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Employer case studies

We spent some time with organisations that have already implemented strategies to support neurodivergent people in the workplace.

These case studies are designed to give you insight and advice as well as show you how easy it is to get started.

Akari

Akari, who were named Global Microsoft Partner of the Year for Diversity and Inclusion in 2020, tell us about the measures they’ve taken to ensure neurodivergent people feel welcome in their business, and the tools they’ve created to help other employers do the same.

How have Akari helped neurodivergent employees?

A few years back, after attending a Microsoft Parentship event, we learned that only 11% of adults with autism were in full time paid employment. On top of that, a fifth of kids with autism were not finishing their education. We decided to create a new company focused on digital inclusion and accessibility, and so, Akari was born.

What happened next?

We developed three different products.

The first product we developed was a translation service which would allow users to translate documents at scale. Then, we created a virtual, AI-powered chatbot for Microsoft Teams called AVA (Akari Virtual Assistant) that allows employees to gain answers quickly within productivity tools in Microsoft.


When we won Microsoft Partner of the Year for Diversity & Inclusion Changemaker 2020 we decided to give something back, which led to the creation of ADI (Akari Diversity and Inclusion). ADI is our free conversational app which fully integrates into Microsoft Teams once installed. It’s a knowledge bank app designed to answer questions within Microsoft about accessibility, diversity and wellbeing in the workplace and learning environments. It’s useful for neurodivergent people because it allows people time to ask questions at their own pace, using language they are comfortable with within the chat interface.

Additionally, we run a dedicated school programme called Bright Spark where we increase exposure of technology role models, encourage collaboration through technology and promote the use of Microsoft tech tools and resources – with a particular focus on neurodivergent students.

Bearing in mind all these great products, I assume you must really practice what you preach at Akari?

Our ethos is embedded in all areas of Akari’s work and is regularly audited. Our recruitment, employment standards and Professional Code of Conduct all promote inclusion and accessibility.

We’ve worked to develop an inclusive recruitment framework and create an environment that levels out the field for every player. This is an end-to-end process — from the initial application to the signing of an employment contract.

We also believe that employees should have a voice, and this is a fundamental part of our induction procedure. Upon joining, new employees are given access to ADI and training surrounding the accessible features within the Microsoft suite they will be using.

What are the benefits of bringing neurodiverse individuals to your business?

It’s so refreshing and helpful to see the different skills and perspectives people can bring to the organisation. It’s a joy to see individuals – often ones that, otherwise, would not have been given the opportunities they deserve – reaching their full potential. By not excluding any talent we ensure we get the best people for the jobs.

What advice would you give other employers regarding employing neurodiverse people?

Do it. You will never look back – but be prepared to adjust. Make sure your entire organisation knows exactly what you are doing and why. Make sure you have the necessary tools in place for everyone. Change your recruitment process from end to end, ensure you are as inclusive as you can be. You will find it’s worth it. You’ll get exceptionally talented people coming to your business that you may have missed out on before making adaptations.

Auticon

auticon: Supporting autistic IT consultants in rewarding employment

Drawing on the experience of over 200 IT professionals, auticon talk to us about the ways we can incorporate the neurodivergent perspective in all that we do.

Present Pal

Chris Hughes set up Present Pal, the world’s first and only accessible presentation support app, after struggling at University with his dyslexia. The app allows you to create flashcards, notes and safety nets to help lower presentation anxiety, which is an issue facing a lot of neurodivergent people.

As a company formed and built on accessibility, Chris and Present Pal do all they can to make those with disabilities feel welcome and comfortable in the workplace.

“We are a Disability Confident employer, and we aspire to be a Disability Confident leader,” enthused Chris. “We have everything in place to achieve that but, because of the pandemic, the assessors can’t do office visits to compete the audit.”

He stresses that, while you don’t have to go down the Disability Confident route, it is best practice.
“Creating universal acceptance of all disabilities, visible or otherwise, where everyone can flourish, makes perfect business sense,” said Chris.

“But if you don’t have the resources to do it formally, just be more aware, more sensitive and use your common sense. Read up about the different disabilities and, instead of seeing them as challenges, see them for the opportunity they really are.”

The Present Pal founder goes on to a cite a perfect example of being more aware. “Most people would hesitate to put someone with dyslexia into a marketing department because they have issues with reading and writing - but dyslexics are also super creative. They could come up with some great content and ideas that other people would never even think about. That person will look at things in a different way leading to unique marketing solutions.”

He also said that it’s not as difficult as you might think to accommodate neurodivergent individuals. “Simple, common-sense things like early-stage chats instead of relying on a CV or sending questions in advance of an interview to allow preparation time can help a neurodiverse candidate feel more confident and comfortable – even at the job applications stage.”
He concluded: “Little changes can make a big difference to the world of a neurodivergent individual.”

ScotGov

The Digital, Data and Technology Profession Team in Scottish Government tell us how they made their recruitment process for digital roles more inclusive for neurodiverse people.

Can you provide us with some background of this project?

Last Summer, we completed a review of our recruitment and selection process for digital roles to make them more accessible for people with neurodiverse conditions. For this project, we worked with auticon, a consulting and advisory business who exclusively employ digital professionals on the autism spectrum. They conducted a full audit on our processes to increase inclusion.

Find more information provided on this blog.

What were the changes you implemented?

Our approach is one size does not fit all. What some people see as an adjustment is not necessarily what others with the same condition may need. We tried to focus on how we, as an organisation, can treat disclosure with the attention and confidentiality that it needs. A lot of it involves talking more openly and more often about it, making sure people are aware of the adjustments we can make to help those that want help.

We equip our recruiting managers so they have the confidence to carry out discussions like this, keeping the focus on supporting candidates and reducing barriers they might face.

We also updated our Inclusion Guide. auticon gave us recommendations for each recruitment stage, and we built those changes into our processes, communications and guide. In total there were 120 recommendations, from grammar changes to office layouts. It’s been useful; the guide now helps people know exactly what to do when placing a job advert, conducting a telephone interview or setting up for in-person interviews with any type of candidate.

Please contact DDaT@gov.scot to request a copy of the inclusion guide.

Have you seen any benefits to you as an employer?

We have seen increasing engagement from our workforce on neurodiversity. auticon provided an ‘Introduction to Neurodiversity’ course and we delivered that to our workforce. People have become more comfortable talking about neurodiversity, have clarity on the adjustments we’ve made to our processes and, in turn, more people now participate in these processes and changes. The Scottish Government need to be the ones driving change like this, and in turn, we can encourage and help other organisations to do the same thing.

What advice would you give to other employers?

Don’t assume you know everything. Involve people that have the experience. Design with users, not for them, and really spend the time understanding the problems you need to fix to help neurodiverse people.

For more about neurodiversity and reaching the talent you need for your tech business see Neurodivergence in digital tech careers.