Autistic job seekers – time to tap into talent

Autistic job seekers – time to tap into talent

By Jill Miller - CIPD Research Adviser
Wednesday, 29th March 2017
Filed under: GeneralInformation

Learn more about widening your talent pool

This article discusses the unique skills and talents of people with autism that a growing number of employers are recognising. The author, Aliah Wright, explains that personal attributes such as being meticulous, able to focus for long periods of time and happy to concentrate on repetitive work are beneficial for certain technical roles.

And IT companies are reporting positive business benefits of widening their hiring approaches and recruiting people with autism.

Wright reports that over 3.5 million Americans have autism spectrum disorder. However, advocacy organisations estimate that between 80 and 90% of adults with autism in the US are unemployed or underemployed. Why is this? One expert interviewee suggests the low employment rate is mostly due to challenges with social interaction and communication than ability to do the job. However the article provides a compelling case for opening up the organisation to valuable talent.

A representative from the software company SAP summarises the research link between having a diverse workforce with an inclusive workplace and improved business performance. SAP launched its Autism at Work programme back in 2013 and in 3 years they have taken on 100 people. By 2020 it aims to grow the programme to employ the same percentage of people with autism in the company as in Europe (1%).

More detail from different companies’ programmes is helpfully given in the article, including examples of how new recruits are supported within the business. Hewlett Packard Enterprises offers autism awareness and management training to team leaders to enable them to provide appropriate on-boarding support and work with employees on their development plans, as well as a buddy system. They established their programme to provide job opportunities to people with autism three years ago and currently employ 45 people with an autism diagnosis as analysts and software testers.

Another example given is from the organisation Freddie Mac that trains those doing the hiring to look beyond potential social interaction or communication challenges at the interview stage and focus on the individual’s skills to do the job. The article helpfully contains an autism hiring guide with guidelines from Autism Speaks about hiring and supporting employees with autism spectrum disorder.

The concluding example of successful practice comes from business management consultancy Oliver Wyman which echoes the important opening points of this article. The company’s chief operating officer explains that people on the autism spectrum are not hired out of altruism; they are held to the same standards as other employees and are a highly valuable talent pool.

Overall, more organisations are beginning to recognise the unique skills of people with autism which add business value.