Why Neurodiversity Hiring is Not Charity


Andrew Komarow


July 18, 2022

Companies exist to make a profit, they have a duty to shareholders, and that requires making a business case for financial success. What we have seen from the disability community is the other alternative of looking at hires as a “charity” case. This is the primary founding reason why we founded The Neurodiversity Index for our clients to invest in.

The goal for the future is to have zero neurodiversity hiring initiatives. A world where every company is inclusive wants the best workers for the company and supports them with what they need. However, anyone who believes that businesses will adopt initiatives without a strong fiscal reason for doing so is living in fantasy land.

I would argue the lack of business case that we see in neurodiversity is directly correlated to what is holding it back. Employees want to feel valued, like human beings. Imagine how amplified this reality is from inside the disability community. In a world where individuals are consistently told they need accommodations, job coaches, or if they work they will lose benefits, regardless of whether any of these things are actually true. There are sheltered workshops that pay subminimum wages.

How are they allowed to pay sub-minimum wage? This is because the individuals are told there is no business case and they have no alternatives otherwise. Companies don’t hire disabled workers, because we are trained to believe there is no business case, that hiring a disabled worker adds no value to a business. It’s a vicious cycle where people are stuck in a position where they are being paid pennies to the dollar for hours of work on projects worked day after day because no one knows to hire them for their real talents.

Often well-meaning nonprofits pop up to try and solve this problem by creating their own places of employment for their local disabled worker, most often people with intellectual disabilities. In the case of a nonprofit, the work is often funded by donor dollars, in addition to any product that they sell or create, often landscaping, sanitation, business paper production, and packaging. These do often leave people feeling good about supporting employment for people with disabilities, and are often closer to meaningful employment for the individuals themselves because they are not sub-minimum wage jobs. However, this is not inclusion. We expect better. Inclusion in everyday business, big and small. People with disabilities who are valued for the specific gift that they bring to a workplace by doing the work that they enjoy, that is meaningful, and that adds value to a company.

This is why we choose to represent Neurodiverse Impact Investing. We want to show, that you can invest in the stocks that represent companies that share your values, with the goal of not sacrificing returns, but rather exceeding them.

This is one representation of a “charity” case, being a literal charity that is created to support the work of people with disabilities. Another is smaller scale, when someone in an office, big or small, wants to make room for one person they know who could benefit from a job. The manager has maybe even heard of the disability business case, the concept that diversity of thinking brings new ideas to workplaces that make them work more efficiently and productively, or that some workers with certain disabilities, ie Autism, are able to focus more on repetitive tasks than a neurotypical employee. They want to do the right thing and feel good.

Depending on how the business is structured and what kind of support there is internally for a culture change, this could actually be their first introduction to how the business case works in real life. The business case works when companies make room for diversity. When employers understand that every individual worker on our teams has unique needs, regardless of disability. These needs may be technology, supervision, time and encouragement, or the ability to work from where they work best. When we make room for diverse thought, understand the needs of our employees and what they prefer to focus on during their day, remain curious, and encourage open dialogue with management, hire of a disabled worker or worker with a neurodivergence can add significant value to strengthening a workplace’s understanding of how flexible or supportive they really are.

Businesses exist to make a profit for their owners and shareholders. If we ignore that then everything else will fail. For even non-profits need to raise or earn enough money to be sustainable, there is no free lunch. We have a million ideas at my company, and so many things I would love to do, but the ones where I can make the business case are the ones that will get more attention and more priority. The business case is the conversation starter, it gets the conversation going. If I told you that you didn’t have enough insurance, and you need more and/or better insurance would that get you interested right away? Now, what if I told you, “I believe you spending excess money on the wrong insurance, and I feel you can get better insurance at a lower price.” Well, that would get me excited! In the end, maybe I don’t end up saving money once exploring my options, but we got the conversations started.

Now, what is the business case? Well, neurodiverse employees are better workers. They miss fewer days of work, they practice deep focus on their work, are less likely to steal, to lie, and if hired and developed correctly, they also have a passion and intense interest in your company. There is literally no better business case than that. Clearly, with a commonly quoted “85%” unemployment rate among the disability community, we are doing something wrong. To be clear, the individuals with disabilities are not doing anything wrong, it is the managers, the HR, the ones hiring and recruiting us, who despite good intentions, are NOT making the business case.

The goal isn’t to recruit people just for quotas or to show off for PR. What we want to do is prove that inclusivity in itself is a business case AND THE RIGHT THING FOR THE BUSINESS. Treating everyone equally, with curiosity and support, is good for the entire company and the entire bottom line. Individuals don't want to simply be a business case, but they do want to feel valued, and like they are worth something.

Inclusive job applications don't require higher education-specific experience or anything that is related to actually performing the job duties that can't be learned on the job. We're looking for people to be open-minded to having support within the workplace, support that exists already but is not extended to new hires. We are looking for on-the-job training and potential for growth. We are looking for inclusion and to see businesses grow when they have a diversity of thought and identity.

The business cases are there, the profits are there, and companies that are more diverse have more profits. This is why we founded the neurodiversity index, and why we publish the track record for everyone to see.

The business case is many times what opens the door, to get the conversation going, and to think otherwise is naïve, but that does not mean the end result doesn't become so much more.

We are accepting new clients to invest in the top 79 stocks that are leaders of the movement. The reason for 79 is simple, 79 is Gold on the periodic table, and Gold is AU for Au(tistic). Go here to learn more about impact investing in neurodiverse firms through The Neurodiversity Index.

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