Diversify & Strengthen your Workforce with Neurodiverse Talent
In a recent town hall, Cait Russel, OTD, OTR/L, Director of the Neurodiversity Employment Network of Philadelphia and Shawn Garrison, Chief Operating Officer of New Way Air Bearings discussed how to diversify and strengthen your workforce with Neurodiverse talent.
What is Neurodiversity?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, Neurodiversity is “the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.”
Neurodivergent Identities Include:
Neurodiversity Employment Network: Philadelphia Mission
Their mission is to connect employers, academics, providers, vendors, job seekers, and other allies in the Greater Philadelphia region to enable neurodivergent individuals to gain meaningful employment. The company does this through convening and collaborating, rather than consulting.
Employers are Embracing Neurodiversity for Several Reasons
- Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
- Business benefits
- Key talent & leadership that may have been missed before due to biases
According to Russel, many companies in the greater Philadelphia area and beyond have implemented these practices, regardless of industry.
Leaning into Inclusion with New Way Air Bearings
Shawn Garrison, COO of New Way Air Bearings, an MEA Member, shares his experience with hiring Neurodivergent Talent. 10 years ago, he was asked to interview students from local high schools and help transition them from the day to day life of a student to the workforce. Many of the students he interviewed where Neurodivergent individuals.
According to Garrison, he taught 30-40 students how to interview, make eye contact, and deal with the challenges and fear associated with sitting in front of an employer.
This day inspired Garrison to get New Way Air Bearings involved with the program and began hiring Neurodivergent Talent.
How is New Way Air Bearings involved with the program today?
Currently, the company is actively hiring Neurodiverse individuals. They currently have 10 Neurodivergent employees, typically hiring 2 new hires every 6 months. This gives the company enough time to onboard them and make sure that they are comfortable in their roles.
What Types of Roles Do Neurodivergent Employees Have?
There is a misconception that neurodivergent individuals can only handle entry level jobs. Many employers believe that they need to make-stressful remedial jobs for them. However, Garrison explains that they have found the opposite. Many Neurodiverse people excel beyond the basic skillset. Because of this, they are not all doing one job, they are working on jobs unique to their skillset.
How Did They Get Started?
New Way Air Bearings began by hiring one individual. The new hire quickly picked up everything that he was given and after two years, they hired another Neurodiverse individual.
The company also implemented a buddy system to help onboard the new Neurodiverse hires. It gave these new employees a trusted friend to help make the transition easier and establish a safe and comfortable work environment. This program proved to be so successful that New Way Air Bearings decided to implement the buddy system for all new hires.
What Have They Learned?
Although this process may seem taunting, it can be made easy. Garrison explains that Neurodiverse hires work with a Life Coach for the first 60-90 days of employment. Communicating with their life coaches and parents will help to better understand your hires, their stressors, and triggers.
In conclusion, Garrison is thrilled with the program. They have learned a lot and it has been a very rewarding experience for everyone involved – company, school districts, parents, employees, etc.