The quest for diversity is now recognised as being vital in Australian workplaces, but diversity has many aspects: gender, religion, sexuality, just for starters. But what about diversity in ways of thinking?
“Workplaces that overlook the value of neurodivergent job candidates miss out on increased opportunity for diversity of thought,” says Jason Laufer, global chief operating officer at WithYouWithMe. His organisation helps marginalised communities who are underemployed (including veterans, Indigenous Australians and the neurodiverse) by making technology jobs accessible through focusing on potential rather than previous job experience.
While tight labour markets are already encouraging businesses to look at untapped talent pools, when it comes to employment of neurodiverse employees, Australia has a lot of room for improvement.
“The neurodivergent population is grossly underrepresented when it comes to employment in Australia,” Laufer says. “The autistic population experiences a 31.6 per cent unemployment rate – three times the average for Australians with a disability and six times the average for Australians without a disability.”
WithYouWithMe utilises free aptitude testing for applicants to determine which digital career will be their best fit. After upskilling through free training, applicants are often placed with one of the organisation’s government or business partners.
Laufer says testing shows neurodivergent employees can add significant value to business, including for many in-demand tech roles.
“We recently undertook research that showed that neurodivergent Australians are 50 per cent more likely to match with a ‘translator’ type personality – the ability to both generate and execute ideas –than the average Australian,” Laufer says. “They also have a greater aptitude for learning new skills for career pathways in digital careers and more traditional roles.”
Jay Munro is one employee who has benefited from WithYouWithMe’s practice of using testing rather than resumes or experience to point applicants towards the right job. He’s now their VP of marketing.
“People don’t generally expect autistic people to be suited to creative roles, and given I am so process-driven, it’s a quality no one had identified in me before,” he says. “It is the first time I’ve been awarded a job on my own, rather than via a referral. This is because I was hired based on my test results rather than the traditional recruitment process.”
Munro believes autistic people can have trouble representing themselves well in traditional recruitment settings.
“I’ve been knocked back from countless jobs because I simply don’t know how to big myself up or speak to the qualities I possess, despite having a higher aptitude score than the general population,” he says.
It’s a situation Kati McMeikan knows well. She has long had trouble getting a job due to her neurodiversity, which includes obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and undiagnosed autism. For McMeikan, the issue of finding the right wording to make her resume or selection criteria look compelling is challenging.
“I have learned to be very charismatic, so if I interview I usually get the job but I just don’t get many interviews. Temp work and volunteering helps as once people see me doing my job I get permanency, because I’m very good,” McMeikan says.
Laufer believes there’s another benefit to aptitude and psychometric testing: it ensures people don’t become stereotypes.
“The concept of ‘intersectionality’ is often forgotten when we speak about diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” he says. “Individuals need to be seen for who they are – not for how they identify or which group they may fall into. Many of us will ‘fall into’ multiple classifications or groups and experience different things in life that make us unique.”