How to recognise and promote a neurodiverse workforce

Date of webinar: 
14 Dec 2021 - 13:00

How do you ensure that you’re allowing everyone inside your organisation to progress in their career?

In this webinar, we heard from Evenbreak, a Co-chair of the Civil Service Neurodiversity Network and AbilityNet on how they are embracing neurodiversity - and helping everyone progress.

What did the webinar cover?

The webinar included:

  • A chat between Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak and Rosa Breen, Careers Coach for Evenbreak. 
  • Jane’s chat will be followed by a panel discussion between all of our speakers, exploring:
    • Perceived barriers to career progression and how to challenge them
    • The panel’s personal experiences and their top tips for progression
    • How employers can support inclusive career development
    • What are companies doing to support people with neurodiverse needs?
    • Differences between the private and public sector (Jess Gosling)

 

Meet the panellists

We heard from a fantastic panel of speakers with professional and lived experience of working with neurodiversity. The panel included:

Jane Hatton, CEO of Evenbreak

Jane, who became disabled in 2004, has a passion for intersectionality. She is CEO of the social enterprise, Evenbreak, which helps inclusive employers attract and retain more talented disabled candidates.

Jane ranked 7th on the Shaw Trust Power 100 list in 2019 and was formerly a recruitment expert in BBC’s Employable Me series. She is the author of A Dozen Brilliant Reasons to Employ Disabled People and A Dozen Great Ways to Recruit Disabled People.

Jess Gosling, UK Government

Jess is a Senior Policy Advisor within the UK Government and is one of the co-Chairs of the Civil Service Neurodiversity Network. With an eclectic 10+ years in various sectors and industries, Jess has consistently strived to bridge the gap between culture, diplomacy and innovation.

Being neurodiverse by three, one of her core drivers is to challenge the narrative of you can't be what you can't see.

This year she was one of the 100 Women Future Leaders 2020 & 2021, Yahoo Finance + Involve.

The Civil Service Neurodiversity Network is a volunteer-run staff network for UK Civil Servants. The network aims to challenge unconscious biases against neurodiversity, create a community and establish a safe space for discussions through informational resources, workshops and events.

 

Rina Wharton, Accessibility and Usability Consultant

As one of our accessibility consultants, Rina regularly runs audits and checks of clients’ websites and mobile applications.

She writes detailed reports on any issues she finds and offers recommendations on how to fix them. 

Rina is a person with autism and often speaks about her experiences studying and in the workplace. She is fresh from speaking at AbilityNet's TechShare Pro event, which is the UK's largest meet-up for accessibility professionals. 

 

Webinar FAQs

A recording, transcript and slide deck are now available. Q&As from the webinar are being answered, please find some answers by our panelists below.

You can find an archive of our webinars on our website and we also offer paid role-based accessibility training.

Find out more in our webinars FAQs and sign up to our next free webinar in our AbilityNet Live webinar series

 

Webinar Q&As

This webinar lasted 60 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the guest, please see below the questions and answers from our pannellists. You can find an archive of our webinars on our website and we also offer paid role-based accessibility training.

Q: Do people disclose that they are Neurodivergent in an interview? And address specific strengths and weaknesses?

Rina: I personally made the decision quite early on that I would disclose as I knew I didn’t want to work for a company that make judgements about me because of my diagnosis. This way, I knew that the company I was applying to really was open to being flexible and accommodating. It also gives me the opportunity to ask for adjustments that enable me to perform at my best and to highlight the strengths that result from my autism like attention to detail and hyperfocus.
On the contrary, one of my friends has dyslexia and hasn’t disclosed to their employer. It is a very personal thing and different people feel differently about this topic.

Rosa: Disclosure is optional and not compulsory. You can disclose or share at any point in your job search journey: application, interview, onboarding, or in the job at any point. You can also choose not to. You are protected by the Equalities Act of 2010. For more on disclosure/discussing/sharing please see the following Evenbreak webinar on How to Discuss Your Disability Positively and articles on discussing disability

Q: How do you come back from a rejection from a job?

Rina: I think the main thing I would recommend is to try and get some feedback. What did you do well in and where did the employer feel you were not so good at? 
This should help you to identify some points to work on. Whether that is looking for ways to improve your skills in that area or to adjust the way you answer that kind of question to highlight your skills or experience better. 
Remember, an interview is a 2-way process. Not only is it for the employer to decide if you are right for the role, but also for you to decide if the employer and role are right for you. 

Q: I didn't learn what neurodiversity was until last year, I didn't know I was neurodiverse (Dyslexic until my daughter was diagnosed when I was 40 years old and it explained so much about my life to that point). I'm still not diagnosed officially because of the cost of testing. How can we seek assistance/accommodations when we're in this position?

Rosa: There is a private and public option for neurodiverse diagnosis. 

  • Public option: Seek an initial referral from your GP. The waiting lists may be very long so know about Right To Choose (to circumvent waiting lists). It will be based on priority.
  • Private option: Expensive but quicker and best to seek a recommendation - specifically an expert in your neurodiversity. 

Although dyslexia is recognised under the Equality Act, unlike other disabilities, diagnosis is not funded by NHS. You can find a range support:

Please note there will be an Evenbreak webinar on Dyslexia available in the new year - if anyone wants a copy please reach out to rosab@evenbreak.co.uk

Q: As a mother of a son with Asperger’s about to enter the job market, what advice would you give neurodiverse job applicants for preparing for an interview? I am thinking of candidates who will be reluctant/unable to make eye contact and be "personable" within the interview setting.

Rina: As someone with ASD, I totally resonate with this point. This is part of the reason why I disclose as it means I can tell them why I may find it difficult to do things like eye contact and group interviews. 

If you don’t want to disclose that is perfectly fine, but you may want to consider having practice interviews to get used to the things that are expected at interviews. One of the ways I get around making eye contact is by looking at another part of the person’s face.
If you decide to disclose your ASD, some of the adjustments I have found useful in interviews are:

  • Asking for the questions in advance. This allows you to think about the question and process it in your own time. You can then make some notes of things you would like to bring up during the interview. However, be wary of making a script and reading from it in the interview. If you can’t or don’t want to get the questions ahead of time, consider asking for time to think about and process the questions and then to formulate your answer.
  • Asking for a quiet place to wait for your interview to start. This may help you to get into the right place mentally and reduce sensory overload, allowing you to perform better during the interview as your brain won’t have to deal with all the miscellaneous junk you get from busy environments.
  • Ask about having breaks during the interview. This may help you to re-focus when the topic changes. This is particularly useful when the interview has multiple sections. This can also help you to re-focus between questions so you can change what you are thinking about.
  • Be sure to negotiate any adjustments well in advance of the interview. This will help you to feel prepared and relieve anxiety around the interview process. 

If you decide not to disclose, you can still think about the following points to help reduce anxiety around the interview process:

  • Think about how you are going to travel to and from the interview if it is in person. This can help to reduce your anxiety around the process of getting there in the first place. If possible, consider making a practice journey at a similar time of day so you understand how busy it will be and can prepare for it.
  • When organising the interview, think about the time you are booking it. When in the day are you at your best? Will you have to travel? When will the journey be least busy if this can be challenging for you? Try to organise the interview at a time when you put the least pressure on yourself, this will help you to show your best self during the interview
  • If the interview is online, think about your environment. Try to remove distractions so you can focus on the interview. If you find being on camera difficult, consider asking if that is required. Do you have any sensory toys like fidget cubes, fidget spinners, squishy/stress balls that you find helpful? Do you find a certain light level helps you focus?
  • Try to formulate a plan of what is going to happen. You may be given an outline of the sections in the interview, this can help you to think about what you might say and when.

Remember that the interview is a 2-way process. Not only is it for the employer to decide if you are right for the role, but also for you to decide if the employer and role are right for you. Also remember to do some research around the role or company prior to the interview and try to think about some questions of your own to ask during the interview. 

Rosa: If you are open to sharing at the interview stage or just before the interview you can seek accommodations and also explain why eye contact may be challenging. Again this is optional. Refer to the Evenbreak webinar on How to Discuss Your Disability Positively and articles on discussing disability
There are reasonable adjustments tips specifically for those with Aspergers on the Job Accommodation Network website. Another great resource on how to prepare for interviews can be found on the Evenbreak website

Q: What can employers do to ensure that they don't "discount" an applicant because of them not appearing very "friendly" or "personable"? Because it does happen.

Rina: From my perspective as someone who can struggle to convey these qualities in stressful situations, such as interviews, I would recommend that interviewers remain open minded and focus on whether the interviewee has the skills and experience needed. 
Also, make it clear to applicants that you are open to and willing to make adjustments to the process to accommodate any needs they may have. This doesn’t just mean for people with disabilities but can be beneficial to everyone. This may make applicants more comfortable with disclosing.

Q: How can we get over the multiple hurdles of poor work history such as ill health (multiple disabilities), Neurodiversity and variable disabilities (e.g. Fatigue Illnesses which mean that someone may be able to do something in the morning but not do the same task in the afternoon)? Trying to prove you might have something to offer is extremely difficult. 

Rosa: I would suggest seeking accommodations such as;

  • Flexible working
  • Reduced hours
  • Hybrid or remote working
  • Proper rest breaks
  • Request to change or remove work tasks
  • Play to your strengths. 

Q: How much training do managers need to have in order to be able to understand the neurodiverse employees they have? Should that training be staggered e.g., initial, and then a refresher every six months or a year.

Rosa: 1. Engage with neurodiverse consultancy organizations/experts to help provide a tailored, impactful solution for all. 
2. Always co-design and create with your neurodiverse employees. 
3. Build a neurodiverse community within your organisation led by employees
 
A few great resources include: 

AbilityNet also offer workplace training to help you build a workplace that is inclusive by design and uses technology to enable all employees to perform at their best.