How EY built neurodiversity into its teams and jumpstarted innovation
- Less than 16% of those with autism surveyed in the National Autism Indicators Report by Drexel University have full-time paid work, and 51% who did have work said their skills were higher than the job required — informing EY's initiative to create a more neurodiverse workplace and one way the company has sought to make differences a strength, a big focus of the 2018 Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) Annual Conference.
- EY's "Neurodiversity Center of Excellence," which has been running since 2016, required buy-in from company executives and a period of time for experimentation, in which EY piloted forms of sourcing and interviewing to best accommodate individuals with autism. A phone screening is followed by an online skills assessment, then a video interview and finally an invitation to attend a week-long "orientation, training and evaluation experience" EY calls a "SuperWeek." At the end of the SuperWeek (which is also used to help ensure the environment works for the potential applicants), the best performers are extended job offers.
- "A neurodiverse world is a better world," Jamell Mitchell, associate director of the Americas ASA program at EY, said during a session on neurodiversity at the conference. But part of building the program has required Mitchell and others to "get comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable," he told the crowd. The key is "not to jump to conclusions based on your assumptions — that’s the big thing," he said.
One of the big themes at DMEC was a focus on how "differences matter" and why employers have to put forth effort to embrace those differences to create a truly inclusive workplace. Building a neurodiverse workplace is but one way employers are working to overcome a key skills gap in their workforces and inspire innovation. Mitchell described a project in which their team of neurodiverse account support professionals created a solution to a problem the rest of his team didn't even know needed solving. After being tasked with contract completion, the team had instead built a tool that could complete contracts in record speeds; 90% of a set of 15 contracts were complete within five minutes, compared to the hour it took to complete each contract manually.
The neurodiversity COE consistently solves such problems, he added. The key is remembering that differences should be embraced and understood.
"We pick up on small cues, and if someone doesn’t present those cues, we assume they aren’t engaged," Mitchell said. "But what if the person who did not have good eye contact was exactly what you needed for your organization? What if someone who was a little fidgety in a chair came to your organization with a solution you never thought possible?"
Employers interested in following the same path need to keep a number of accommodations in mind, from the sourcing stage all the way to full employment. Avoiding jargon in hiring notices can go a long way in attracting this cohort, for example, Mitchell said — and in the long term, many of the changes tend to make managers better at their jobs overall.
“Accommodations we made for individuals for the spectrum actually helped the whole team,” Mitchell said. Being obvious about expectations and generally avoiding any and all assumptions brought new clarity to the organization.
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