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Broadening the employment lens to include neurodiversity

NORTHAMPTON, MA /ACCESSWIRE/October 31, 2022/ When someone says “neurodiversity”, what do you think of? Dyslexia? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? Autism Spectrum Disorders? Maybe even social anxiety?

All of these conditions – and many more – fall under the broad umbrella of neurodiversity. Although not an official medical designation, neurodiversity refers to unique brain development and functions which, in turn, create different strengths. Up to 20% of the world’s population has some form of neurodiversity: 10% are dyslexic, 5% have ADHD and up to 2% are on the autism spectrum.

For some neurodiverse people, the traditional elements of finding and keeping a job — job interviews, team meetings, and social gatherings, for example — can present obstacles. Fortunately, today’s employers, including Principal®, began to realize that an inclusivity lens must include neurodiversity. At Principal, this has led to a creative hiring program focused on finding talent and providing individuals with rewarding work. “But just as important, it’s about challenging our assumptions, broadening the scope of what inclusivity means, and continuing to strengthen our culture,” says Joe Fiderlick, deputy director of engineering for Principal. Asset Management.SM.

Expanding Inclusion: Good for People, Good for Business

A few years ago, Jennifer Schwartz and Luke Heideman heard about a neurodiverse hiring program at another financial firm. Schwartz and Heideman are both members of the OneAbility employee resource group at Principal, and the principles of this setup were intriguing. “There has always been a tight job market for tech talent, and neurodiverse individuals tended to be unemployed or underemployed“, says Schwartz, human resources business partner at Principal.

Expanding both the talent lens and the inclusivity umbrella also reminded the duo of another primary agenda. “The pipeline we have for veterans has worked well,” Heideman said; he is head of audit at Principal. “We saw the potential for two things with neurodiverse hiring: it was the right thing to do and it could really have a business impact.”

Armed with best practices and possible programming, OneAbility worked with the Global Inclusion Team and Principal Asset Management to implement a neurodiversity hiring program in mid-2022. CAI, a provider specializing in finding and supporting neurodiverse people, interviewing and talent onboarding; the goal, says Schwartz, is to fill a current need and develop a talent pool for full-time core employees.

Building teams and boosting culture

The first internships in the program are working on the Fiderlick team, and he says he’s lucky to be part of the opportunity. “It’s exciting to expand the composition of my team. We need to continue to expand and strengthen our culture, while balancing that with making decisions that are best for our business,” he says. “We have to think broadly to set ourselves up for success.”

For Fiderlick and his team, this includes intentional conversations about communication, workplace needs, transitions and calculating impact. For example, someone with sensory sensitivities may, on their first day, need a work environment where lights can be adjusted or the ability to wear headphones to block out noise. “We need to measure whether Principal is getting value from the engagement, but also whether the people we hire feel like they’re part of a team and doing meaningful work,” says Fiderlick.

So far so good, he says: “The speed at which the team has demonstrated its worth and the support it has received from US and international personnel is a positive testament that we are on the right path.”

Beyond the successful onboarding and transition of employees, the goals are to broaden the program and challenge preconceived notions of skill sets. What if abilities initially thought of as limitations – pattern detection, for example – were actually strengths?

“Companies have the opportunity to rethink and recalibrate the way they think about staffing, especially during these difficult times, in a way that has meaningful and real benefits for everyone,” Fiderlick said. “There is a stigma behind being neurodiverse and programs like this are starting to change that narrative, transform the culture and help companies and individuals take meaningful steps together.”

Interested in a career with a diverse and inclusive team? Check out what Principal has to offer:

One Ability and CIA are not affiliated with any member company of the main financial group®

This document is intended to be educational in nature and should not be considered as a recommendation.

Principal Global Investors leads global asset management and is a member of the Principal Financial Group®.

Insurance products and plan administration services provided through Principal Life Insurance Company®member of the Principal Financial Group®Des Moines, IA 50392.

Principal Financial Group, Monday 31 October 2022, Image from press release

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Contact information:
Spokesperson: Principal Financial Group
Email: [email protected]

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