Why Companies Should Seek Neurodiverse Talent

Businesses are always looking for ways to strengthen and diversify their workforce. When people think about diversity, their minds often jump to gender and race as key diversity factors, but recent trends show businesses are beginning to embrace people with disabilities as a group to consider as a competitive advantage.

Within the talent pool of people with disabilities is a pool of individuals who are considered “neurodiverse.”  Neurodiverse employees can include those labeled with Dyspraxia, Dyselxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum and Tourette Syndrome — disabilities that are usually considered “hidden disabilities,” which comprise 80% of disabilities.

Tangram Business Resourcing (TBR) is dedicated to disability inclusion and has highlighted several key reasons why companies should be actively recruiting neurodiverse talent on staff:

1. Access the largest (and highly qualified) minority group in the US. People with disabilities represent the largest minority in the US, with one of every five people in the country living with a disability, according to the US Department of Labor. The incidence of autism in the US is now 1 in 42 among boys and 1 in 189 among girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, people with disabilities have a higher unemployment rate compared with people without disabilities. In fact, in November 2017, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 8.5% and the rate for people without disabilities was 3.7%. A report by Drexel University found that 58% of adults in their early 20s with autism are unemployed and 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed.

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Educational achievement between the two groups is much closer than one would think given the previously presented data. People with disabilities are often extremely qualified for the job, as shown in the information below from the United States Department of Labor.

Individuals with disabilities:

  • Nearly 80% had graduated from high school.
  • 5% had a college or associate’s degree.
  • 4% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Individuals without disabilities:

  • 90% had graduated from high school.
  • 8% had a college or associate’s degree.
  • 6% had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

2. Add desirable skills sets to your team. People who are neurodiverse can also bring unique opportunities to employers through each person’s specific set of skills and different perspectives. For example, people with autism are very detail-oriented, with high levels of concentration, reliability and technical ability, according to a Forbes article. Those with dyslexia are often strong in spatial intelligence, and many are 3-D, holistic thinkers with an aptitude for mechanical problem-solving. People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are hyper-focused, creative, inventive, spontaneous and energetic. These qualities might be of great value to an organization.

3. Improve your bottom line. Businesses who hire people with disabilities experience many bottom-line benefits, including decreased turnover and absenteeism and improved productivity, safety, overall morale and corporate culture. A study conducted by DePaul University found that people with disabilities stayed on the job longer than people without disabilities, and that the performance between the two groups was nearly identical: evaluations showed that people with and without disabilities both fall between “Meets Expectations” and “Exceeds Expectations.” Furthermore, businesses may qualify to receive tax credits or other financial incentives when they hire individuals with disabilities, not to mention that federal contractors can fulfill their hiring goals by actively recruiting from this talent pool.

4. Make a commitment to greater corporate social responsibility and access new markets. A number of businesses show their support for social causes through volunteerism, grant funding or advocacy, but why not take that responsibility to the next level? Achieve social responsibility in every aspect of the business, including internal operations. Hiring people with disabilities shows a company’s commitment to inclusion and having a workforce that reflects the diversity of real-life consumers. Individuals with disabilities and their families represent a $200+ billion market opportunity. Showing a commitment to inclusion can translate to a new customer base and increased brand loyalty for your business. So, corporate social responsibility isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also good for business!

Making people with disabilities a part of your working team will not only achieve better bottom-line benefits for your business, but it will also improve overall company culture and lead to positive PR outcomes for your company. Recruiting a diverse workforce will ultimately improve your workplace and expand your staff in a way that benefits your business as a whole.


Kathy Bernhardt
Kathy Bernhardt is managing director of Tangram Business Resourcing. which is dedicated to disability inclusion. She can be reached at KBernhardt (at) TheTangramWay (dot) org.

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