How to attract people who see the world differently

If you want to unlock "creative superpowers" recruit neurodiverse people, says Direct Line's marketing director.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 03 Apr 2019

Management Today is yet to find a boss who doesn't say they passionately believe in the business benefits of diversity. How successful they’ve been sadly varies, but in any case the conversation almost always focuses on the importance of promoting, recruiting and retaining more women or ethnic minorities.

Both are clearly important, but all too often other aspects of diversity such as disability or neurodiversity go overlooked.

This is something that Mark Evans, marketing director for FTSE 100 insurer Direct Line, is trying to fix. His daughter Harriette was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of eight, which he says opened his eyes to the "creative superpowers" that people "whose brains are wired to see the world differently" can bring to a business.

A year and a half ago he became the lead sponsor for Direct Line's neurodiversity movement - covering among other things autistic spectrum disorders, and part of the group’s Diversity Network Agenda - and has been working to help the company become an inclusive employer.

It’s still very much a work in progress, but he shares some of the ways in which the company has started to make a difference.

Raise Awareness

"Before you can make any progress you have to start getting people comfortable with talking about neurodiversity and destigmatise the myths around what it really means.

"So over the past year we've had a raft of external and internal speakers talk about the challenges and benefits of being neurodiverse. We’ve also made neurodiversity a core strand within our overall diversity framework, making it visible within the conversations and culture of the organisation.

"It’s about changing hearts and minds and making neurodiversity part of the visible day to day conversation and culture of the business.

Support

"You can talk about neurodiversity all you want, but ultimately it doesn't mean anything if you don’t provide the right environment.

"This really centres around making reasonable adjustments and introducing assistive technologies. It’s generally understood why it’s important to make reasonable adjustments for people with physical disabilities, but it's no different for people who have other challenges as a result of the way that their brains are wired.

"We're actually in the process of rewriting the policies around this. A lot of this stuff is free or inexpensive but provides a really tangible lever to make the work environment better for people to operate and succeed.

Recruitment

"We’re now proactively recruiting neurodiverse people. This is the trickiest one because it is very hard to adapt large scale recruitment processes to make reasonable adjustments for individuals. We still have progress to make, but we have made a start.

"For example, we now work with a company called Auticon. They are a consulting firm that only recruits people on the autistic spectrum, on behalf of employers. They don't do CVs, they don't do interviews - instead they conduct skills tests to match people to specific roles. For us as an insurer this has been particularly helpful in the analytics space"


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Image credits: Jolygon/GettyImages

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