How can we bridge the gap between job-seekers in this community and inclusion-minded organizations?
Although companies have expanded diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, neurodivergent candidates—despite their wide variety of skillsets—are often overlooked during the hiring process. Consequently, these individuals remain underemployed or unemployed. According to University of Connecticut’s Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is 30% to 40%, which is 3 times the rate for individuals with disabilities and 8 times the rate for individuals without disabilities.1 Because work is considered an integral part of self and positive mental outlook, this can be frustrating for patients and their clinicians.
To better support individuals in the neurodiverse community, and to bridge the gap between job-seekers and inclusion-minded companies, the Neurodiversity Career Connector (NDCC) was launched. This program consists of nearly 50 employers in the Neurodiversity at Work Employer Roundtable along with Disability:IN, a nonprofit organization of more than 400 corporations looking to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. The NDCC job portal features listings by US employers that seek applicants who are neurodivergent as a result of neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism, Asperger syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and/or Tourette syndrome.
The employers that participate understand and appreciate the unique benefits and challenges associated with neurodivergence. Only employers with a proven track record of hiring and retaining individuals who are neurodivergent can post on the portal. Microsoft, Dell, Ford and CAI are among the companies that understand the value neurodiversity brings to their company culture, innovation, and productivity.
CAI was one of the companies that helped launch the NDCC, because they understand that securing a job is an important part of a meaningful career and life for all individuals. They also have a program called CAI Neurodiverse Solutions to further support individuals who are neurodivergent and the companies interested in fostering neurodiversity.
To best support neurodivergent individuals, CAI’s neurodiversity employment program replaces the traditional interview process with a hands-on evaluation called the Talent Discovery Session, which is aimed at reducing anxiety and allowing individuals to demonstrate their skills and express themselves appropriately. The program also allows recruiters to assess each candidate’s capabilities, strengths, and support requirements.
Companies are encouraged to start small by employing 4 to 6 individuals who are neurodivergent to build a successful neurodiversity employment program. CAI Neurodiverse Solutions includes a robust support circle, job coach, and/or mentor to foster community. In addition, senior leaders, managers, recruiters, colleagues, and the candidate are to be trained and educated on the goals of the program, which also leads to employee retention.
The candidate success stories are compelling, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. For instance, a woman who worked various stressful jobs in retail is flourishing as a claims processor with a national dental insurance company. Another associate who struggled with job interviews now works for a large pharmaceutical company in a quality assurance testing position. His team lead describes him as reliable, reassuring, and calm under pressure.
Robert Archer, a full-time employee at a national leader in educational testing, experienced defeat before landing his current role. “It felt like these workplaces kept putting up barriers to my success,” Archer said. “I just could not seem to find an employer who would give me a chance at serious, long-term employment. I was in the mindset that I would never find gainful employment. It was disheartening, and I thought about quitting looking for work altogether.”
But once Archer discovered CAI Neurodiverse Solutions, the program helped him find a job that matched his skills at an employer with a supportive workplace environment. Today, he is grateful. “For so many years, I truly felt I would never gain a job—much less a career opportunity—that would allow me to become the person I am now,” Archer said. “A lot of companies are missing out on employing people like me. People who normally can’t find employment, but can do great things if they have the support they need.”
As a result of these programs, individuals in the neurodiverse community have learned to self-advocate and gained confidence, and they are building career mobility skills to support a successful career trajectory and, perhaps more importantly, increased independence. In addition, they are thriving in their roles and supporting the companies by driving innovation and enlivening teams.
CAI does not employ clinicians or diagnosticians; however, CAI is committed to helping neurodivergent individuals find long-lasting careers that bring forth a life of independence. If a patient or someone you know is looking for meaningful employment, encourage them to browse job openings with CAI on the Neurodiversity Career Connector.
Mr Pacilio is vice president of Neurodiverse Solutions at CAI. Pacilio himself is neurodivergent: He has been diagnosed with and overcomes the challenges of social anxiety disorder and depressive disorder.
1. The Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation. University of Connecticut. Accessed June 1, 2022. https://entrepreneurship.uconn.edu/neurodiversitycenter/#