Updated with correction
A modified interview process, a quiet work space, changes to the physical office, such as a muted color palette or more natural lighting. These are just a few of the possible accommodations employers could make as they hire neurodivergent workers, said Johnny Timpson, North Berwick, Scotland-based supervisory board member and co-founder of GAIN, the Group for Autism, Insurance, Investment and Neurodiversity.
GAIN, a U.K.-based organization, works with its member corporations to help them become more inclusive toward neurodivergent people, and facilitates pathways for neurodivergent individuals to find jobs.
When it comes to the interview process, managers should give neurodivergent candidates an understanding of what the interview process will look like and what kinds of questions they will ask ahead of time, though "that's just good practice irrespective of who the person is," Mr. Timpson said.
GAIN estimates there are up to 73,000 neurodivergent individuals working in the insurance, investment, pensions and actuarial sectors of financial services industries in the U.K., according to Liselle Appleby, the group's marketing and communications lead and supervisory board member, who's based in Rugby, England.
Microsoft's neurodiversity hiring program offers candidates a four-day interview process where they get to know the hiring team, practice mock interviews and then proceed with a traditional interview, said Neil Barnett, Redmond, Wash.-based director of inclusive hiring and accessibility at Microsoft.
"It's just a more inclusive way (of) getting to know a candidate and really focusing on their skills," he added.
In addition to a modified interview process, employers can also focus on advertising their jobs in a way that's inclusive, as well as access their own network to reach the neurodivergent community, said Maria Hamdani, associate professor of management at the University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio, who studies neurodiversity in the workplace.
Modifications should start with the job description itself — for example, changing the font of text could make information more accessible to someone with dyslexia, or writing in a very clear way, free of ambiguity, will be more easily understood by a person with autism, said Ian Iceton, London-based senior human resources practitioner for the Diversity Project's Neurodiversity chapter. The Diversity Project is an initiative that champions a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive investment and savings industry in the U.K.
It may also be helpful to ask an open question in the application process, allowing an individual to tell the company about any adjustments that might make the interview environment more comfortable for them, Mr. Iceton said.
When it comes to the actual interview process, providing clear information on the location — down to distributing photographs of the building — can be helpful in calming what is a stressful situation, whether a person is neurodivergent or not, he added.
Another question for firms: Is an in-person interview actually necessary at all? For example, it may be more appropriate for an IT programmer to be asked to complete a task, rather than an interview.
Aspect Capital, a London-based systematic money manager with more than $9.5 billion in assets under management, approaches neurodiversity as part of its broader diversity, equity and inclusion program.
For the firm, "having a recruitment process or on-boarding process where candidates feel like they have to put their hand up to get the help and support they require might put great candidates off from applying, continuing in a process and ultimately accepting or staying in a role," said Flora Hudson-Evans, human resources director. "We try to be front-foot in engaging with people to make sure they have everything they might need to successfully negotiate the process and then stay with us once they are through the door," she said.
These considerations are necessary for companies to be truly inclusive. If neurodivergence affects around 15% of the U.K. population, "this isn't a minority thing — it's significant," Mr. Iceton said. The investment industry is, "surprisingly," a bit behind industries such as the legal profession, he added.
Both Ms. Hamdani and Mr. Barnett noted there are plenty of advocacy organizations — such as Disability: IN, which Mr. Barnett works with to lead their Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable — that employers can reach out to for help with creating more inclusive practices.
Seeking out neurodivergent candidates is "foundational for any company to do," Mr. Barnett said. "And I think these kinds of programs, these neurodiversity programs, are a great lighthouse for folks to see that there's a way to do that."
"The majority of folks that are neurodivergent in the workplace come through (a) traditional hiring process," noted Mr. Barnett, adding that companies don't have to have a dedicated program for neurodiversity.
However, for companies that do have a dedicated program, they are "able to identify best practices in these programs, and you find those red threads and you pull it back across the entire enterprise," he added, which could include job coaching or manager training.