neurodiverse individual, you shouldn’t see yourself as a challenge – you are a benefit.”
— Kirsty Garshong, Associate Director, Harnham

What can be done to make sure that neurodiversity people aren’t put off by hiring processes?

This goes for diversity as a whole, but it’s crucial to keep n mind that interview processes are supposed to bring out the best in people. For employees, it’s vital to see a candidate’s talents and any areas of improvement to understand how to nurture them.

Hiring managers should be mindful of the language used in interviews for example. Understand that asking someone if they have learning difficulties or if they need extra support is not the framing that will bring out the best in that person. A lot of people do not want to be thought of as needing extra things, they want an already inclusive process.

So instead, questions could centre around asking how someone learns best or what equipment they might find helpful day to day, such as a dictaphone. These should be seen as helpful to anyone, rather than an ‘extra’ that can infer that person is a burden rather than an asset.

Outside of that, it pays to be flexible in your interview approach and to educate yourself on different neurological groups and what might help them.

Within data-related industries, in particular, steps should be taken in considering the suitability of the assessment. So, for example, in a technical test consider what is going to be the best setting for them to complete that test, or if the assessment involves reading reams of content, then you need to consider that it might take someone who has visual distress slightly longer or it could be helpful to give them options for the colour of the background behind the text.


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