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Neurodiversity – the financial sector can do more

Neurodiversity - the financial sector can do more 1

By Ryan Graham, CTO at Texthelp

Historically, the finance sector has had a problem with a lack of representation.  Research shows female leadership roles in finance doubled since 2003 but the current level is still around 20%. Profitability is no longer the sole focus, and it’s encouraging to see a shift towards a culture that embraces inclusivity. Beyond gender, the financial sector needs to address other forms of diversity, with neurodiversity being an area that is overlooked.

It’s more than numbers

Failing to address Diversity and inclusion (D&I) will impact a brand, its reputation as well as talent acquisition. Inclusivity – particularly  neurodiversity – is front-of-mind in today’s workplace. But before addressing neurodiversity proactively, financial services companies must address any bias that exists.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, the business may have a reluctance to employ candidates with neurodiverse conditions. Negative stereotypes can drive these biases, and with neurodivergent employees, these perceptions are still heavily ingrained.

Diversity – in all its forms – brings huge benefits to a business. Neurodiverse teams will have a greater range of ideas, with neurodivergent individuals bringing unique perspectives and ways of approaching problems. While the financial services industry is making efforts to increase diversity in both gender and ethnicity, the value in embracing neurodiversity is still largely overlooked.

Cast a wider net

This leads us onto the question at hand: how can financial services adopt a more inclusive approach? The recruitment process is often the first point of contact a candidate will have with the business. As such, it is hugely important to make sure that they have a positive experience.

Job descriptions can present a barrier for all types of candidates – not just those that are neurodivergent. With the national reading age at nine-years old, complex words and long sentences can put off people who would be ideal for the role. Add to this the overly complex jargon that is associated with the financial sector and it’s easy to see why otherwise suitable candidates may avoid submitting an application.

When looking at an application, it’s important to think of how an outside hire may read the job spec. Terms and descriptions that may feel familiar to the hiring manager of a financial firm, may well be confusing and off-putting to potential candidates.

This should be considered not only in the description of the role but also in the necessary skills. Larger firms may default to including the same ‘required’ skills regardless of the role, and this can easily dissuade neurodivergent employees, who will see these skills and requirements as essential.

Connecting digitally

During the onboarding process, it’s important that these individuals feel welcome in the business. One in seven people has a  neurodiverse condition, which means that a significant portion of the workforce is made up of people with invisible disabilities. This can have a huge impact on their onboarding experience, especially in a world of hybrid working.

Neurodivergent employees may struggle if they are not in the office – whether they are working from home or in a different region altogether. As such, there should be appropriate systems or strategies in place to adequately support these employees. Given that people with neurodiverse conditions, like autism, were seven times more likely to be chronically lonely during lockdown, firms have a responsibility to maintain communication if their business continues to maintain a hybrid approach to work.

Staff should have access to online resources that help them to feel connected and included.  Simple things like an office group chat or weekly one-on-ones allow neurodivergent employees to feel supported, and it helps businesses to promote diversity within the workplace.

Improving the working experience for everyone

The financial services sector has had a poor track record when it comes to employee wellbeing. While other sectors are committing to improving the experience for staff, ignoring potentially neurodivergent employees will prove damaging to a company’s employer brand in the future.

As neurodiversities are often not immediately apparent, and many will discover their neurodivergence later on in life, companies need to establish effective strategies to create an inclusive and supportive company culture for all. Employers need to consider adapting their regular review and feedback process to suit different approaches to work. Staff with ADHD for example, may struggle with the started quarterly review meetings and so may need shorter term goals in order to succeed.

The financial services sector has a long way to go when it comes to improving diversity, in its broadest sense. Addressing neurodiversity should form a central part of that process – not only establishing an inclusive workplace but future-proofing customer and employer brand.

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