Whether you favour baby boomers or millennials when it comes to recruiting, most employers feel some pressure to revolutionise their workplace as new generations seep into the workforce. Today, ‘normal’ is at least three generations bundled together and working cooperatively, making for a truly diverse workplace.
The tricky part is not falling back on our perception of stereotypes, when it’s time to recruit again, in how we perceive and subconsciously categorise applicants. Maybe we make judgments without realising it about ear piercing or age, education or lack thereof. Even worse, our shutters come down when we see the ‘wrong’ suburb on a resume, or hear an accent different from our own.
Giving credence to stereotypes and our expectations of them can be damaging, in that it can set unfavourable limits to a small business’s growth capacity.
At #HR, we applaud leaders who look beyond stigmas and don’t mind breaking the mould to recruit on merit. Best practice is to create a culture of diverse minds, where employees engage with each other not because they are all the same, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.
In such a culture, looking different has little to do with a person’s smarts.
Brett Davies, a computer design technician from County Durham in the UK, was the victim of just such misconceptions. After being turned down for hundreds of jobs, his hidden genius for all things visual finally landed him a two-week trial at Peacocks Medical Group. Coincidentally, the BBC was filming a documentary series featuring Davies at the time. They recorded his journey, in securing the trial position, and then landing his dream job – by solving a technical problem that had defeated every other employee who’d tried.
Davies, who had been out of work for eight years said, “I have autism. There isn’t anything different about me, I just think differently. Somehow the unwritten rules of social communication have eluded me.”
Stereotypical perceptions are often unfounded, such as those which the phrase ‘Autism’ inspires. To be a progressive business owner in progressive times, it can pay dividends to front up and get some understanding of how best to leverage qualities that are different from our own.
De-stigmatising and challenging stereotypes is proving beneficial for many companies, as their willingness to break ground brings them not only enlightenment, but profitability – and a highly motivated and fulfilled workforce.
Dave Kearon, Director of Adult Services with Autism Speaks, says...
‘This is not about charity or about what businesses can do for people with autism; it’s about what individuals with autism have shown they can do for businesses’
Research by Autism Speaks suggests that companies employing people with autism consistently give reports of extremely dependable and loyal employees, who follow company rules, arrive on time and are absent far less. Other strengths mentioned include intense attention to detail and a desire to get things right – perfectly right. One employer noted that the turnover rate of his employees with Autism was one third of his neuro-typical workers.
Challenging the status quo – although the status quo is fluid these days - takes grit, for sure. But all the research suggests that for those running a small business in today’s market, thinking openly and diversely offers many opportunities.
Employers who are on the hunt for employees with specialised skills are increasingly wise to the benefits of diverse minds. They remember that no-one is perfect and believe that looking beyond a stereotype can bring something truly unique and highly valuable to a workplace.