A diversity and inclusion leader’s journey
In 2016, EY launched a neurodiversity program, which now employs more than 100 professionals with cognitive challenges in six Neurodiversity Centers of Excellence (COEs), with three more on the way. The program was created with three key goals:
- Create a culture of inclusion
- Leverage untapped talent to meet demand for employees and specific types of work
- Impact society in a positive way
First, the EY organization revamped recruiting and hiring processes to prevent candidates from being automatically rejected for traits that have no impact on job performance. For example, many autistic people use self-stimulating behaviors, such as hand flapping, rocking or repeating words and phrases. We don’t let these behaviors prevent us from employing talented people.
During the interview process, the EY recruiting team typically starts with a week of virtual meetings and technical exercises, avoiding initial face-to-face interviews that can be challenging for many neurodiverse job candidates. The team is careful to provide customized accommodations for each candidate, limiting sessions to no more than one hour at a time and building in unstructured time. Once hired, neurodiverse employees go through a customized onboarding process, and are given a job coach and trained office buddies for ongoing support.
After learning about the EY neurodiversity program, I decided that I wanted to support it by including EY neurodiverse professionals in my client engagements. I started out with one engagement that focused on eDiscovery process optimization.
My colleagues and I traveled to the EY Neurodiversity COE in Philadelphia to meet with the professionals about the engagement. We presented the problem with minimal direction because we wanted to give the team latitude for finding solutions. In the end, we were blown away by the results. The team came back with a stronger solution than we had envisioned because they were able to approach the issue from a fresh viewpoint. They helped us add a new dimension to approaching similar issues in the future by creating more efficient tools and processes.
Since then, I have championed the use of the neurodiversity team within my practice group and consistently look to identify new ways to utilize these team members to improve operational efficiency and harness cost savings.
Besides the benefit of productivity, the neurodiversity initiative has become a big boost for team culture. We have seen improvements in delivery when our professionals work with the neurodiversity team. Employees, especially millennials, want to work at an organization that acts ethically and is forward thinking in its approach to diversity. Teaming with neurodiverse colleagues makes work more meaningful and rewarding for everyone.
EY neurodiverse professionals bring not just above-average productivity and work quality; their fresh way of thinking has sparked innovation. They have also created a stronger workplace culture across the EY organization. I have yet to meet one colleague who wasn’t recharged after collaborating with one of the team members from the Neurodiversity COE.