Hiring the neurodiverse: 5 questions with EY’s Hiren Shukla

EY has had a program that has welcomed employees on the autism spectrum since 2016 — should your company?

In 2016, EY launched its first Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence in Philadelphia. EY has since expanded to hundreds of employees across six U.S. cities, with more centers on the horizon.

The NCoEs aim to help neurodivergent individuals feel more comfortable in the workforce — all the way from the hiring process to how they prefer to work, including sound and lighting accommodations — to unlock their unique talents.

EY’s support didn’t waver when the pandemic hit and remote work began. Since 2020, the firm has tripled its global neurodivergent workforce.

Hiren Shukla is the EY global and Americas Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence leader. We asked him five questions about the challenges and opportunities that come with hiring those from the neurodiverse community.

ROI-NJ: Talk about EY’s efforts to find and employ neurodivergent individuals in New Jersey?

Hiren Shukla: EY’s Neurodiverse Centers of Excellence have hired a number of individuals from New Jersey, as we work closely with Rowan University and other organizations to tap into this often-overlooked population.

Our goal is to provide equal opportunities for employment while recognizing the differences each person has and how we can support their journey. We are committed to continuously proving that innovation comes from unexpected places.

ROI: Where are you looking for neurodivergent employees — who are you working with?

HS: We work with a variety of government agencies as well as with universities and nonprofits. It is due to the hard work of our partnership organizations that we can prepare these individuals for a career and help them find sustainable employment.

ROI: What is the training for neurodiverse employees at EY — what is the understanding of how to work with those with different challenges?

HS: EY provides everything from soft-skills training to technical training for our neurodivergent employees, while simultaneously providing training and education to the rest of EY. This ensures that we are driving inclusion by creating an environment that is psychologically safe for all.

ROI: What are the hurdles you need to overcome after hiring? Do issues with social skills top the list?

HS: The hurdles are often organizational processes or communications that may not be understood by everyone. We are lucky to have a strong commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at EY; therefore, investing in learning and development is core to how we create opportunity.

ROI: Finally, why the interest? Most companies look away from those on the autism spectrum because of the added challenges they can present. What was the impetus for jumping in?

HS: EY’s interest stems from a true business need for top talent and the absolute business imperative to build a workforce that is able to creatively solve complex problems while leveraging the power of data and emerging technology. We see this as an opportunity to amplify the various dimensions of diversity (across age, gender, race, sexual orientation and cognitive diversity, to name a few) while distinguishing ourselves to our clients and communities.