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dyslexia in the workplace: HR and talent acquisition's guide to inclusive hiring success.

practical ways your unconscious bias is ruining your talent acquisition and retention

Practical ways your unconscious bias is ruining your talent acquisition and retention

Firms may encounter challenges with dyslexic job applicants and employees at various stages of the hiring and employment process. Here are common points where firms can get it wrong and ways to address these issues:

1. talent attraction and the application process

  • Wordy adverts: Text-heavy job adverts with minimal visuals might not grab the attention of dyslexic applicants and could limit their interest in applying.
  • Low inclusivity awareness: An unknown and potentially lengthy application process or an employer not known for supporting accessibility for dyslexic employees cold deter applications.
  • Overemphasis on written communication: Relying heavily on written materials during application, such as lengthy cover letters or aptitude tests, can disadvantage dyslexic individuals.

how to address it
Create talent marketing content in rich formats such as video and audio to make them more accessible and outline the steps your organization has implemented to be inclusive to dyslexic candidates. Explain their options for an easier application and assessment process to reduce talent deselecting themselves. Offer alternative application methods, such as video interviews or verbal assessments. Use plain language and clear formatting in job advert graphics, postings and application forms.

Fiona Halkyard, Randstad Sourceright Fiona Halkyard
head of Client Partners (Talent Marketing) — EMEA & APAC
Randstad Sourceright

2. the interview and assessment stage

  • Unfocused interviews: Conducting interviews that rely solely on verbal communication may not fully assess a candidate's potential, as dyslexic individuals may struggle with verbal fluency.
  • Time pressure: Pressuring applicants to respond quickly to questions may lead to anxiety and hinder performance.
  • Psychometric testing and assessments: Due to the heavy reliance on reading, comprehension and time constraints, these tests can lead to slower completion times and more errors.
  • Distracting on-site location: Noisy environments for testing and interviews that don’t allow applicants to form good responses.

how to address it
Consider alternative interview formats, such as skills-based assessments or practical tasks. Provide reasonable accommodations, such as extra time, if acknowledged they are dyslexic, and better testing/interview conditions.

David Vincent, Randstad Sourceright David Vincent
managing director EMEA
Randstad Sourceright

3. onboarding, development and coaching

  • Onboarding training: Providing training materials that are not tailored to different learning styles can hinder the learning process for dyslexic employees.
  • Development: Similarly, providing methods for development that don’t engage all sensory pathways.
  • Lack of dyslexia awareness: Failing to educate trainers and colleagues about dyslexia can lead to misunderstandings and biases.

how to address it
Customize onboarding training materials to accommodate different learning preferences, such as visual aids or hands-on activities. Adopting and applying different learning styles and methods for ongoing development that don’t rely on text heavy forms, include practical and hands-on training that engages all sensory pathways, and in-person or remote meetings for coaching and mentoring are also great ways to engage a range of sensory pathways. Finally, and most importantly, promote dyslexia awareness and provide resources for employees and managers to learn how to work with neurodivergent colleagues; understanding and adaptability are key skills for all to apply.

Martin Smith, Randstad Sourceright and RiseSmartMartin Smith
vice president, Global Solution Advisory
Randstad Sourceright and RiseSmart

4. workplace communication

  • Inaccessible written communication: Using dense or jargon-heavy written communication can create barriers for dyslexic employees.
  • Excessive reliance on email: Over-reliance on written communication channels like email and instant messengers can be challenging for dyslexic individuals.
  • Font and formatting: Typically, an organization will use a specific font, size and formatting method that is stylistically appealing but challenging to read.
  • Audio and visual aids: Presentations and materials often lack engaging visuals or require context and instructions that aren’t naturally provided.
  • Accessible documents: Organizations typically rely on inaccessible document formats that don’t work with content readers.

how to address it
Organizations can take several steps. First, they should encourage clear and concise written communication, which can benefit all employees. Promoting alternative communication channels, such as verbal discussions or video meetings, ensures that information is accessible through multiple means. Additionally, organizations should make all company documents and materials accessible by using PDFs with text recognition, alt text for images and accessible formatting. Leveraging assistive technology like text-to-speech software, speech-to-text tools and dyslexia-friendly apps can significantly aid dyslexic employees in reading, writing and understanding content. To enhance clarity, incorporating audio and visual elements into presentations and documents while providing both written and verbal instructions can be highly effective. Finally, choosing dyslexia-friendly fonts like Arial, Calibri or OpenDyslexic, along with larger text sizes and ample spacing between lines and paragraphs, can improve readability for all employees, especially those with dyslexia.

James Warnette, Randstad Sourceright and RiseSmartJames Warnette
director of External Communications
Randstad Sourceright and RiseSmart

5. ongoing talent management

  • Overlooking potential: Firms may inadvertently overlook dyslexic employees for career advancement opportunities due to misconceptions about their abilities.
  • Lack of ongoing support: Failing to provide necessary support and accommodations for dyslexic individuals can hinder their career growth and may see them seek to leave.
  • Stigmatization: Enabling a culture where dyslexia is stigmatized or misunderstood can discourage disclosure and support-seeking.
  • Contingent talent: With non-permanent employees in the workforce, firms may not facilitate an equitable process for dyslexic talent to apply for permanent positions.

how to address it
Foster an inclusive and understanding workplace culture that values diversity and accommodates different needs. Promote employee resource groups or networks for individuals with dyslexia, and have them work with you to ensure internal talent gets the support it needs, be that for applying for a next internal role, or just ongoing development in role. Promote dyslexia awareness and provide resources for employees and managers to learn how to work with dyslexic and neurodivergent colleagues to reduce stigmatization and boost understanding. By implementing performance assessments that consider diverse talents and skill sets, you can ensure equitable KPIs and goals. Offer mentorship and career development opportunities for all employees, not just those in upper management. Coaching doesn’t need to mean lengthy courses, sometimes a simple one-to-one conversation can reframe an issue and give clarity and understanding to dyslexic talent.

Jenna Alexander, RandstadJenna Alexander
senior global VP of Internal Talent Acquisition

Learn more about how you can unlock the power of Dyslexic Thinking at your organization.