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Chris Hughes was a dyslexic student at the University of Strathclyde. Now he’s a tech CEO and neurodiversity champion
Chris Hughes, CEO of Estendio/Supplied
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Chris Hughes was a dyslexic student at the University of Strathclyde. Now he’s a tech CEO and neurodiversity champion 

Chris Hughes is the co-chair of Skills Development Scotland’s Neurodiversity Workstream. In the final column in the series promoting neurodivergent talent, he issues a clear to call action for tech companies, both big and small, to give these talented individuals an opportunity. 

As we enter the second half of 2021, ever closer to a return to some kind of new normal, our world has changed significantly over the past few years. Employers are now more understanding and accepting around flexible and remote working, eager to support staff mental health and well being, and are adaptive and ready for change to every day working. 

As highlighted in Mark Logan’s review on Scotland’s technology industry, we have a significant skills gap in the sector where talent is exceptionally hard to find, attract and retain. We now have a great opportunity to fill this gap by widening our talent pool and to benefit from the skills of a neurodiverse workforce.  

As seen in SDSs “Neurodiversity in Digital Technology” report, there are significant advantages to creating a balanced and diverse workforce. For example, individuals with autism can often have exceptional logical thinking and attention to detail, making them extremely well suited to software development, cybersecurity and data analytics. Individuals with dyslexia (like myself), dyspraxia and ADHD are often incredibly creative and strategic, making them extremely well suited to start ups, marketing teams, and UX and graphic design (although please note, no two neurodivergent individuals have the exact same skills or experience!)

So this all sounds pretty ideal in theory, but how do we put this into practice? Firstly, its probably not as onerous as you think, and I guarantee it will be well worth it. Secondly, most companies are already making adjustments and changes to support staff returning to the workplace, why not make a few more to access this talent pool effectively?

  • Read up and make your HR and a management team aware of best practice (SDS link)
  • Become a disability confident employer
  • Make your recruitment process accessible by making it clear on job descriptions that adjustments can be made eg sending questions through in advance to allow the individual to prepare and bring their best self to the interview
  • Have an open and frank discussion with the individual when they have joined your team on how they work best, and then how you can get the best out of each other

As we are transitioning into our “new normal”, what better time to embrace Neurodiversity in our workplace, developing a more innovative, balanced and diverse culture. 

It really is up to us all to give neurodivergent talent the opportunity to flourish while enabling us to close the worrying skills gap in our sector, and there are loads of resources and organisations available to help……so please, go use them! 

For more information about the support available for companies to recruit neurodivergent talent, visit SDS’ employer dedicated site Our Skills Force where you will also find more case studies to inspire you.

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