Supporting the Well-Being of Neurodiverse Employees

BY Wanly Chen | November 16, 2023

For neurodiverse adults, finding employment can be difficult. Unemployment runs at least as high as 30-40%, three times higher than that for people with disabilities and eight times higher than the rate for those without disabilities.

The statistic is staggering and can stem from stigma and unfavorable work conditions, says Louis Chesney, neurodiversity program manager at behavioral and mental health platform, RethinkCare.

“There’s this issue about the declining workforce, but there’s also an untapped reservoir of talent. So people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, are being edged out of the workforce because of this idea of engagement, which is disproportionately impacting neurodivergent individuals,” Chesney said. “The same people that can fill a huge gap in the talent pipeline are also not being supported in the workplace due to stigma, lack of compliance reduction and retention, inappropriate assessments and performance misalignment.”

In a recent From Day One webinar, Chesney joined moderator and journalist, Kelly Bourdet, to discuss neurodiversity and how leaders and fellow employees can work to make an inclusive workplace for all.

Neurodiverse adults can display special skills in pattern recognition, memory or mathematics, which can correlate to key skills in the workplace and higher productivity. These skills from neurodivergent employees can positively impact a company, says Chesney.

“A lot of companies are seeing the tangible benefits of enhanced productivity, improved retention rates, and a more skilled workforce from some of the current neurodiversity hire programs,” Chesney said. However, companies are struggling to implement fair practices and an inclusive work environment before neurodivergent candidates even join their teams.

Louis Chesney of RethinkCare was interviewed by journalist Kelly Bourdet during From Day One's recent webinar on supporting the well-being of neurodiverse employees (photo by From Day One)

“When we think about our screening processes, we may not consider that people are unable to answer open-ended questions effectively because they may not pick up on the nuanced meaning of what is really asked,” Chesney said. “Then there’s a relevant assessment where social communication or social interaction isn’t a deal breaker. For example, a data analyst person has excellent analytical capabilities, but is maybe a bit more introverted and does not exude overzealousness or enthusiasm in an interview.”

With pressure to be conversational and extroverted during an interview, neurodivergent candidates may feel like they are at a disadvantage. Researchers in the UK found 88% of neurodivergent candidates felt discouraged from applying for a job and 52% of those studied felt discriminated against by the hiring process.

By changing hiring practices to be more inclusive, neurodiverse candidates can have a more equitable chance as prospective candidates. Research suggests that accommodations such as sharing interview questions early or allowing for a virtual interview can help ease anxiety for neurodivergent candidates.

In a survey on workplace inclusivity, 64% of neurodivergent respondents believe their organization could be doing more to support neurodiversity in the workplace.

To start, leaders need to understand certain workplace communications and structures may impact a neurodivergent employee differently. Chesney points to meeting spaces, team activities and communication methods as a few examples of things that may need to be adjusted for neurodivergent employees.

Special accommodations, however, should not be seen as special privileges, Chesney said. Having this distinction made in the workplace can help ease neurodivergent employee stressors in asking for help.

“Other team members need to understand these accommodations are about equity,” Chesney said. “These accommodations are giving everyone an accurate, equitable chance to showcase their abilities when they’re given the tools and the training they need to do their job effectively.”

From having a safe space to ask for help and being accommodated, fellow leaders and co-workers need to create a space to listen and learn about their neurodiverse employees. Chesney points to Rethink’s specialized training that offers courses and audio sessions for employees to learn more about neurodiversity, but also emphasizes the importance of actively listening and engaging with neurodiverse community members.

“Engaging with diversity, equity, inclusion and talking to the people who are within the community can increase people’s empathy and understanding,” Chesney said. “Listen to employees and people within the community who are vocal and talk about issues around neurodivergence. Even if what they’re saying doesn’t align with your worldview, listening actively helps.”

Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, RethinkCare, for sponsoring this webinar. 

Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.


What a Five-Generation Workforce Means for You: The Myths and Realities

Nick, a senior manager in a global tech company based in Seattle, has worked with people of many different ages, both older and younger than him. His experience is increasingly typical in a workforce that spans five generations, a growing diversity of experience that provides the benefit of workers sharing wisdom across the ages, but also gives rise to problems like ageism–the bias against others based merely on their calendar age. Nick recently learned that one of his direct reports is notably older than Nick assumed. “At that moment, I realized that I had been thinking of him as less serious and more in need of guidance. I knew I had to examine my prejudices about age.”This is the first time in history that such a rich mixture of people from their teens to their 80s are at work. But the implications for business are still being sorted out. In 2020, a Deloitte white paper reported that 70% of executives surveyed believed a multigenerational workforce was important for their organizations, but only 10% felt ready to lead one and understood how it might affect operations.The widespread assumption has been that the generations are distinct enough in their affinities that they should be treated differently. In the Deloitte survey, more than half the respondents said they consider differences between the generations in designing operations and benefits But are these differences more perceived than real? Deloitte’s report cites the new concept of a “perennial” employee, or someone who transcends generational stereotypes.As the Deloitte survey explains: “Why is generation becoming less relevant as a way to understand the workforce? The starting point is that careers have become more dynamic and complex, loosening the historic correlation between age and career progression. Rapid technological and organizational change means that workers must now reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their working lives; at the same time, the broader business culture has shifted to make it acceptable, sometimes even desirable, to promote younger individuals into leadership positions. The upshot is that 65-year-old interns can today be found working side by side with 25-year-old managers, calling into question the assumption that age is a reasonable proxy for understanding people’s workplace challenges and needs.”A 2012 analysis of more than 20 studies supports this view, finding few generational differences in work-related variables like attitudes towards work or technology. Where they do exist, the differences can likely be attributed to variables other than age, like education level.Yet ageism persists. In this story, the first in a three-part series, we'll be looking at how employers can confront this challenge by adopting more age-inclusive practices. There’s good reason to do so, since lack of trust between generations can create unnecessary competition and resentment, to the detriment of working relationships. One experiment found that negative beliefs about older people and how they adapt to new technology led to poorer training of those people. Another survey found that hiring managers view younger workers as having more relevant education and experience and being a better cultural fit with organizations. On the other side is a view that goes as far back as Socrates: young people are flighty, have a poor work ethic, or require constant praise from above. Stephane P. Francioli, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the Wharton School of Management, has made a study of “youngism” and found that when asked about age-related abuse or discrimination, younger workers report higher rates than bias related to sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender, he says. Could this be because they see the workplace as wholly unfair? No, he says. If that were true, younger workers would also complain about issues of racism, sexism, or anti-LGBTQIA+ actions at higher levels than other age groups. They don’t. Heather Tinsley-Fix is a Senior Advisor at AARP where she helps employers support a multigenerational workforce (company photo)Pigeon-holing different groups can impair how teams work together, says Heather Tinsley-Fix, a senior advisor at AARP, whether it’s saying that older people are not flexible with new tech or younger people have no loyalty. “If someone was young and not tech savvy, they wouldn’t mention it, but if they are older, it gets attributed to age,” she said. “It's often just a knee-jerk reaction.”Abuse and discrimination can take many forms. Younger workers may be asked to run personal errands outside of their job description, or handle on-call hours at night because they don’t have children to take care of. They may be denied flexible work arrangements that parents of young children are given because a manager doesn’t think young, childless employees will work as hard at home without supervision, says Francioli.The problems that affect younger workers are often not addressed because they are not recognized legally, at least at the federal level. In the U.S., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers age discrimination in workers over 40, but can disregard other workers. Employers need to be careful not to encourage and reemphasize generational differences by organizing training according to age groups, like courses on how to manage millennials, helping older workers navigate technology, or how your Gen Z staff is different. “There is no scientific basis for any of this, it creates an us vs. them atmosphere, and encourages an in-group/out-group mentality,” Francioli said.One other consideration is how people can project age-related perceptions onto others. An older worker, for example, may believe coworkers think he is slow to adapt to new work methodologies, when they may not feel that way at all. In fact, one study found that what people believed about other generations was usually positive. The outlier was what people thought of younger generations, though young people believed others’ perceptions of them were far more negative than the reality.While putting stereotypes aside, there are still some age-related realities that employers should take into account. For example, companies can consider ergonomic factors when it comes to older workers, as well as developing support programs for staff members going through menopause. But assuming attitudinal characteristics of specific age groups and training workers based on those assumptions is often counterproductive.At the same time, the world is changing fast, so generations are experiencing factors like media and economic conditions in different ways, which shouldn’t be overlooked, says Corey Seemiller, Ph.D., a professor at Ohio’s Wright State University, and author of several books about Gen Z. Understanding those differences can be key to engaging with team members and the future success of your organization. She points to Gen Z, the social media generation, and their comfort with video as a form of communication. “Do you offer the opportunity for them to provide a video resume? Not all of them will, but some might prefer it,” she said.Many in Gen Z are uninterested in public accolades for their work; some actively dislike it, Seemiller says. Similarly, those from Gen X, often called the Latch-Key Generation, experienced a lot of freedom during their childhood and are often averse to micromanagement.Knowing what might discourage different generations and meeting them where they are doesn’t make you ageist. But if, for example, you note that older people who worked in an analog culture for most of their careers are having trouble adapting to a new tech platform and subsequently require special training for all people over 50, Seemiller says, that is when it becomes discriminatory. The best way to support the different needs of employees is to talk to them and treat them as individuals, advises Seemiller. Employers should find out what they want, what they need, and where there is room for improvement. Regular surveys are a good way to do this.  All of this can be highly nuanced, but for employers, it will be worth the effort. We are experiencing a great age shift in the workforce. The UN estimates more than a third of the population will be over 65 by 2050. In the U.S., one-fifth of the population will be over 65 by 2030. Better health, and better healthcare, as well as economic circumstances, have led to people working longer. At the same time, the birth rate is declining.Is your organization prepared for fewer younger workers and more older workers? How can you create a culture where ageism and prejudice against anyone, young or old, doesn’t gain a foothold? How can you harness the power of a multigenerational workforce? In part two of this series, we’ll provide actionable ideas and examples of programs that have helped other organizations successfully navigate changing demographics.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, AARP, for sponsoring this story, the first in a series on how employers can foster age inclusion in the workplace. Interested in assessing how you are doing with age inclusion–and learning more? Try AARP’s new tool, Age Inclusion 101. Just send an email to, with the subject line betatest.Lisa Jaffe is a freelance writer who lives in Seattle with her son and a very needy rescue dog named Ellie Bee. She enjoys reading, long walks on the beach, and trying to get better at ceramics. 

Lisa Jaffe | July 18, 2024

How to Attract, Screen, and Manage Your Talent in Today’s Hiring Landscape

Companies are more focused on retention and internal mobility than ever. From this focus, hiring talent externally has become more convoluted. The technical complexity of job boards generates a large pool of applicants who are not necessarily matched with the right jobs. So how can businesses optimize their search for qualified external talent within these talent pools? Heidi Barnett, the CEO of ApplicantPro, shared critical methods of optimizing the recruiting process during From Day One a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s June virtual conference.Knowing who you are as a business provides valuable information for sourcing. It’s imperative to clearly define who you are as a business, including your values, unique attributes, and what customers and employees love about it, says Barnett.ApplicantPro empowers businesses to streamline their hiring processes by posting jobs across multiple job boards, conducting thorough applicant screening, and offering guidance to hiring managers. One of ApplicantPro's key insights draws a parallel between job boards and search engines.Heidi Barnett, the CEO of ApplicantPro, led the thought leadership spotlight (company photo)By understanding that job boards prioritize higher visibility based on relevancy, businesses can develop more effective recruiting strategies, says Barnett. For example, job boards such as Indeed are optimized for the search of job seekers – not companies. To give job seekers the most results catered to their needs, Indeed provides visibility to newer jobs, jobs with more reviews, and higher click-through rates. “So their core focus is on candidates and candidate flow, not on companies that are posting jobs," she said.Reaching more applicants isn’t necessarily a disadvantage either. “What we’re going to want to do is cast the widest net: allow more people to see the jobs so they have interest. And then on the back end, we’re going to search for quality. And we're going to make sure that, not that we don’t have this huge influx coming in, but we’re focused on quality.”Barnett provided several job ad optimization strategies tailored to draw in the ideal talent from vast talent pools. First, include your salary. Otherwise Indeed creates an estimation that may not accurately represent your business. Next, close the job position if it hasn’t been filled within 21-30 days. Instead of reposting it, which will make Indeed block your traffic, rewrite its contents so that it will be recognized as a new job.Finally, prioritize the disposition of your candidates: by reviewing and engaging with your candidates, Indeed offers you more visibility and you get to screen candidates more efficiently. Barnett also advised businesses on what not to do, such as using redirect URLs in your ad that will take applicants away from your job post.Screening Tools to Identify Key TalentEffective screening tools can help identify top talent. Barnett recommends open-ended screening questions with multiple response options to gather comprehensive information from candidates. This approach allows a more thorough evaluation of applicants' skills, qualifications, and potential match for the organization.Candidate matching has also emerged as a valuable tool for businesses to identify and interview top talent quicker than before. AI-powered candidate matching tools assist in analyzing job screening questions, resumes, and years of experience. This newer technology streamlines recruiting, allowing businesses to make informed hiring decisions more quickly and efficiently.Pre-employment assessments also serve as a valuable tool for identifying candidates, says Barnett. These assessments provide additional insights into a candidate's alignment with the desired qualifications, offering a more comprehensive understanding of their suitability for the position. This allows organizations to make informed hiring decisions, increasing the likelihood of selecting qualified talent.Lastly, video interviews are a transparent method to gain insights into applicants' personalities and assess their potential suitability for your organization's culture and values.Using these strategies, businesses can effectively “make sure that you’re not only getting these positions filled, but navigating all of the different quality challenges,” she said.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, ApplicantPro, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight. Stephanie Reed is a freelance news, marketing, and content writer. Much of her work features small business owners throughout diverse industries. She is passionate about promoting small, ethical, and eco-conscious businesses.

Stephanie Reed | July 17, 2024

How Focusing on the Candidate Experience Helps You Hire Faster and Better

Today’s job seekers are sending out dozens of applications just to get to an interview, let alone an offer. Candidates don't want to waste unnecessary time where they don’t have to. “Speed is a cornerstone of hiring. And companies that have a streamlined and efficient application process can convert more job seekers into applicants,” said Naomi Bower, senior director of design at Lever, an Employ Solution.Most of those job seekers, around 78%, believe the application process should take 30 minutes or less, but still, that’s too long, says Bower, who led a thought leadership spotlight at From Day One’s June virtual conference. “Nearly one in 10 job seekers believe the application process should take less than five minutes,” she said. Bower spoke about what companies can do to focus on the candidate experience and speed up the process.More than a third, around 39%, of job seekers will abandon applying for a job if the application takes too long, Bower says. This  means that companies are missing out on recruiting potential talent. “Imagine you worked for a B2C company, and your sales team noticed that nearly 40% of customers were abandoning their carts in your E-commerce workflow. Wouldn’t your entire company drop what they're doing to rally around fixing that problem?”There are some simple fixes to streamlining the application process, says Bower. Making candidates type out information that’s already on their resume or taking steps that aren’t necessary are the most common frustrations for applicants. Other actions that will cause them to abandon the application process include having to join a talent network or creating a profile.Naomi Bower, the senior director of design at Lever, an Employ Solution, led the session (company photo)“If you’re on a hiring team, or a talent acquisition team, you can shift your perspective to one that also considers the time it takes a candidate to apply,” Bower said. “Just like you’d rally your team around reducing the time to hire, reducing the time to apply helps both your TA team and your candidates. So it’s a win win.”To more quickly get from start to finish in the application process, Bower says companies need to focus on design. “When we think about design in terms of how something works, we can see how the principles of good design are critically important to something like shaping the experience of applying for a job online. At the end of the day, design is about crafting something with intention.”To accomplish this, teams should focus on making the process simple, useful, and giving users control. To build out a UX that reduces friction and workflows, companies have to eliminate unnecessary and repetitive steps. Bower says you want to give candidates a good return on investment “by ensuring that [you’re] only asking them to complete the steps that add value for them.” This can be as simple as looking at an application process and taking out non-critical steps for candidates.However, there are times when adding friction to the application process can benefit both the company and the candidate in the long term. For example, if a role requires a specific license or certification, then having an extra step whereby they certify or upload that license or certification, saves every one time by weeding out candidates who aren’t certified to fill a role.There are several easy steps recruiting teams can make today with minimal effort to vastly improve candidates conversion rates. “The first one is to skip the registration requirement. Registration on a career site often comes with complex username and password requirements that create a barrier to moving forward.”The next step is enabling quick-apply options, like social, cloud, and mobile applications. “Allowing candidates to leverage their social profiles, like LinkedIn and Facebook, to apply for jobs is a recruiting best practice. Having the option for applicants to automatically populate relevant information from their social media profile is effective in converting career site visitors and applicants.”The same can be said for using Dropbox or Google Drive to populate relevant fields with cloud-based documents. “And employee data reveals that only about half of organizations offer candidates the option to apply with a cloud-based resume, which is a major deterrent for tech savvy candidates.”“If your application process isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re absolutely losing out on candidates. Indeed is considered the world’s largest job site and offers a game changing opportunity for companies to convert candidates into applicants by leveraging organic candidate traffic, specifically at a point of application conversion.”Bower points to some strategies to improve the candidate experience and positively impact candidate conversion. First, audit your own candidate's journey – put yourself in their shoes. Is it a process that you'd feel great about completing if you are a job seeker? Next, measure what matters to your organization and then optimize from the end of the candidate journey to the beginning. “And what I mean by this is to start with the end goal in mind of having job seekers complete the process and go from a site visitor to an applicant.”At the end of the day, though, it’s about the process, and the best way to understand that process, and how it can be improved, is to experience it yourself. “Something that you can do right now as a hiring team, is just review your application process. Go on to your career site, step through that process yourself. And just take a really critical lens to what the steps are,” Bower said.Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Lever, an Employ Solution, for sponsoring this thought leadership spotlight.Matthew Koehler is a freelance journalist and licensed real estate agent based in Washington, DC. His work has appeared in Greater Greater Washington, The Washington Post, The Southwester, and Walking Cinema, among others.

Matthew Koehler | July 16, 2024