Broaden Your Talent Pool and Your DEI Initiatives!

Article contributed by Patti D’Amaddio

A halting and very informative 2021 research article published by Emsi,, “The Demographic Drought” speaks to the perfect storm that is causing what they refer to as a Sansdemic (sans-without, demic-people)! This is a must-read article, but it will only reinforce and explain what every HR professional and leader already knows. “We cannot find talent!”

As we struggle with this talent shortage, we can consider numerous potential solutions: Talent management, growing and developing our own talent, technological changes, automation, outsourcing, and significant changes to our work culture, providing greater flexibility in work arrangements, phased retirement, job sharing, virtual and remote work arrangements, etc. 

One other very valuable contributing factor in our ability to attract and retain talent is organizational diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. McKinsey & Company’s 2020 article “Diversity wins, how inclusion matters” cites the result of their studies show diverse companies are more likely to outperform their peer companies.

DEI Initiatives have generally focused on ensuring a workplace that is representative, accepting, respectful and appreciative of differences and one that works to create a climate that values individuals and capitalizes on difference to enhance workplace climate and effectiveness. These initiatives have generally focused on demographic differentials in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability status. There is a growing area of DEI to be included in our efforts, that of Neurodiversity.

EARN (Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion) states, “Neurodiversity is defined by as, “the variation and differences in neurological structure and function that exist among human beings, especially when viewed as being normal and natural rather than pathological.”  Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that encompasses neurocognitive differences such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, intellectual disability and schizophrenia, as well as ‘normal’ neurocognitive functioning, or neurotypicality. Neurodivergent individuals are those whose brain functions differ from those who are neurologically typical, or neurotypical.”

Judith Singer, a sociologist who has autism, started using the term “neurodiversity” in the late 1990s. It refers to the concept that certain developmental disorders are normal variations in the brain, and people who have these features have certain strengths. For example, people with ADHD may have trouble with time management. However, they often show high levels of passion, drive, and creative thinking. Singer states, organizations will succeed when the focus is on what an individual is good at and can do well as opposed to what they may lack.

EARN suggests employers consider the following initiatives when developing HR structures in a way that supports neurodiversity.

Position Descriptions | employers should ensure job descriptions use inclusive language, making it clear that the organization welcomes neurodiversity. Consider video clips that describe and even show job responsibilities in addition to written job descriptions.

Interviewing | Conventional interviewing alone may not be the most effective single selection tool. Some employers have candidates complete cognitive skills assessments or participate in work trials to determine their qualifications. Then follow up with an in-person interview. Noisy, distracting environments can be uncomfortable for neurodiverse candidates with sensory needs. In fact, some companies invite candidates to visit their offices prior to beginning interviews or selection processes to help candidates familiarize themselves with the office setting.

As we consider that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites the US study results that 1 in 54 children, aged 8 have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, that 4%-6% of the U.S. population is diagnosed with ADHD, 5-10% of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with dyslexia, an organization’s ability to recruit, retain and successfully assimilate individuals with neurodiversity will be a winning talent strategy!

When you are ready to expand your DEI initiative to include a focus on neurodiversity, you will find a wealth of research and resources on the EARN website.  Including a link to a Neuro Diversity Inclusions Checklist for Organizational Success!