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Celebrating learning disability week

Written by: Helen Anderson is associate director, executive search at Tile Hill
Published on: 29 Jun 2023

In our standard daily practice as a Disability Committed employer, Tile Hill actively raises awareness of neurodiversity and promotes allyship for individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions. Last week we celebrated Learning Disability Week 2023 (19-25 June), which caused us to reflect on why, more than ever, it’s important to raise further awareness of learning disabilities, promote inclusion, and advocate for the rights and wellbeing of individuals with learning disabilities.

So, what exactly is neurodiversity? Neurodiversity is an umbrella term used to describe a diverse range of neurological differences that many people experience in life, which include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, Tourette’s, and several other conditions.

Today, many people who identify as neurodiverse may often feel as though their conditions are seen as disorders that will hold them back. Some communities may even view people with learning disabilities as individuals that require sympathy and, at times, can be inadvertently disrespectful and could cause upset. Whereas, in fact, it is important for us to act with empathy and instead recognise learning disabilities as natural variations of the brain that affect how many people process and retain information. In fact, 70-80% of disabilities are invisible, and it is believed that roughly 15-20% of people are neurodiverse.

We must celebrate these differences to truly promote inclusion. What is desperately needed in society is a paradigm shift in the way that neurodiverse individuals are perceived and for society to adopt a greater focus on the unique strengths and perspectives of those with diverse neurological profiles and how they can positively contribute to society.

Embracing neurodiversity involves creating an inclusive environment where the needs of individuals with learning difficulties are valued and accommodated. Organisations can greatly benefit from the diverse perspectives of neurodivergent employees. To ensure those with neurodiverse profiles feel comfortable and most confident in the workplace, it is important for organisations to be flexible and accommodate individuals’ needs. This might include, for example, offering flexible working arrangements, making reasonable adjustments to the working environment, and using clear communication techniques to encourage everyone to contribute effectively.

To promote inclusion in the workplace, it is also crucial to provide sufficient training for all staff on the importance of neurodiversity, including raising awareness of the range of different neurodiverse profiles and the associated strengths and challenges.

While many organisations have already begun to adjust their recruitment processes to support those with neurodiverse profiles, there is still so much more that can be done to create more inclusive practices. At Tile Hill, we are leading the way in creating more inclusive recruitment processes within the public sector and have defined several key practices to promote inclusion. These include:

  • Using clear and concise language in job advertisements to avoid any confusion or uncertainty
  • Prioritising essential requirements in job descriptions and person specifications ahead of qualifications or more desirable requirements
  • Providing information upfront about the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Offering alternative application methods to accommodate different communication styles. Allowing additional time for candidates to complete applications and extending deadlines for those that may need additional time
  • Offering alternative formats to in-person interviews, including virtual and telephone interviews, as well as giving extra time to allow candidates space to process their thoughts
  • Providing clear information in advance of interviews to inform candidates about what they should expect throughout the process to reduce any uncertainties, anxieties, or stress
  • Assessing candidates in other ways to explore their ability to perform job-related tasks rather than relying solely on traditional interview formats. Considering alternative assessment methods to showcase candidates’ skills and abilities, including practical tasks
  • Providing constructive feedback to all candidates, focusing on specific areas for improvement rather than making general statements
  • Giving written feedback to allow candidates to process and understand the points more effectively
  • Creating a culture of inclusion by promoting empathy, reducing bias, and avoiding stereotypes during the recruitment process
  • Providing insight to candidates on the type of questions they may be asked during interviews. This allows them to perform better during the process as they avoid feeling thrown off course or on the spot
  • Creating a safe and welcoming environment for candidates to feel comfortable enough to tell us they have learning disabilities so any needed adjustments can be made at every step of the recruitment process and not just at the application stage.

By championing the careers of neurodiverse individuals, we can tap into a much more diverse range of talent. When recruiting into our own organisation and when supporting our clients with their recruitment processes, we welcome different ideas, skills, and perspectives and recognise the benefits for individuals, clients, and our own business of hiring neurodiverse talent.

We take our role in recruiting senior leaders for the public sector very seriously and regularly challenge societal attitudes to promote inclusive practices, in turn creating a more supportive environment for individuals with learning disabilities. Tile Hill is proud to have fostered a culture that values diversity and provides equal opportunities for everyone, and we encourage all organisations to follow suit.

Helen Anderson is associate director, executive search at Tile Hill