On April 12, Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) announced the launch of the Boston Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence (NCoE), aligning with Autism Awareness Month in April. The Boston NCoE, the sixth of its kind opened by EY US, is the first in New England and is designed to apply the talents of neurodivergent individuals to meet clients’ business needs.
The Boston NCoE will open with a founding team of 10, which includes individuals with cognitive differences such as dyslexia, ADHD, autism and Asperger syndrome. These professionals will join existing EY US client teams of nearly 2,300 professionals in the Greater Boston area working in consulting, intelligent automation, data analytics, cybersecurity, assurance, tax and more. Through community and professional relationships, the number of individuals at the NCoE is poised to grow over time. Several prominent organizations have also stepped up to help drive awareness and increase the employment rate of neurodivergent individuals. These organizations are truly “accelerators” around neurodiversity for the Boston area.
Jane Steinmetz, Boston Office Managing Principal, Ernst & Young LLP, says, “The Boston NCoE will not only transform the way we help our clients across New England, but it underscores our deep commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and opportunity for all. These team members bring unique skills to the firm and will be able to support clients through innovative work and thinking. We’re always looking to build a better working world and create inclusive employment opportunities that benefit EY, the businesses we serve and most importantly those we hire. The Neuro-Diverse Centers of Excellence have reimagined the traditional hiring processes and created environments more conducive to the needs of a neurodivergent individual that unlock tremendous talent potential.”
Over the past five years, EY US has customized the NCoE hiring, training and onboarding process to be more inclusive for our neurodivergent colleagues. One such adjustment is shifting from a behavior-based interview process to a performance-based process. We have also allowed additional time for team members to absorb and retain the information we share during onboarding and training. This comprehensive approach provides structure around the team to ensure success and promotes psychological safety for true belonging and equity. This comprehensive approach provides structure around the team to help ensure success and promotes psychological safety for true belonging and equity.
EY US created the NCoE model after recognizing a need to drive growth for businesses by accessing the tremendous untapped talent of neurodivergent individuals. The contributions of NCoE professionals help to enhance workforce ability and support clients in accelerating technology processes and solutions while meeting the changing demands for jobs, tasks and skills – such as intelligent automation, blockchain, cybersecurity, cloud optimization, true data science and analytics.
In addition, EY US recognized the significant employment roadblocks faced by people experiencing neurodiversity. It’s estimated that up to 85% of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hiren Shukla, EY Global and Americas Neuro-Diverse Center of Excellence Leader, says, “The EY NCoEs activate the exponential power of neurodiversity by creating inclusive high-performance teams. By spearheading this journey of incorporating and curating cognitive differences into teaming models, we are positioning ourselves to solve transformation challenges directly and have a competitive advantage in the market.”
Neurodivergent individuals, such as those with dyslexia, Asperger syndrome or autism, make up approximately 20% of the global population and excel in data analytics and software management that supports emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, automation, blockchain, cyber and more. These skills are a great asset to EY US clients, and with the addition of this Center, the team in Boston will be able to offer an even higher standard of service.
Members of the founding Boston NCoE team, many of whom were previously not fully engaged in the workforce, are now embedded in the fabric of the firm. EY US is committed to sharing leading practices and helping other companies similarly engage the neurodivergent community. EY US co-founded the Autism at Work Employer Roundtable and sponsored conferences to share knowledge with other employers, ranging from large multinational companies to other businesses looking to launch neurodiversity hiring efforts. The firm also helped create a 60-page playbook explaining how to develop a neurodiversity program.
EY US introduced its first neurodiversity center in Philadelphia in 2016 and has since expanded to six cities across the US, as well as one in both Canada and India. The firm plans for cities in South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe to join the network soon.