Firms urged to empower ‘nervous, fearful’ autistic talent

recruit2UK firms are being urged to redouble their efforts to embrace neurodiverse talent to help plug the digital skills gap, amid claims business are more likely to gain and sustain a competitive advantage across areas such as computational thinking, observation, adaptability and intuition.

So says the 2023 EqualTech report by Sparta Global, based on a survey of 500 senior and C-suite individuals working in organisations across almost every industry sector.

It has long been argued that neurodiverse people, especially those on the autism spectrum, can often thrive with problem solving tasks, data analysis, and projects that require high attention to detail.

The study maintains that neurodiverse people bring in-demand perspectives, but are simply not being supported and empowered across employment.

The research reveals that 83% of neurodivergent workers report feeling worried, nervous, and fearful about having conversations with their employer regarding their neurodiversity. Crucially, 59% of respondents feel that there isn’t enough support available in their organisations, and fear that disclosing their neurodiversity may have negative repercussions on their future within their companies.

Positively, 87% of digital leaders surveyed believe that neurodiversity will be a top priority for their companies in 2023 and 54% stated that Covid-19 accelerated conversations around commitment to neurodiversity.

In contradiction, the study also shows awareness has not equalled change. The report notes that just 21% of respondents work for businesses that tailor their recruitment practices to neurodivergent candidates. In turn, this means 79% of organisations have taken no steps to accommodate those with neurodiverse characteristics.

Neurodivergent employees are a demographic in evolution. Of those surveyed who identified as neurodivergent, only 26% were diagnosed during childhood, while 31% were diagnosed as adults. A further 15% told us that they are currently undergoing a diagnosis, while 28% are planning to seek an assessment in the future.

David Rai, CEO of Sparta Global, which specialises in emerging business and technology talent, said: “With the UK Government reporting that we could face a shortage of 900,000 skilled tech workers by next year, an empowered neurodiverse community presents perspectives and skills that could be transformative. Despite this, I was shocked to see how few businesses have practically adapted their hiring strategies to support neurodiverse applicants.

“I hope employers, educators, and those outside of our established network, can glean as much insight, knowledge, and practical advice from this report as I have.”

Back in 2019, the DMA unveiled its own scheme designed to attract more neurodiverse people into the marketing industry with the launch of an employment guide for businesses, which included best-practice advice and case studies.

DMA Talent: Autism Employer Guide was compiled using insights gleaned from the NHS, brands, employers and autistic employees who work in creative, data and marketing roles.

The publication followed the launch of a number of workshops run by Matthew Trerise, who since 2009 has worked in a specialised NHS diagnostic service to help develop its diagnostic programme and assist businesses with their training.

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