Creating a neurodiverse workforce can help bridge gaps in high turnover jobs, improve employee engagement and fill needs in the community, Salient CRGT’s Kay Curling said.
In an interview on Security Clearance Podcast, the chief human resources officer said Salient CRGT has seen several benefits of the initiative, which is an extension of the broader workplace diversity efforts that have been ongoing for decades.
“The neurodiverse employee is the type of employee whose brain is wired differently and therefore who thinks and processes information and communicates differently than our typical employee,” Curling said.
The idea of neurodiversity encompasses everyone but is often used to refer to include individuals on the autism spectrum, those with Down syndrome and a broad range of other individuals.
“From an employer’s perspective, we’re not trying to fix people,” Curling said. “We’re not trying to label them. We’re trying to find suitable work for them and help them cope and thrive. That’s what we want for all our employees.”
Salient CRGT has partnered with Rethink Benefits, a leader in training teachers and employers to work effectively with neurodiverse individuals. The company also has an active intern program with a local high school that funnels young students and, eventually, graduates, into jobs. Interns are accompanied by a job coach who usually leaves once the individual has mastered the job.
Curling said rethinking the hiring process has helped Salient CRGT find employees who otherwise might not make it past an interview. Some, for example, might not make eye contact or might avoid a handshake but can still perform the job well.
On the job, other accommodations may be needed depending on the situation. Some employees are more successful communicating through email or one-on-one than in group meetings, for example. Put in the effort to foster diversity, and it creates its own rewards, Curling said.
“We have a growing need to find talent, and some of the things that we do in the IT industry can be rather mundane or boring for folks, which creates high turnover,” Curling said. “One of the beauties of neurodiverse individuals is that something they understand and have an intense focus on … makes them really good at their jobs, and they’re also very happy to stay in that type of job for a long period of time.”
Other employees at Salient CRGT are noticing those individuals’ contributions and forming a more positive image of the company, she added.
“(Many) folks in this population we’re talking about are either unemployed or underemployed, but there are great opportunities if we will just open up our collective imaginations to employ them in meaningful work,” Curling said.
Listen to the full interview here.