How AI can revolutionise work for neurodivergent employees

Neurodivergent employees sometimes need support in the workplace to conduct tasks others may find easy. We explore how artificial intelligence can be used to improve productivity and promote a more inclusive, fair, and equitable working environment for all.

5 mins read
Getty Images 1418033291

29 Sep, 2023

​Neurodivergent challenges in the workplace

Around 15% to 20% of the global population is thought to be neurodivergent, i.e., their thinking works differently to what society expects. This term refers to people with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette’s syndrome, or chronic mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Promoting neurodiversity and inclusion has proven business benefits, and it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide a workplace where the wellbeing of all employees is considered and accommodated.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but the needs of neurodivergent people might differ from those of neurotypical individuals and can often be overlooked. Tasks that seem easy to others may be a struggle for neurodivergent people. Conversely, their strengths might far surpass those of neurotypical people.

Challenges neurodivergent people face usually relate to communication and professional relationships. For example, people with ADHD can struggle to stay focused in meetings or take longer to process information. And people with dyslexia may struggle with written communication and could misunderstand instructions written in emails. There are also many people who are unable to communicate with spoken words, such as non-verbal autistic people, those who are physically mute, or deaf people who find it difficult to speak aloud.

AI as a reasonable adjustment

Just as you would add a ramp to your workplace for disabled people to allow equal access to a physical building, employers must also make reasonable adjustments for neurodivergent people to have an equal chance of navigating neurotypical workplaces.

Employers with outdated systems may not be utilising technology that could vastly improve their workforce’s productivity.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has developed a lot in recent years, to the point where it is all around us. Today, it exists on almost every new phone, computer, and TV. AI already in use in the workplace includes:

  • Facial recognition for security

  • Text-to-speech software in word processors and browsers

  • Dictation software and voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant

  • Scheduling assistants within most digital calendars and to-do lists

  • Automated workflows

  • ChatGPT and other chatbots

  • Automatic transcription, and closed caption creation

  • Google Lens automatic translation and image searching

For most people, AI is simply an extra convenience, but much of it is proving essential to people with certain disabilities or neurological differences to help them complete their work to a similar standard as neurotypical people – i.e., those whose minds work as society expects.

Most AI is free and easy to implement into workplace systems and just requires employers to unblock the technology or allow its installation for those who need it. It would also create a more inclusive standard working practice to normalise the use of such tech in all meetings and other forms of communication.

Normalising digital accessibility

Making it standard practice to use certain accessibility tools, like autogenerated closed captions on video communications, for example, is a small way to show consideration for those with invisible disabilities and neurological difference. They don’t take much effort but can have a hugely positive impact on individual employees.

Another way might be regularly recording meetings and allowing participants to access AI generated transcripts. Other tools that should be encouraged include text-to-speech AI software on webpages or on-screen text. This can also be useful for face-to-face communication between colleagues, where one person struggles to communicate aloud.

Normalising these processes could be a game changer for those who need them but feel uncomfortable asking, especially if they are the only one who needs the accommodation. Neurological difference is still not widely understood, and those in need of these adjustments won’t necessarily know they need them until they use them and see a positive difference.

Those who struggle with written communication can integrate software like Grammarly into their systems and use voice assistants to help them complete certain tasks. We use these tools every day, but some employers may not provide them on company computers. External websites and browser add-ons like these tend to be blocked for security reasons within companies, but employers should consider allowing accessibility, where possible, for those who need it.

The future of AI systems at work

AI is already revolutionising the workplace for those who need additional support to unlock their most productive selves, and ongoing technological developments will soon see AI further integrated into our everyday working lives.

There has been a huge buzz around the latest piece of AI, ChatGPT, a chatbot that uses machine learning and data from across the internet, to answer users’ questions as if it were a real person. Microsoft has recently bought Open AI, the platform that developed the technology, and has plans to introduce a new AI assistant, 'Copilot' which would integrate into all its existing products. Instead of writing code to command it to complete tasks, users will be able to make requests in plain English.

There will always be a need for professionals in any industry. All the way back to the printing press or the production line, professionals feared technology would make us redundant. However, the technology we have developed so far has only led humans to advance. It has removed the burden of monotonous tasks to allow us instead to take on more creative, innovative, and interesting work.

As Reed has found since implementing our digital workplace systems, promoting the use of technology such as AI into a business inspires greater productivity and morale among employees. Those with invisible disabilities and neurological differences will feel especially grateful to employers for creating a supportive and inclusive environment where using AI is encouraged and assistive technology is normalised and available to all who might need it.

To find a talented professional to join your company, or take the next step in your career, contact your nearest Reed office.

You may also be interested in...

Interviewer tips for conducting a perfect job interview
6 mins read

Interviewer tips for conducting a perfect job interview

What is a job interview?A job interview is a formal meeting between a job applicant and an employer to evaluate the applicant's suitability for a job role advertised by the employer. Interviews are commonly used for employee selection.Conducting a job interview is a crucial part of the recruitment process as it allows employers to gather information about the candidate's skills and prior experience, providing insights into their potential performance in the role.So, how can you conduct a seamless and professional interview process?Here are some top tips for interviewers to help you conduct the perfect interview:Familiarize yourself with the job descriptionBefore the interview begins, it's important to thoroughly understand the content of the job description and the associated roles and responsibilities.By reviewing the job description, you can formulate relevant questions and gain a clear understanding of the qualities you are seeking in a candidate.Define your expectationsWhile a well-written job description is a good starting point, it may not be sufficient for conducting a comprehensive interview. It is crucial for interviewers to have a thorough understanding of the desired qualities in a candidate.Consider the ideal behavior and characteristics of an employee in the role. As an interviewer, you should ask questions that assess the candidate's alignment with your expectations and determine if they are a good fit for your organization's culture.Creating a checklist of these expectations will facilitate the comparison of interviewees and simplify the decision-making process.Prepare relevant questionsPreparing a list of questions is essential for a successful job interview. The balance of question types is equally important.Include competency-based questions to assess the candidate's approach to the role. Use character-based questions to evaluate how well the candidate would fit within your team. Inquire about their career goals to gain insights into their motivations. Remember to ask open-ended questions that encourage the candidate to provide detailed responses rather than simple yes or no answers.By following these tips, you can conduct an effective job interview that helps you identify the most suitable candidate for the role.”Preparation is key: from greetings to the final question, make sure you have all bases covered.”Be Prepared Beyond the Job InterviewDo not underestimate the significance of small details during the job interview. It is important for the interviewee to feel comfortable enough to express their true personality.For instance, check the interview room. Is it private and comfortable? Do you have water available on the table? If the interview is being conducted remotely, ensure that your sound and camera are working properly and that your Wi-Fi connection is strong. Introducing candidates to your team members on the interview panel before the interview begins is a great way to observe how they interact with people, while also giving the interviewee an opportunity to learn more about your company.Practice Makes PerfectGoing over your questions and expectations with a colleague before the interview will boost your confidence.It is worth considering having a second team member join you in the interview to take notes. This will give you more time to focus on the interviewee and respond to their answers.Colleagues can provide valuable tips on how to conduct a job interview. They may also be interested in receiving your interview advice!Foster a ConversationA job interview can be an insightful and enjoyable experience for both the interviewer and the interviewee.Help the interviewee make the most of the session by putting them at ease from the beginning. Asking conversational questions will allow you to get to know the candidate better and encourage them to speak freely before moving on to more challenging interview questions.“Follow the 80-20 rule of interviewing: let the interviewee talk 80% of the time.”Listen moreAs the interviewer, your focus should be on your questions and guiding the job interview.Keep in mind that your goal is to learn about the candidate. A commonly recommended rule is to speak only 20% of the time and listen for 80% of the interview. While silence may feel uncomfortable, allow the interviewee time to think and answer your questions. Resist the temptation to break the silence yourself.Encourage the candidate to ask their own questions during the interview and at the end.Expect questions from intervieweesIn addition to encouraging questions from the interviewee, anticipate that they will come prepared with inquiries about various aspects, such as company culture, development opportunities, and career progression.Take this opportunity to provide additional information about the company that the interviewee may not have discovered during their research. This can include details about the working environment and how the business has been affected by the pandemic. It's important to give interviewees insight into the company's purpose and how the team operates effectively.Be aware of 'unconscious bias'As the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover. Your first impression of someone is formed in just seven seconds, driven by your unconscious brain.During a job interview, it's crucial to be mindful of this bias. Remind yourself not to make hasty decisions. Stick to your planned questions and use a standardized checklist to ensure every interviewee has a fair chance.Do not make promises you cannot fulfillIt is natural to want to present a positive image of the job and company, but be cautious not to misrepresent the role.The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development refers to this conversation as a "psychological contract." If the actual job differs from the expectations set during the interview, the psychological contract is broken, which may result in the new hire leaving.Conclude the interview appropriatelyInform the candidate when they can expect a response and how it will be delivered. Provide or confirm the contact information they should look out for, and ensure that the contact information you have for them is accurate.Before ending the interview, express gratitude for the candidate's time. This leaves a positive impression of the company and acknowledges that the candidate is also evaluating you. It is important to present the company in a favourable light.What happens after the interview?Conducting a job interview does not end when the interviewee leaves the room. Following up with the candidate after the interview is a crucial, yet often overlooked, step in the process.Put yourself in the candidate's position and consider their experience during the next steps. Inform them of when they can expect a decision and communicate any delays in the process. Failing to follow up can harm your reputation and lose potential prospects.Avoid making a final decision hastily during the interview itself. Take the time to evaluate the candidates' performance before informing every one of the outcomes. Additionally, be open to providing constructive feedback if requested by the interviewee.In this competitive market, it is essential that your interview process, whether conducted in person or online, is effective, keeps candidates engaged, and ultimately helps you secure top professionals.

Conduct the best video interview possible
2 mins read

Conduct the best video interview possible

Given the rise in remote and hybrid working, it is crucial for employers to understand how to effectively conduct video interviews, considering the differences compared to in-person meetings. This blog aims to assist you in making a positive first impression and successfully selecting the ideal candidate. Preparation Prior to the interview, find a quiet, well-lit, and tidy space without distractions. Remember that this individual could potentially be your next employee, so it's important to present a professional environment. Remove any items from view that you wouldn't want them to see. Dress appropriately, just as you would for an in-person interview, to help get into the right mindset, even if the candidate can't see your entire outfit. Have your questions prepared and gather all necessary materials for notetaking. Technology reliability First and foremost, ensure that you won't be disturbed during the interview by turning off notifications and email alerts. Test your tech setup beforehand, as you may need to adjust your microphone and camera settings. In case of technical issues or audio problems, make sure you have the candidate's contact number to continue the interview over the phone. If possible, use a headset to minimize feedback and facilitate smoother communication. Framing Position your webcam at eye level, so you are looking directly at the camera while speaking, rather than at the screen. Keep the camera at arm's length and sit in the center of the screen, facing forward. This setup creates the illusion of eye contact with the candidate. Tone and body language Since you are only visible through a screen, your body language cues will be limited. Make the candidate feel at ease by smiling throughout the interview and using a positive tone of voice. Avoid fidgeting, as it can be distracting for the candidate trying to answer your questions. Watch for red flags A video interview can reveal a lot about a candidate, even if their resume appears impressive. Pay attention to their eye contact and body language for any red flags, such as checking emails or multitasking while you are speaking. By following this advice, you should be able to efficiently select the best candidate in a short amount of time. If you require a quick hiring solution, please contact the closest office.​​

The exit interview: a must in the offboarding process
2 mins read

The exit interview: a must in the offboarding process

​A key milestone in the offboarding process, the exit interview provides the opportunity for employers to learn what has led an employee to leave an organisation.Employees are your greatest asset for driving organisational success – it is essential to learn from them.Exit interviews fulfil far more than simply gathering information:They are your best opportunity to gain valuable and honest insight into your team and organisationHelp reduce future turnover and save money associated with the hiring and training of new employeesProvide closure to both partiesDemonstrate empathy - you care what your employees thinkHighlight your dedication to adaptation and evolutionGive insight, helping to improveAllow you to advise of any restrictive covenants and legal policies - minimising the likelihood of any potential legal problemsAn employee can be a great advocate – word of mouth is the best reviewHow to conduct an exit interviewThe discussion itself needs an objective interviewer, meaning that an HR professional is better placed than a line manager to conduct the consultation.The face-to-face meeting should make the employee feel comfortable and open to providing honest feedback, so find out if they would prefer something less formal than a meeting in a conference room.Ensure you highlight how much you value their honest and constructive feedback and, when doing the interview itself, the leaver feels appreciated and that their observations will be heeded.Types of question to include in the exit interviewAsk departing employees open-ended questions, allowing them to fully explain their reasons for leaving and observations about the organisation. Include a mix of yes/no and rating scale questions to help you construct better data sets from the interview, while also allowing leavers space to explain the reasons for their answers.Questions should be the same across the organisation to both maintain consistency and also allow you to spot patterns and trends. Send the employee the questions ahead of time to indicate this is the interview structure you will be using. This gives them time to construct effective feedback.Include questions like:What prompted you to leave?What could you change about your current role to make it better?Did you have the right tools and resources to effectively do your job?Did you feel that your work was recognised and appreciated?Would you recommend working for us to a friend?