The rise of neurodiverse employment practices in recent years can’t be ignored. Major corporations such as JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft have set up dedicated hiring schemes specifically to hire individuals on the autism spectrum due to their unique skill sets. Employees with autism typically bring high levels of concentration (especially on repetitive tasks), excellent pattern recognition for data and true out of the box thinking for existing and new problems.
Attracting neurodiverse talent
While it’s estimated that there are at least 40,000 adults with autism in British Columbia, it can be hard to attract these individuals into the workplace. This is in part due to the complexities of the modern workplace for people with ASD, and in pattern due to the stigma associated with the diagnosis. Attracting neurodiverse talent does require some changes to hiring process, including:
- Simplified applications – people with autism often find it hard to write generic letters of introduction and do much better with simpler checkbox and short answer style application forms. Other application formats can include meet and greet sessions as well as conversations over the phone or the internet.
- Autism friendly interviews – the traditional face to face conversation may prevent individuals with autism from showing what they’re capable. A better approach is to use scenarios and role plays to see what they can do.
- Use talent hiring firms – take the stress out of finding neurodiverse employees by having organizations who specialize in this provide the candidates straight away. These organizations have experience in finding and recruiting high quality talent.
Retaining neurodiverse talent
It’s one thing to hire someone with autism, but it’s quite another to retain neurodiverse talent. Part of this is because of the challenges in the workplace that can cause stress and burnout, and another part is whether the job is a good match to the individual’s skills and interests. However, there are some things that hiring companies can do to help keep individuals with autism in the workforce:
- Provide frequent positive feedback – this is something that keeps all employees happy and motivated, but many people with autism live with the perpetual worry that they’re not meeting society’s expectations, so these conversations will help build their confidence.
- Review progress and identify concerns daily – many people with autism need many repetitions to truly learn a new skill, and find it hard to transfer what they learned to a novel situation. By meeting with them daily, employees can monitor their development and get a handle on misunderstandings or bad habits before they become permanent.
- Get outside help for existing staff – the team around the individual with autism is an essential part of hiring neurodiverse talent. It’s unlikely that many businesses will have someone in house who can provide effective training on how to best support employees on the spectrum. An organization who offers help with attracting neurodiverse talent will also provide staff training and ongoing support for those individuals. This support is proven to help them stay and grow in their new role.