Autism @ Work Is Showing the Value of Neurodiversity
As the worker shortage grows ever more dire, companies are beginning to discover the untapped, yet talented group of workers on the autism spectrum.
The Autism @ Work network is still small, but it has several large partners. Microsoft, EY, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase and SAP have all hired autistic workers. Dell started with three hires last summer and, according to a Reuters report, will double that number this summer.
SAP, one of the earliest companies to launch an Autism @ Work program in 2013, has hired multiple workers, filling jobs in human resources, marketing, finance, software development, and customer support. In a report on the program, Sarah Loucks, global co-lead for SAP’s program, declared it a success.
"These employees frequently have high diligence and low tolerance for mistakes, as well as a strong affinity with predictable, structured, process-oriented environments that results in strong process optimization capabilities. They’re making valuable additions to SAP’s workforce," she wrote in an article on ERE.net last year.
Working with local nonprofits and community groups, candidates are identified and with help from Specialisterne USA, any special needs are assessed. Sometimes coaches work with the spectrum candidates and with the company to accommodate any special needs. A federal program pays for a job coach for three months to help individuals adjust to the workplace, Reuters says.
Pushed by the shortage of workers, and by the increasingly loud call for improving diversity -- including neurodiversity -- companies are becoming more open and encouraging in their recruiting. Says Lou Candiello, head of military and disability recruiting programs at Dell, “We need to think different about attracting talent.”