The list is long and impressive. Microsoft, IBM, Dell, SAP, Hewlett Packard, Google Cloud and Texthelp – and those are just a few of the heavy-hitting tech companies that have a robust neurodiversity awareness and hiring program. The term and the importance of its positive effects has risen rapidly over the last three or four years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The question is whether or not your team is ramping up neurodiversity hiring programs.

What is Neurodiversity?

So what exactly is the definition of neurodiversity? Unlike other types of diversity, it may be completely undetectable visually and even after casual observation. Specialisterne, a nonprofit organization that is a pioneer in the field of creating and helping companies implement hiring and management practices to help increase neurodiversity in the global workforce, defines neurodiversity as “the concept that there is diversity in how human brains are wired and work and that neurological differences should be valued in the same way we value any other human variation”.

It can include diagnosis such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Specialisterne has done much of its work in the area of autism, which has generated incredible results in the tech sector. Experts agree that soft skills or traits that the autistic population often has – such as attention to detail, prolonged concentration, lack of bias, systemic analysis and even unrepressed honesty, is a classic tool set for tech and cybersecurity jobs where the work may be very repetitive and detailed.

Companies who have implemented hiring programs centered around autistic individuals, evaluate the candidate to see if their condition is adaptable to the work environment, continue to train them on things such as interpersonal communications, and work with employees to help them understand how best to interact and manage an autistic workforce. Universities, such as the one I am employed at, are creating evaluation and curriculum courses focused on the neurodiverse in the tech and business sectors.

Unemployment Levels for the Neurodiverse

However, the struggle is real in that large majorities of autistic adults are still unemployed. As I wrote last week, some of that includes the AI based hiring processes, which often do not take into account conditions when they are evaluating data based on word matches and chat bot interviews. There are significant steps being taken in this area towards educating employers on avoiding biased AI employment screening, but that only will solve part of the problem. Neurodiverse candidates are an often untapped resource pool that the cleared industry is missing – especially when it comes to hiring those on the autism spectrum. While it is not disqualifying per se to have autism and carry a clearance, there are many challenges to the process the interviewee may struggle with, such as becoming frustrated with lengthy applications, acting uncomfortable during an interview, and trouble with polygraphs.

Impact of Neurodiversity in the Cleared Industry

There is progress being made in both the identification process and in government agencies willingness to hire interns who have autism in order to evaluate and understand how they work in cleared jobs. Israel has actually taken it one step farther this past year by implementing a program called “Tikadmu”, in which 500 soldiers with autism will be made part of the nations military. The soldiers are being put in some high security level positions dealing with intelligence because their unique talents have been recognized. It would be wise for the DoD and other government agencies here in the states to monitor the success and challenges of this endeavor and implement as well.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.