Employee Accommodations for the NeurodiverseExplore the benefits of hiring qualified neurodiverse candidates

Person sits on the floor and hugs a service dog.

Can you believe there are twice as many job openings as people are looking for work? The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced in June 2022 that job openings totaled 10.7 million. But, of course, the 5.9 million people looking for work do not include the millions of people on the sideline and left uncounted — many of whom are neurodiverse.

 How can we get qualified neurodiverse candidates back into the workforce?

One is by employers being more transparent about offering accommodations. Many employers believe it is cost prohibitive and overwhelming administratively to provide accommodations to employees who are neurodiverse. A recent global research study by Charmine E. J. Härtel, Ph.D. Monash University Anna Krzeminska, Ph.D. Macquarie University Australia, on September 15, 2021, demonstrated the opposite[1]. They shared three critical findings.

  1. Accommodations asked for by both neurotypical and neurodiverse employees requested the same adjustments.
  2. Access to a job coach and customized job design was requested most by autistic employees.
  3. The most frequent accommodation for non-autistic employees was good ergonomics and job autonomy.

Getting people with a disability to work at the same percentage as those without a disability would close the gap and fill those 5 million positions. Let’s break this down further:

  • 15.1 million people of working age living with a disability.
  • 68% are not in the workforce
  • 29% are employed
  • 3% are unemployed.

So, if we had a fair and equitable situation between the disabled and the non-disabled, we could get 46% of the disabled back into the workforce to help close the employment gap.

Here is a recent situation illustrating the success of offering accommodation. During my coaching and mentoring of people who are neurodiverse, I typically refer them to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). This website provides a wealth of information but, most importantly, helps the candidate gain confidence in asking for the accommodations they need to do their best work. For example, one candidate recently had a very successful interview. The candidate took the advice and asked for the interview questions ahead of time. The recruiter provided the questions, and the candidate took the time needed to write down all her responses. It was her best interview yet, and she thinks they will offer her the job.

Hats off to the HR staff for providing these questions ahead of time. Doing so ensured the candidate was coming with their best self to the interview. Doing this one thing, providing interview questions ahead of time, cost the employer zero dollars and resulted in a successful experience for both the candidate and the employer.

It’s time to debunk the myth that employee accommodation costs are extreme.

Employees can make many low or zero-cost accommodations before, during and after the recruiting process that benefit both the candidate and the employer. For example, a 2020 survey report prepared by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy showed that 56% of workplace accommodations cost absolutely nothing to implement. The remaining ones typically cost just $500.

*Mentoring is often offered to neurotypical employees and should be extended to neurodiverse individuals as well. 

For those employees needing accommodation, is $500 not worth it for a good employee? For medium to large employers, this is a small price to pay for having a good employee who can do their job better. Small employers may find $500 a little much. However, they could get creative and offer accommodation if the employee stays for more than six months. So, we ask the question again, why aren’t employers offering accommodations for the neurodiverse community?

Here is an excellent example of how accommodations pay for themselves repeatedly. Let’s look at accommodations in the transportation, warehousing, manufacturing, leisure, and hospitality industries. In these jobs where employees are asked to do manual labor using machines and equipment, accommodations have an added benefit concerning safety. No employer wants to have accidents on site. In fact, they probably have safety metrics that prove having accommodations to improve safety and keep people safe on the job pays for itself over and over every year. Of course, the cost of not having a safe environment is that an employee gets injured or suffers from longer-term illnesses over long periods. The cost of not having accommodations could be 10 to 100 times the cost of providing the accommodation.

The benefits of hiring a diverse workforce are real.

The 2018 Accenture Disability Inclusion research report outlined six key areas of “inclusion incentives.”  Here are three impactful ones:

  • 28% higher revenue
  • twice the net income
  • 30% higher economic profit margins

One last pitch to employers – you could open up a new talent pool and get employees who can thrive at your organization with just a few adjustments to your interview process and reasonable accommodation. I refer you to Sam Farmer’s recent article in Autism Spectrum News. He has lived experience and designed a new framework for employers to lean into and start using. It’s called CAALE (collaboration, accommodation, acceptance and listening and empathy). It’s an easy way to teach your company how this whole process works and makes it more equitable for the neurodiverse employee. If you are an employer, you need to check out this framework. It will help you move into a more equitable hiring process for all people.

References:

[1] Nevala, N., Pehkonen, I., Koskela, I., Ruusuvuori, J., & Anttila, H. (2015). Workplace accommodation among persons with disabilities: a systematic review of its effectiveness and barriers or facilitators. Journal of occupational rehabilitation25(2), 432-448.

CNBC Labor Statistics Article

Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage

Autism Spectrum News

About the author:

Dan Middleton specializes in Clinical Excellence Strategy at Catalight. He is also a BetterUp Fellow Coach providing career and leadership coaching services, as well as a volunteer Career Coach at AASCEND.

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Part 5 of the series, “Finding a Lifetime of Employment on the Spectrum,” has dropped! In our latest edition, Catalight’s contributing editor and certified career coach, Dan Middleton, breaks down how investing in employee accommodations can benefit the neurodiverse community while also helping close the gap in today’s job market. hashtag#Catalight hashtag#neurodiversity hashtag#autism hashtag#employment