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DaphnevanVliet
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Microsoft Partners can help neurodivergent people find meaningful work — while being themselves

January 2020 Microsoft colleague, Mark Wiertsema, posted a personal story ''Gaaf! - Andersbegaafd'' about his cousin as a reach out to his network. He was asking for attention for the talented neurodiverse community. I was intrigued and learned that neurodiverse people are often misunderstood while potentially being the perfect fit for tech savvy roles. Last year Microsoft started the Partner Pledge initiative in the Netherlands. I am honored to be together with Andreaa Mares part of this new industry movement to challenge each other on our promise and journey to use technology for good. So far, I have learned a lot from different experts like ITVitae, who educate, coach and support with inclusive career opportunities. With this blog I hope to share insights on why you as a tech company could consider welcoming more neurodiverse talent in your workforce!

 

The concept of neurodiversity emerged in the ‘90s as an inclusive movement that views neurological and developmental conditions as normal variations in cognitive traits that should be embraced as a part of human diversity. An estimated 15% to 20% of people around the world have a neurodivergent condition. Autism, the initial focus of many neurodiversity hiring programs, affects about 2% of American adults. The world of experience for neurodiverse people is different. To get a sense of understanding you can check out Jeffrey Meijer's excellent blog (Dutch) ''Een avondje Utrecht met mijn prikkelknipperlicht'' on his experience of having an exciting day out in Utrecht and how he experienced all the stimuli.

 

During these two years the world has changed. Diversity and inclusion have become a hot topic and working from home has created new opportunities. D&I has evolved from an activist topic to a political agenda with commercial advantages. I believe that a diverse workforce can only flourish through sincerity to care about humanity and curiosity about non-conformism. If you are sincere and you are willing to go the extra mile to evolve your workplace you can win big time as Neurodiversity has evolved to be a strong Competitive Advantage (hbr.org) The success stories of offering a compatible (hybrid) workplace in tech are inspiring. Microsoft for example set up a Neurodiversity Hiring Program to accommodate the needs and tap into new potential while setting the future employees up for success. 

 

It takes extra work to welcome neurodiverse talent. For example, consider using non-traditional, non-interview-based assessment and training processes, training their managers and co-workers, setting up a support system and tailoring methods for managing careers.

 

Microsoft Autism Hiring Program - YouTube

 

In my opinion the advantages outweigh the extra work from different points of perspective. Neurodiverse talent are differently able and can bring new insights that can help your business innovate. Another advantage is that it has been difficult to find talent while the neurodiverse community has been neglected as a pool of talent. One other advantage, which makes my heart beat a bit faster, is the gratitude that you can bring by offering a perspective to bring financial independence and with that the opportunity for more neurodiverse people to become a part of society from a perspective of their personal strengths and talents. Read the comments at the YouTube video shared above to read stories of gratitude from neurodiverse talent, their families and my colleagues expressing that these programs bring purpose to our day-to-day work.

 

If you are ready to learn more contact IT Vitae and check out the training paths and experiences on hiring graduates from their programs. Employers can also find resources for starting a hiring initiative through the Autism @ Work Playbook.

 

We would also love to hear about your journey, reach out to me if you want to learn more about the Microsoft Partner pledge and reach out to share your best practices about your inclusive workplace to the Microsoft Partner Pledge Community.

 
Partner Development Manager - Microsoft Netherlands
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