As the world undergoes more and more social change, the need also increases for these social changes to be reflected in the workplace. A greater acceptance and understanding of autism and neurodiversity is driving a lot of workforce change, and multinational companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft and SAS have all started autism specific hiring programs to harness the unique skills and talents of autistic workers.
Benefits of Hiring Autistic Workers
Contrary to many popular tropes and stereotypes, autistic workers are more than capable of taking their rightful place in the workplace. What a growing number of British Columbia businesses are starting to realize is the wide range of strengths that neurodiverse workers bring to the table. While it’s true that each autistic person has a different range of symptoms, some of the common benefits of hiring autistic workers include:
- Out of the box thinking – one of the hallmarks of autism diagnoses is the ability to see the world in a very different way to neurotypical individuals. In the workplace, this can translate as the ability to see new solutions to existing problems, or finding ways to streamline processes to make them more productive and efficient.
- High levels of focus – autistic workers often bring a high level of concentration to their work, especially on tasks that are repetitive or that require a checklist to be completed. Autistic adults with lower support needs will be able to use this focus to find new solutions to old problems, while individuals with higher support needs will use it to complete smaller repetitive tasks with ease.
- Attention to detail – another common trait in autistic employees is a great eye for fine details. For some autistic individuals, this comes out as artistic talent, making them great at graphic design or technical architectural drawings. For others, this shines in their ability to find bugs in computer code or to find all the possible ways to test a computer system. This skill is often coupled with intense concentration making for a fearsome combination.
Hiring Neurodiverse Employees
Given all the benefits of hiring neurodiverse employees, it can seem strange that there are so few autistic workers in British Columbia workplaces. There are many reasons for this disparity, from widely held negative stereotypes about autistic workers to application processes that are heavily weighted towards neurotypical applicants. If you’re looking at tapping into the power that neurodiversity brings to your workforce, try some of these strategies:
- Build your knowledge base – the first step towards being able to hire neurodiverse talent is to give you and your hiring team an education about autism. There is a lot of disinformation and negative, lazy stereotypes out there, so try to connect with a local charity who could come to your business and give you advice about how to make your working environment and hiring practices more autism friendly. Of course, each autistic worker will have a different set of needs and skills which will require their own set of accommodations and changes, but having an understanding of the condition and the common steps you’ll need to take is a great place to start.
- Educate your staff – as you get closer to hiring an autistic employee, you’ll need to start thinking about the nuts and bolts of them actually working in your office. For most companies, this will require some staff training about autism in general and how to be inclusive and accepting of the individual worker in particular. Again, finding local experts is a great place to start as they’ll be able to provide accurate support and advice, and your workers will feel more comfortable asking awkward questions to a stranger.
- Connect with autism talent management agencies – one of the main barriers to autistic employment is the hiring process, but for many companies, it can feel time consuming and too much hard work to move away from the traditional application/interview model. However, by working with an autism talent management agency, you’ll be connected with the best autistic talent Vancouver has to offer, safe in the knowledge that your new staff have been trained and vetted to the highest standards.
Above all, it’s important that you’re hiring an autistic person to do a job that is relevant and necessary for your business. Creating a “busy work” job so that you can look more inclusive is mere tokenism, and this only serves to continue the negative stereotypes that make it so hard for autistic individuals to get into the workplace. It will take time and effort to make the hire successful, but with so many positives to be gained, make 2022 the year that you bring more neurodiversity to the workplace.