Autism at Work: Hiring and Training Employees on the Spectrum

There’s an increasingly popular hiring trend that is sweeping some of Canada’s biggest multinational corporations like Microsoft and SAP. They have discovered the power of neurodiversity to give themselves a competitive edge, and have set up dedicated recruitment teams to find, hire and train the highest quality autistic talent. 

Why Choose Autism?

Given all the benefits that autistic workers bring to the workforce, it can be strange that it’s taken this long for businesses to start tapping into this vast, high-quality talent pool. Some of the common benefits include:

  • Blue sky thinking – it’s a common trait that many people on the autistic spectrum perceive and understand the world in different ways than their neurotypical peers. In the workplace, this translates to an ability to see new problems to existing problems or to find efficiencies in systems and processes. 
  • Attention to detail – another common trait for autistic workers is high attention to fine detail. This is often coupled with a long-lasting concentration on specific tasks, which makes them ideal for jobs like software testing or forensic accountancy. Jobs, where workers can work through checklists and routines, will allow your autistic worker to thrive and bring their skills to the fore. 
  • Loyalty – just like any other employee, your autistic worker will bring a whole host of “soft skills” to the office as well as their job-related talents. One finding from studies of autism employment shows that autistic workers have high levels of loyalty to the companies who employ them, meaning that any time and money you spend on recruiting and training them will be paid back many times over in terms of their productivity. 

Inclusive Hiring Practices

With all of these benefits, there should be a lot of autistic adults already in the workplace. However, in British Columbia, it’s estimated that only 20% of the province’s 50,000 citizens with a diagnosis somewhere on the spectrum are in work that makes use of their talents and qualifications. A large reason for this chronic underemployment is that the hiring practices at most businesses in British Columbia are (subconsciously) biased toward neurotypical job seekers. These are some of the best inclusive hiring practices to attract and recruit neurodiverse employees:

In-person applications 

writing an effective cover letter requires applicants to be good at linking their current skill set to the abstract concepts laid out in your job advert. For many autistic jobseekers, this is a challenge, so allow them to call, Zoom, or even come to the workplace in person to make their application. Not only will you make life fairer for them but you’ll also get a good idea of what they’re capable of. 

Task-based interviews

There is a large body of research that shows that the traditional face-to-face interview is a poor indicator of good job performance for all brain types. A task-based interview levels the playing field and allows you to see what your autistic employee is fully capable of in the workplace. These can either be an individual inbox task, where they have to prioritize and work their way through a series of appropriate tasks, or a group project where they have to collaborate with their potential colleagues to complete a common goal. 

Get professional help 

It can be knowing where to look to recruit autistic workers, which is when you need to team up with an autism talent management agency like Focus. Our team of autism experts already has connections in the neurodiverse community so we make it easy to find the highest quality autistic talent who will more than meet your expectations. 

Training Autistic Employees

Once you’ve found your next autistic superstar employee, you need to make sure that they receive the best possible training to help them succeed. On a professional level, you need to make sure that they have a clear understanding of their day-to-day role, as well as any official qualifications that you need them to have. On a personal level, you will want to make sure that they have a clear understanding of what their day-to-day life will be like; preparing for work, navigating the commute, dealing with colleagues and clients, managing their own workload, and so on. 

This is a service that an autism talent management agency can help you organize. Here at Focus, we offer collaborative services with our sister company Orbital to help your new worker be fully ready for both the personal and professional aspects of the job.