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Workplace neurodiversity is important to Gen Zers

Caroline Colvin (HR Dive)


Company diversity, equity and inclusion commitments aren’t just a concern of HR teams or socially-minded consumers. They’re a consideration of job candidates as well — particularly those hailing from Gen Z, according to data from networking platform Tallo. Of the more than 1,400 Gen Zers (that is, young adults born after 1996) surveyed for the July 2021 report, 99% of respondents said workplace DEI is important to them. Likewise, 87% of respondents said that it is "very important" to them. 

And yet 38% of respondents said they consider American workplaces to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Tallo found that accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities, especially people who identified as neurodivergent, were crucial factors in Gen Zers’ likelihood of applying for a job. 

For those unfamiliar with "neurodiversity," sociologist Judy Singer coined the term to encompass the diversity of human brains, including people with autism, ADHD and dyslexia.  Nick Walker, a critical autism researcher and an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, defines it as "the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species." 

About 1 in 5 respondents told Tallo they decided not to apply for a job because the company lacked resources for employees identifying as neurodivergent. Additionally, 80% of respondents said they’d be more likely to apply to a company who had materials for employees identifying as neurodivergent. 

Inclusion of neurodivergent workers is ‘a must-have’

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires most U.S. employers to provide accommodations for workers with disabilities, including intellectual ones. But basic ADA compliance may not cut it anymore.

As written in Tallo’s report, diversity and inclusion strategy is "a must-have, no longer a nice-to-have." Casey Welch, Tallo’s CEO, told HR Dive that employers should view Gen Zers’ stance on disability rights with optimism. 

"Understand that it’s a great opportunity," Welch said, adding that workplace education on neurodiversity is important. He also said that building a framework for neurodivergent new hires is a matter of ensuring their comfort. This can look like creating an employee resource group for workers with disabilities.

"More often than not, you'll find out that people will step up and say, ‘I would like to lead this group. I would like to participate in it.’ Because, odds are, they already went through similar challenges. They understand them, they can speak to them, and they have worked within this environment," Welch said.

"What better people to help represent the company and help steer it in the right direction than your own employees, who have done it?" he continued. "Let them be part of your solution. Don’t try to take it on, you know, all yourself."

A timely example comes in the form of Randstad’s disability resource group revolutionizing hybrid work at the company. In an interview with HR Dive, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Audra Jenkins explained how Randstad’s Abilities In Motion business resource group started a digital co-working space. "Some people were struggling with working from home, because they need to be able to see someone else in their space to focus as part of their disability," Jenkins said.

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