WEBCAST

Unleash the potential of neurodiverse talent in technology

Webcast overview

Corporations need to compete in the search for talent by enhancing their talent acquisition strategy to include individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The vision is to unleash the potential of neurodiverse talent within corporations. Doing so secures top talent, creates a more diverse and rewarding workplace, enhances reputations in the market, and makes a difference in the world.

Listen in as Marcus Murph, Principal, CIO Advisory, discusses how to look at the unique skills and strengths of neurodiverse individuals have and how to align roles within your organization to those that are a good fit.

Five Conversations We Should be Having About Neurodiversity in Technology

We are adapting the way we attract, engage and interview neurodiverse talent. KPMG's Marcus Murph discusses.

Transcript

Host:

So now we'll move on to our next speaker. This is going to be exciting as well. Marcus Murph, he heads the CIO Practice for KPMG. He's got over 20 years of working in our world with our customers of the like. He's done everything from leading major transformations for large organizations, to rolling out keys systems, everything in between and everything around it. We've got an expert coming up here. So Five Conversations We Should be Having about Neurodiversity and Technology. So with that, let's welcome Marcus to the stage.

Marcus Murph:

How's everybody doing? So a few weeks ago, did anyone catch, now you can't see the hands because it's so bright, but the Saturday Night Live when Elon Musk was hosting? Did y'all catch what he said? What he offered to the world about himself? He publicly mostly for the first time really with this many people, publicly announced the world that he has Asperger's, which is in the early side of the spectrum around ASD. I think in a few years, we might actually look back at that moment and as technologists, we might in a few years look back and say, "That was a watershed moment to where someone very notable in technology just publicly shared something that I think we would argue is very, very personal." I don't know if I actually have any slides here, do I? Yeah, I don't think so. I was going to do it all just from my phone myself.

Marcus Murph:

So a couple things. This topic is such a fascinating topic because I find that it is at the intersection of our humanity and our values. And what is a real business opportunity. And this subject of neurodiversity really does sit at the intersection of those two things. And neurodiverse individuals, what the data really tells us is, are significantly unemployed and underemployed. If we just look at those on the autism spectrum disorder, depending on the study, they all agree, 80 to 85% under and unemployed. It's pretty significant.

Marcus Murph:

So what I want to do is just give all of you some things to begin having conversations within your own organizations. Just giving you all some things to think about, right? And that really is the first step, is to start having some of these conversations. So I want to give you five conversations that I hope you can take back to your enterprise and use to start this dialogue. Some of you may have already started this dialogue. So maybe this is continuing. Some of you, maybe you haven't. But I wanted to give you five things that I really think we need to be talking about.

Marcus Murph:

The first one is we need to widen our perspective on what neurodiversity is. It's actually a broad term. It includes a lot of things. Yes, it includes Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. It also includes dyslexia. It includes ADHD. We need to begin to widen our perspective. And I would suggest to you that I think we need to humbly admit many of us, that we have a lot to learn on this topic. Me included. Yes, some of you in an audience this size likely have family members that are neurodiverse, or maybe you're a caretaker for someone that is neurodiverse. But many of us, we have fewer interactions. And we really need to begin to just humbly admit that we have a lot to learn on this topic of neurodiversity.

Marcus Murph:

The second conversation that I think we really need to be having is around this idea of, we need to begin to look at the unique skills and strengths that these individuals have, and begin to draw the lines to the types of roles within our organization, where there is a great fit. And there are some natural ties. The first thing I would suggest as we do this is we just begin to look at some of the skills. So I want to be careful not to stereotype, but there have been a fair amount of studies on the skills and capabilities and abilities of neurodiverse individuals. And I just want to share a few things just so you can start thinking about this.

Marcus Murph:

People with autism oftentimes have a very strong attention to detail. They are good at observing rules. They're very thorough and are oftentimes very direct in their communication. People with dyslexia are oftentimes very creative. They have a talent for telling stories. If we had more time, I know somebody, we tell a long story about that, but we won't, they have strong problem skills oftentimes, problem solving. And they're really good at communication.

Marcus Murph:

Those with ADHD, oftentimes have a passion for solving really urgent and hard tasks. Something that almost has to get done tomorrow. They find a lot of satisfaction and they really are passionate about solving those problems. So if we just think about again, not to overly be generalized, but if we begin to look at some of the skills of neurodiverse individuals, we can start to draw some lines.

Marcus Murph:

So let's just draw a couple, just to get everyone in the room thinking. Data analytics, we need strong mathematics capabilities fits very well, right? Software development. Yes. Lots of rules-based types of capability that you need there. Detail oriented, we have lots of opportunities in the things we're doing around data analytics and likely many of your clients on the staffing side, and many of within your own companies, for those that lead IT organizations.

Marcus Murph:

Cyber security, skills around pattern recognition are really important, aren't they? Memory, unconventional thinking. I would really challenge you to go read a little bit about what IBM calls their X-Force Red. They're hiring neurodiverse individuals to help them if you could think about this ethical hacking, right? I would absolutely suggest a bit of reading there because it's fascinating.

Marcus Murph:

Or maybe just one more line for something. Since we're IT professionals, software testing, right? Individuals that can follow scripts, that can follow rules and actually test software. It requires attention to detail. It requires thoroughness. And my point in just telling you this is that there's some natural lines to begin drawing from neurodiverse individuals to the types of work at the types of roles that we do within our organizations.

Marcus Murph:

The third conversation I think we need to be having is we are going to have to really change how we source, recruit and interview neurodiverse talent. Now, the first thing I would suggest is that don't define roles within your organization that are for neurodiverse only people. That will just absolutely increase the stigma around this. What you really want to begin to look for is the types of roles where both neurotypical and neurodiverse individuals can thrive.

Marcus Murph:

Secondly, the traditional timed interview, right? How many of us go through timed interviews? It's one hour with somebody. Or maybe it's an office visit with three somebodies over a period of time. The reality is those really favor the neurotypical individual, not the neurodiverse. We need to perhaps spend time with those that are doing interviews. We need to train them a little bit. We need to talk about this, right? I think if we are really honest in how we do a lot of our hiring and recruiting, it's a bit robotic. We have these historical norms, these traditional norms. We're looking for someone that fits some sort of, this is what we've done. We need to begin training our interviewers. And for those of us that do interview others to really begin to say, "What do we really need in the individual to fulfill this job? What are the real job requirements versus perhaps some of just the norms of what we've hired in the past?" And be looking for those things.

Marcus Murph:

I'll give you a couple of things to think about. We also need to just perhaps rethink the interview entirely. A few things that we've been experimenting with, just to give a few examples. Perhaps case studies over a period of days versus a two-hour interview with two or three people, right? Do something over a period of time. Or another thing we're experiencing with is simulating working together. Perhaps bringing together a smaller team, solving a problem, almost like, many of us work in teams already, right? Perhaps simulating that in the context of an interview where they're working with others. And it looks more like we're observing how that individual works and solves through problems.

Marcus Murph:

The other thing I would suggest to you is many people that are neurodiverse have a coach of sorts. Someone that actually helps them navigate the world. We would suggest to invite those people into this process. If you're going to begin to interview and you're going to begin to recruit, invite those coaches into this process as well. But the third conversation, I really think we all need to be having is we're going to have to look hard at how we source, how we recruit, how we interview talent. Because so much of what we do favors the neurotypical.

Marcus Murph:

Fourthly. We're just going to have to challenge a lot of our, what I will call, business norms. Let me give you a few to chew on. The office, just the office environment. And of course, over the last 18 months, your office is probably your basement or your study or some version of that. But for most offices, there's some things that may not work for all neurodiverse individuals. Lighting, noise. You might find that neurodiverse individuals will want to wear earphones as a way to block out some of the distraction.

Marcus Murph:

Julie and I was sitting here in the last session and we were talking about, see these moving bubbles on screen? Did anybody notice those on the big screen? Did anybody notice those? That probably drove a few people in this room crazy. It's just true. Just little things like that we don't think about. We're going to have to rethink the office a bit.

Marcus Murph:

Second, people managers. We will likely need to be training some of our people managers to manage neurodiverse individuals. There are also some people managers that probably won't be very good at this. And I think that's okay. We need to be ready for that. But we need to train our people managers to begin to look, not everyone is a fungible asset where everyone does the same thing. Perhaps it's a little bit more like a puzzle where there are pieces that have places that they actually need to fit.

Marcus Murph:

The other one that I think is just this notion of business jargon and some of the things we say. I'm a lifelong consultant. We are the masters of business jargon, acronym and things. We are so bad in our business. We make up words to sound smart. That's what we do in consulting. In fact, In fact, this is maybe happened to some of you, I favor myself to be reasonably humorous when the time's appropriate. My last international trip before COVID I was visiting our team over in Bangalore in India. It turns out I'm not funny in India. I'm not. Because there's no context for it.

Marcus Murph:

So again, but just some of the things we say, some of the way we interact with people, some of those norms just break down. So I think we experience it somewhat in areas right now, but this will continue to exacerbate that. We need think about it. But the main point of all this, we want to create an environment. Begin to have the conversation about how you create an environment where people with neurodiversity capabilities can actually thrive.

Marcus Murph:

And then just the last conversation I really think we need to be having, COVID I think has been a gift for us in some respects. Most of you have or are in the middle of really rethinking the future of work. And I bet you've had multiple iterations. I love when people ask me what the future of work is. The reality is we're not entirely sure, but most of our companies are working through what is the future of work, right? Are we going to work from home? Are we going to work in the office? How much time are we going to spend? Are we going to travel?

Marcus Murph:

I think on this subject, we have been given a gift. Because what if, as part of this rethinking work, we could begin to rethink using more neurodiverse talent in our workforce? This is just a really perfect time for us to begin thinking this because of what we're going through in our enterprises.

Marcus Murph:

And then I'll just close with this. Most of you've seen this slide, right? Some of you see the young woman, right? Some of you see the older woman, correct? So what I would challenge is for those that see the younger woman, begin to change your perspective and see the older woman. And for those of you who see the older woman, begin to change your perspective and see the younger woman. That is what we need to be doing with this topic of neurodiversity.

Marcus Murph:

So my challenge to you is, like I said, many of your organizations perhaps have started this dialogue, go back and start this conversation. Start this dialogue. Take some of these ideas. Let's change our perspectives and really open up the talent pool for us. Thank you folks.

Presenter

Marcus Murph

Marcus Murph

Principal, CIO Advisory, KPMG US

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