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Improving the Assessment Experience for Neurodiverse Individuals

How SHL’s Neurodiversity Research Program is considering the accessibility and experience of our assessment solutions for candidates with Autism, ADHD, and Dyslexia.

SHL has joined a global movement of organizations that recognize neurodiversity and disability as a vital and often missing part of corporate inclusion. This is part of our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and amid growing interest in the corporate community to serve individuals with disabilities as illustrated by the Valuable 500. We are working towards providing a better and more inclusive assessment experience for neurodiverse individuals.

Neurodiversity refers to the variation we see in human brain function and associated behavior and includes disorders such as Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia, amongst others. It is thought that neurodiverse individuals may show unique patterns of cognitive strength and behavioral preferences, which can make them ideal and top-performing employees in the right jobs.

SHL’s Neurodiversity Research Program

SHL is setting up a global Neurodiversity Research Program, sponsored by Chief Innovation and Science Officer Ken Lahti, and jointly lead by US and UK members of the Research and Development team. The program has a number of aims. One is to look into the experience and performance of neurodiverse candidates and participants when taking part in pre-hire or development assessments. These findings can then be used to inform best practices for assessing neurodiverse candidates as well as being used in product development and improvement.

As part of the program, we are collaborating with clients who either actively recruit from neurodiverse populations, or who believe they may already have a high proportion of neurodiverse candidates or employees. We are already seeing that this work may be particularly relevant to clients with a high number of STEM roles, such as those in the defense industry. Additionally, we are partnering with academic researchers who are emerging thought leaders in this new and compelling area of research.

We are already seeing that this work may be particularly relevant to clients with a high number of STEM roles.

We also wish to investigate the appropriate use of psychometric assessments in workplace settings. Behavioral assessments used in recruitment have received some negative and perhaps unfair press in the past few years. A legal case arose in the UK when a recruiting organization was found to have discriminated against a candidate who disclosed they had Asperger’s Syndrome and was declined a reasonable accommodation. The candidate did not score high enough on a Situational Judgement Test (SJT) to be moved on to the next stage of the selection process and so was sifted out.

While cases such as these make it hard to resist concluding that SJTs should be avoided altogether when it comes to neurodiverse candidates, in this particular instance, the SJT wasn’t the issue. And while we cannot say SJTs will never be the issue for a future neurodiverse candidate, we would certainly like to know how to minimize concerns for this population and provide more robust advice to clients and candidates.

Our Research Questions

Our research team seeks to answer several questions through this project, including:

  • Are personality and behavioral assessments appropriate for neurodiverse individuals? Current best practice does not recommend these assessments for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. However, for some neurodiverse individuals, they may be suitable.
  • Are there any types of behavioral assessments that are preferable and less open to creating potential biases when assessing neurodiverse individuals? One option is the SHL AptaTM Architecture tool. This produces tailored behavioral assessments and can be modeled to measure only those competencies relevant to the role. How do SJTs compare to the self-ratings of one’s own behavior such as on Apta?
  • What is the relative impact of assessment content and assessment methodology on candidate experience? When considering the accessibility of SHL’s assessments for neurodiverse populations we need to consider both the content and methodology of the assessments. Where are we doing well and where can we improve?
  • How do neurodiverse individuals experience Video Interview? Alongside commitments to improve the technological accessibility of our products and platforms, SHL is striving to better understand the challenges faced by some in our community when it comes to recruitment and assessment. The Neurodiversity Research Program will complement this aim by focusing on the experience and performance of neurodiverse individuals, with the ultimate goal of informing our product creation process to make a better and more inclusive assessment experience.

Like to Know More?

If you are interested in finding out more about the Neurodiversity Research Program, please contact Rachel Owens or Kristin Allen.

If you would like to know more about SHL’s disability guidance, please visit the disability guidelines section on

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Rachel Owens

Rachel is a Senior Research Scientist and has been in the SHL R&D team for over six years. Her interests involve differences in diverse populations, and her main projects include SHL’s norming strategy and developing the Talent Analytics database. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Western Australia and is a graduate member of the British Psychological Society.

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