Why employees with ADHD should be top of your recruitment shortlist

By Leanne Maskell, above, Director, ADHD Works

ADHD doesn’t fit into the ‘traditional’ professional mould, which is a huge asset for any company seeking growth, innovation and success. Our world of work is zooming forward at super-fast speed, and it needs similarly whizzy brains that can keep up with this rate of constant change, literally thinking outside the box.

The following strengths have been scientifically linked with ADHD – here’s how they can benefit you:

  1. Hyper-focus

ADHD isn’t so much a ‘deficit’ of attention as a struggle to regulate it, as we can often achieve a month’s worth of work in a day! Having an ‘interest based nervous system’ means our brains may feel similar to racing cars with bicycle brakes. With the right conditions, we can produce an extraordinary amount of high-quality work.

Our ability to ‘hyper-focus’ is stimulated by interest, novelty, and adrenaline – meaning we thrive in fast-paced, chaotic working environments! Challenging tasks which are associated with a sense of urgency or pressure, such as intense research or project delivery with a deadline, may feel very easy for us in comparison to others who do not thrive on this stimulation.

As technological advancements replace ‘easy’ tasks such as administration which can be automated, the importance of these fundamentally human-based skills will become ever more apparent.

  1. Innovation and creativity

As ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition, it means that those with it literally think differently to ‘most’ people. Research has found that adults with ADHD have had more real-time creative achievements than those without, demonstrating the power of our innate creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

In the workplace, this could show up in anything from simply the ways we do our jobs, with the unique flair and innovation that makes our working styles different to our neurotypical peers, to providing feedback and ideas in the ways that we solve problems.

The ability to solve existing problems with new ways of thinking is one of the most valuable skills any SME can have in 2024 – and the ADHD brain is a constant idea-machine!

  1. Enthusiasm, loyalty and passion

People with ADHD tend to be extremely engaged in workplaces where they feel accepted and supported as themselves. Our interest based nervous system means that we can be incredibly enthusiastic about the work we do, and highly compassionate towards our colleagues.

Having engaged and motivated employees is fundamental to having a thriving workforce – a company is only as strong as its people. However, it’s important for employers to recognise that ADHD can also come with unique challenges.

To harness these strengths, it’s vital for employers to provide tailored understanding and support to attract and retain ADHD employees.

So, here’s how to ensure your recruitment processes are ADHD-friendly:

  1. Implement neurodiversity-friendly policies

As neurodivergent conditions like ADHD can be disabilities under the Equality Act 2010, employers may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ‘level the playing field’ at work between disabled and non-disabled people. The Equality Act covers potential workers, meaning employers must ensure that recruitment processes are accessible to all.

This could include adjusting recruitment criteria, such as embracing ‘squiggly’ careers and seemingly non-relevant work experience. Adjustments such as providing questions or tasks in advance, allowing written notes or fidget toys to be included, removing psychometric tests, or simply having a chat about the process can make a huge difference to neurodivergent people in interviews – and everybody else!

Having publicly accessible reasonable adjustment policies relating to pre and post recruitment can be extremely helpful to attract neurodivergent candidates and demonstrate your genuine commitment.

  1. Provide neurodiversity training

Employers can have organisation-wide neurodiversity training to raise awareness and spark conversations about neurodiversity within work, and turn this into action with more specialised training where needed. For example, it can be very helpful to provide line managers with specialised training whenever an employee discloses a neurodivergent condition such as ADHD.

This could include signposting individuals towards relevant internal policies and Access to Work, a UK Government grant funding up to £66,000 worth of support above and beyond reasonable adjustments for anybody with a health condition that impacts them at work, such as ADHD awareness training for colleagues.

Training managers on clearly set out processes ensures supporting neurodivergent people at work is simple and straightforward, instead of bureaucratic and complicated.

  1. Encourage neurodivergent friendly ‘working out’

The 30% developmental delay in executive functioning skills such as self-awareness and problems solving that accompanies ADHD mean we may struggle to explain how or why we have done our work. This can be confusing when trying to explain to another person how to do the same thing, as our brains may not break down our work into natural steps that can be easily followed by others.

In an interview, this can be addressed by avoiding use of standardised marking, such as the ‘STAR’ method, and encouraging people to show up as themselves.

Creating regular opportunities for employees who think differently to share and record their ‘workings out’ in ways that work for them, such as by recording voice notes or providing mentors, can be extremely helpful for their own career advancement and the wider organisation.

Ultimately, people with ADHD are 300% more likely than those without to start their own business – so making these simple accommodations can attract and nurture these highly valuable workers within your organisation, instead of them setting up the competition!

Leanne Maskell is an ADHD Coach, Director of ADHD Works and author of ADHD Works at Work and ADHD an A-Z.