KPMG in Canada is piloting a program that taps into the neurodivergent talent pool as part of its ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion strategy to attract, support and retain employees with disabilities.

In December 2021, KPMG launched a program with the help of a non-profit to adapt its recruitment process for individuals who are neurodivergent. The increased focus on attracting neurodiverse talent is paying off, as KPMG has already hired four full-time employees who are neurodivergent for their Vancouver office, with a second cohort of five expected to join the firm’s Calgary and Toronto offices this year.

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Employers tend to add a lot of information in job postings and case studies show that people who are neurodivergent won’t apply for roles if they believe they don’t meet all of the listed competencies, says Nicole Tomassetti, KPMG’s director of candidate experience in Canada. To remove this barrier, the professional services firm narrowed down the competencies of the roles, ensuring job postings reflected what the day would look like for the individual. And rather than a traditional interview process, successful candidates participated in a four-week training program to learn the ins and outs of their roles.

The company isn’t stopping there — to help these employees transition into the workplace, it’s also providing training sessions or information workshops on understanding neurodiversity for hiring managers and team members. KPMG also hosted an event on World Autism Awareness Day last year to help all employees understand how to work with an individual who has autism. “We want to ensure [everyone understands] autism and are aware of how to help them be successful in their roles — just like we do with other individuals.”

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As a person with a disability, Lisa Park, the firm’s director of total rewards and founder of its disability and inclusion network, says while these are great first steps there’s still work to be done to remove stigma surrounding people with disabilities. She adds that many working Canadians’ disabilities aren’t visible and they may not want to share their disability with their employer or colleagues.

Late last year, the network she founded held its first summit on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Although it was intended to be a Canadian event, many of KPMG’s global employees attended from 48 countries. The global attendance highlighted how virtual events can be more accessible to more people, as location and other physical barriers to attending an in-person event were taken away by hosting the event online. The event included tips for all employees on how to adopt workplace habits that foster accessibility, from always introducing themselves when signing onto a video call to turning on their camera in case someone is reading lips.

KPMG has a large group of people with disabilities, ranging from employees who are neurodivergent to those with blindness, hearing loss, low vision or other physical disabilities, says Park. She started the disability and inclusion network in May 2020 to raise education and awareness around having a disability and to provide a space where people with similar experiences could share how they feel.

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One positive of the coronavirus pandemic is how the resulting shift to virtual platforms has changed the interviewing process from often being in-person to more frequently being online, she adds, noting it’s a change she hopes is here to stay. “You would have no idea I’m in a wheelchair [in a video interview]. It’s really levelled the playing field for people with disabilities and I hope companies take some . . . tips from this [time] and decide that virtual is the way to start interviewing to reduce a lot of the stigma.”