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‘Without the neurodivergent workforce, we’re going to miss a whole bunch of things’: Hiren Shukla on hiring neurodivergent workers

Hiren Shukla, Ernst & Young’s Neurodiversity Centers of Excellence, as well as Denise Brodey, a neurodiversity consultant and founder of Rebel Talent, join Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers, Sibile Marcellus, and Alexis Christoforous to discuss companies’ efforts to include more neurodivergent people, what they can do for businesses, and how they should advocate for themselves starting in the hiring process.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

KRISTIN MYERS: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with Denise Brodey, journalist and founder of Rebel Talent and author of "The Elephant in the Playroom," essays about special-needs families. We're also joined now by Hiren Shukla from Ernst & Young, one of the big four accounting firms.

Hiren, I want to start with you. Earlier in the show, we were listening to Kevin O'Leary, who essentially called for more positions at work that featured neurodivergent candidates. What is the business case here for hiring some of those neurodivergent candidates?

HIREN SHUKLA: Yeah. Thank you, first of all, for having me. The business case is really easy-- agility, resiliency, innovation. How are you going to see around the corner of not only today's issues, but tomorrow's? It's going to take high-performance team that's multidimensional. And without the neurodivergent workforce, frankly, we're going to miss a whole bunch of things.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Hi, Denise. I want to get your thoughts on something we heard Kevin O'Leary talk about earlier in the show. He talked about being dyslexic, but he said he never put it on a resume. He doesn't think people should lead with it during a job interview. I know you, yourself, have ADHD and are dyslexic, and I'm curious what you've done in your own career.

DENISE BRODEY: I took a leap of faith and said, I'm going to write about this, and I'm putting it all out there. And I was just very clear with myself, it's out there. I'm going to feel good about it, and I'm going to talk positively about it. So when you do those things, you can feel good about it, you feel comfortable asking for what you need to do your best work, then you're very successful. That's what I decided to do, and that's how I ended up really helping other people in my business to say, no, no, no, don't start as if you have, you know, some sort of issue. Start as though you have something really amazing, like we just heard, to offer the company. But that's, again, not for everyone.

KRISTIN MYERS: So Hiren, you know, you've laid out the pretty clear business case about why, really, managers, human resources, anyone in a hiring position really should be seeking out some of these neurodivergent candidates, but neurodiversity is largely invisible. And as Denise was mentioning, and even Kevin O'Leary mentioned earlier, not everyone is as comfortable being upfront about that, particularly during the hiring process. So how would you advise companies or hiring managers to really, in a way, screen for some of these candidates to ensure that they are increasing their neurodiversity among their employee ranks?

HIREN SHUKLA: You know, I think that the concept of psychological safety starts when you're actually posting for the job. Most job descriptions are the kitchen sink. And frankly, more divergent candidates will screen themselves out of things like that. So I think that being an authentic company that really wants to provide the psychological safety-- you know, we talk about diversity, inclusiveness. Belonging and equity, when you activate that and allow individuals to say, I'm comfortable raising my hand, being myself, I don't have to mask, I don't have to camouflage, that's when you're going to see innovation capacity that is beyond anything you could have ever expected. But I think it starts with job posting, and then it goes into the hiring process for which most behavioral-based interviews today in corporations don't work.

We're looking for people to build social rapport and to be witty and think on their feet where we're really looking for performance. How do you perform in certain areas? And so I think there's a real inflection point right now in the talent world, is if we don't expand the thinking around how you're going to create a positive environment for the candidate and then really see them through the lens in which they shine, I think that, unfortunately, most processes will, unfortunately, screen neurodivergent candidates out, versus allowing them in.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And Hiren, what advice do you give to people who are neurodiverse in the workplace? When and how should they disclose their differences?

HIREN SHUKLA: Yeah, what a fantastic question. I'm going to back up for a moment. So the term neurodiversity represents all thinking styles in the world, everybody. Neurodivergent individuals, who I think have been under a tremendous amount of stress trying to camouflage or mask themselves, I would say, for them-- and it's easy for me to say, as an ally. I know it's harder to do.

But I think for that candidate, the neurodivergent candidate to be successful, you want to be in an environment where a company is making explicit signals to you. They see you. They recognize. You they want you to be who you are, even if it's this spiky profile that many of our neurodivergent team members describe their thought process as. So I think it's important as much as possible to feel safe disclosing. And frankly, I would say, for those organizations that will look down or negatively if you're disclosing, I would say that's probably not an organization you want to work with in the first place.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, look, we're going to have to leave it there. But certainly an important discussion and I'm glad we got to tiptoe into it today. Hiren Shukla and Denise Brodey, thanks so much for being with us. For Sibile, Kristin, and myself, thanks for being with us today. That's our show for today.

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