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Six benefits of hiring neurodivergent talent for fintech companies and startups

My experience as a Recruiter and D/I Consultant in the fintech/banking sector has highlighted the need for a clearer understanding of Neurodivergent talent. This overlooked talent pool presents a valuable business opportunity that should not be ignored, offering a competitive advantage through embracing and nurturing neurodiversity.

Understanding the true value of neurodivergent talent in the fintech industry requires us to first explore and clarify the meaning of Neurodiversity.

What is Neurodiversity?

Nicole Baumer, MD, a child neurologist/neurodevelopmental disabilities specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, defines neurodiversity this way:

‘The word neurodiversity refers to the diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities.

 Around 15-20% of people are classified as neurodivergent due to differences in brain function and information processing. Neurodiversity encompasses neurotypical and neurodivergent conditions, with the latter covering a spectrum of disorders like dyslexia, anxiety, ADHD, and autism.

“Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will be best at any given moment?”Harvey Blume

Many corporate programs have primarily focused on supporting individuals with autism, but it is possible to expand their reach to include individuals with dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD, social anxiety disorders, and other similar conditions. Studies show that people with these disorders often possess exceptional abilities, with some conditions like autism and dyslexia even providing unique skills in areas like pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics.               

In a recent Harvard Business Review article titled Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage’, authors Robert D Austin and Gary A Postano highlight the increasing number of companies that have revamped their HR processes to tap into the talent of neurodiverse individuals. Notable companies such as SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, Willis Towers Watson, Ford, and EY have already embraced this approach.

Additionally, several others like Caterpillar, Dell Technologies, Deloitte, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS are either in the early stages or exploring the potential of neurodiversity programs. The article also mentions the extensive involvement of SAP, HPE, and Specialisterne, a Danish consulting company that pioneered these programs, as well as interactions with individuals from Microsoft, Willis Towers Watson, and EY.

An inclusive work culture brings numerous advantages, such as promoting diversity of thought, varied work approaches, innovation, and creativity. Studies indicate that teams comprising neurodivergent professionals in certain positions can achieve a 30% increase in productivity compared to teams without them. (Harvard Business Review) Additionally, integrating neurodivergent professionals fosters team morale, further enhancing overall performance.

Six benefits in hiring neurodivergent talent for fintech startups and companies

1)Pattern spotting

Workers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often possess a unique ability to concentrate for extended periods on intricate details and patterns, surpassing neurotypical individuals in repetitive tasks such as software quality assurance, image analysis, and cybersecurity. Their systematic thinking enables them to effortlessly identify patterns and establish connections, which contributes to their enhanced performance in pattern recognition and data analysis. These proficiencies are particularly valuable in the fields of “big data” and cybersecurity.

The Australian Defense Department has partnered with HPE to create a neurodiversity program in cybersecurity, following the successful initiatives at DHS. This program will leverage the exceptional pattern-detection skills of participants to analyze complex data sources like logs for any signs of intrusion or attack. By adopting assessment methods from the Israeli Defense Forces, the department has identified candidates with extraordinary abilities that surpass expectations. The IDF’s Special Intelligence Unit 9900, which comprises individuals on the autism spectrum, has demonstrated their unique talent in recognizing patterns that often go unnoticed by others. Neurodiversity Is a Competitive Advantage (hbr.org)

2) Increased productivity

JPMorgan’s research has consistently shown a significant boost in productivity, with an impressive increase of up to 140%. This is not an isolated incident, as the Neurodiversity program at Hewlett Packard Enterprise also reported a remarkable 30% increase in productivity among their testing teams. Additionally, SAP, a leading software company, saved a staggering $40 million by leveraging the unique talents of their neurodiverse employees to implement a technical solution. These examples highlight the undeniable benefits of embracing neurodiversity in the workforce.

In 2015, EY discovered the business potential of neurodiversity. They realized that by embracing neurodiversity, they could foster innovation, drive transformation, and create value, giving them a competitive edge in the talent market.

EY recognized the absence of a playbook for harnessing the potential of neurodiverse individuals as they established their neurodiverse CoE. Nevertheless, the outcomes have been extraordinary. Offices with neurodiverse CoEs have seen a rise in employee engagement scores and a greater sense of belonging among their workforce. Additionally, EY has witnessed a significant increase in the number of employees identifying themselves as neurodivergent, forming a community of 2,000 neurodivergent staff members who greatly contribute to the company’s achievements. EY: Neurodiversity is good for business | UNLEASH

3) Outside the box thinkers

Neurodivergent talent possess unique thinking patterns that are advantageous in the digital realm. Candidates with ADHD exhibit remarkable focus and problem-solving skills, while those on the autism spectrum demonstrate meticulousness and advanced analytical thinking abilities.

The innovative thinking of these individuals is crucial for advancing technology, creating intuitive interfaces, and solving intricate problems creatively. This creativity shines through revolutionary inventions, sophisticated code, and engaging user interactions. Moreover, they frequently push boundaries and, in conducive environments, can generate remarkably inventive solutions to difficult problems.

4) Product Design

Numerous individuals with neurodivergence exhibit remarkable creativity, showcasing their unique talent for innovative thinking. This skill is highly beneficial in advancing state-of-the-art technology, creating intuitive interfaces, and devising inventive solutions for intricate challenges. The innovative flair of these individuals is evident in revolutionary inventions, sophisticated code, and engaging user interactions.

5) Increases Employee retention and loyalty

Incorporating neurodiverse individuals into your team not only has a positive impact on your company’s financial performance but also fosters an inclusive and accepting atmosphere. This inclusivity plays a vital role in attracting and retaining talented individuals.

Neurodivergent individuals exhibit remarkable dedication and loyalty, showcasing their passion for their work through their meticulousness, innovative thinking, and unwavering commitment to excellence. When provided with supportive environments that embrace their unique needs and strengths, they thrive as highly committed and productive team members. The increased inclusivity and support in the tech industry in recent years have made it an appealing space for neurodivergent individuals to pursue their aspirations.

6) Expand your clientele

Contrary to stereotypes, Autistic individuals can exhibit deep empathy, as revealed by a study. This characteristic can be advantageous for fintech companies as it enables them to better understand their customer base and develop innovative and meaningful products and services.

Carlene Jackson, the CEO of Cloud9 Insight, a tech company, estimates that approximately 20-30% of her employees are neurodiverse, including individuals with Autism. Jackson emphasizes the value of having employees who think differently, highlighting the strong traits of focus and loyalty in Autistic individuals and the creative and out-of-the-box thinking of those with Dyslexia.

To enhance the recruitment and retention of neurodivergent individuals, fintech firms should collaborate with diversity experts and participate in neurodiversity-focused organizations within their workplace. This approach can help create a more inclusive and supportive environment for neurodiverse employees, fostering innovation and productivity within the company. To reap the rewards, many fintech businesses will need to adapt their hiring, decision-making, and professional growth strategies to encompass a more inclusive view of skills and abilities.

Embracing neurodiversity and fostering an inclusive work environment can unleash untapped potential and boost the overall performance of the fintech industry. By acknowledging the unique strengths of neurodivergent individuals, companies can cultivate stronger and more creative teams.

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