As businesses continue their drive to improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, the neurodiverse are often finding themselves underrepresented and underemployed in spite of their skills and talent, according to a joint report by Deloitte Canada and auticon Canada.
The report, “Embracing neurodiversity at work: How Canadians with autism can help employers close the talent gap,” surveyed 454 adults across Canada, uncovering barriers to employment faced by the autistic community, including a lack of flexible work policies and a focus on social competence during the interview process.
“The autistic community has so much to offer, and unfortunately, a lot of the potential of neurodiverse Canadians is either lost on employers, or goes untapped,” said Roland Labuhn, Partner, Digital & Analytics, Deloitte Canada in the report’s announcement. “From the hiring process to a clear lack of support systems for employees, the autistic community still faces significant barriers in finding meaningful work, and it’s important for employers to recognize that removing these obstacles will lead to a more inclusive workplace for all employees.”
Despite efforts to build awareness and understanding of neurodiversity, 55% of survey respondents indicated they felt a stigma associated with autism, 56% said they were treated differently once people learned of their autism, and a further 42% claimed they were the target of workplace discrimination. As companies around the world continue to experience unprecedented workforce shortages–in 2020, 48% of Canadian companies reported they were short-staffed–they will need to focus their efforts on educating recruiters, leaders, and staff to address biases and preconceived notions about autism.
Deloitte is not the only consultancy to bring a focus onto the needs of the neurodiverse workforce. In late 2021, Ernst & Young (EY) and ServiceNow expanded their ongoing partnership to include efforts to recruit and develop from under-represented communities, particularly neurodiverse people, to fill a variety of roles in ServiceNow’s development, analytics, and consultancy divisions. EY also established a Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence (NCoE) to train and leverage its own neurodiverse workforce.
By removing barriers to the recruitment and hiring of neurodiverse candidates and adjusting the working environment to accommodate the needs of all, companies that put in the effort to make their workplaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive stand to reap the benefits of a segment of the workforce whose unique talents and skills are currently being left underutilized.