04/28/2023 | by Jeanne Arnold

Neurodiversity in the workplace is an important but often forgotten facet of diversity, equity, and inclusion. On April 27, Nareit hosted a panel discussion covering what neurodiversity means and the strategies companies can deploy to support neurodivergent conditions.

“More than 1 million individuals with autism will age into adulthood over the next 10 years,” says Marcia Scheiner, president and founder of Integrate Autism Employment Advisors. Normal recruitment processes often heavily weight social practices such as eye contact, smiling, and engaging conversations, which can be challenging for candidates on the spectrum, she notes.

Unconscious bias toward candidates’ social skills can lead to employers inadvertently weeding out autistic talent—and missing substantial benefits for their companies, work forces, and bottom lines, explained Scheiner. She used J.P. Morgan Chase as an example of an organization that has seen real benefits from hiring neurodivergent employees. “J.P. Morgan has the largest autism hiring program and their data shows that their autistic employees tend to be 140% more productive and 90% more accurate than neurotypical employees in the same job,” Scheiner says.

Tracy Powell-Rudy, vice president of corporate engagement at Integrate Autism Employment Advisors, discussed the company’s extensive and successful process for helping companies find, interview, and onboard neurodiverse candidates. Maria Adler, director of special projects at The Simons Foundation, and Sara D’Antuono, HR lead rotation associate at Prudential Financial, shared their experiences hiring, training, and managing neurodiverse candidates. Adler and D’Antuono also discussed the partnerships, platforms, and trainings they used to improve their recruitment efforts and internal processes, which included working with Integrate Autism Employment Advisors.

The panel, which was moderated by Matt Bechard, Nareit’s executive vice president of communications and industry affairs, closed out the conversation by discussing practices for supporting neurodiverse candidates, the range of careers in real estate and other industries that neurodivergent candidates may especially excel at, and the best advice the panelists could give to companies that are just thinking about starting a neurodiversity program.

“Ask the experts and work with a great organization,” Adler says.

D’Antuono advises to start with a pilot program or one small team in your company and build from there.