Building More Inclusive Working Cultures For Neurodivergent Talent
From March 28th to April 3rd, companies and countries around the world honour World Autism Acceptance Week.
We wanted to highlight some of the positive work employers around the world have done to build more inclusive working cultures for neurodivergent talent.
World Autism Acceptance Week aims to draw attention to the 700,000 people in the UK (and about 1 in 160 people globally) living with autism or autism spectrum disorders. WAAW was pioneered by the National Autistic Society (NAS), who are the UK’s leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families. Their website comes stacked full of ideas for how employers and families can draw attention to the great work NAS are doing, and how they can further support autistic people through fundraising, awareness campaigns and more.
The NAS have been advocating for neurodivergent people for over 60 years, and have been one of the driving forces behind charitable outreach, education, support and rights campaigning for autistic people.
- “Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.”
How is Autism treated in the workplace?
Because of the wide variety of ways autism can affect people, guidance for employers can be patchy, unworkable, or hard to understand, if the support structures and professional help are not sought.
Autism spectrum disorder can affect communication, emotional and social actions, and as the CDC say, “many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things”, meaning diagnosis can be difficult.
- The NAS has a helpful section on hiring autistic people, called Employing autistic people – a guide for employers.
Because many employers see autism as a vague disability, or wrongly assume people who have it cannot work to the same degree as non-autistic people, autism can be (and sadly still is) discriminated against.
The power of neurodivergence
However, as NAS say, “Many autistic people have a variety of sometimes exceptional skills, that enable them to thrive in roles ranging from sales assistant to computer programmer, and journalist to statistician, to name just a few”.
“As well as their individual strengths and talents, autistic candidates often demonstrate above-average skills in some or all of the following areas:
- High levels of concentration,
- Reliability, conscientiousness and persistence,
- Accuracy, close attention to detail and the ability to identify errors,
- Technical ability, such as in IT,
- Detailed factual knowledge and an excellent memory.
This means an autistic person may well be better at a particular job than someone who is not autistic. By gaining an understanding of autism, you can open up new possibilities for your organisation”.
Which employers are making the case for a better understanding of autism?
“Fewer than 16 percent of adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are employed full-time”. This is, quite clearly, a huge part of why the NAS continues to raise awareness about Autism and neurodivergence in the workplace.
It’s worth quoting here a piece from the Harvard Business Review, “Autism Doesn’t Hold People Back at Work. Discrimination Does”.
With that in mind, it’s worth highlighting the work employers are doing to rectify that:
- In 2017, P. Morgan made, and continues to make, a concerted effort to hire neurodivergent talent, “Around 80% to 90% of autistic people are unemployed…For us, that’s a talent pool. If you look at areas like technology – there’s a huge shortage of good people with high-level skills. It’s a sector that we know many autistic people excel in.”
- Auticon is a business and workforce consultancy that is entirely built around autistic talent,
- Deutsche Bank have a highly regarded Autism Internship to support neurodivergent talent into career paths that suit their needs,
- Microsoft have a Neurodiversity program to support autistic talent into L&D programmes and supported employment,
- In 2020 Santander launched the Employ Autism Higher Education Network, that will, “…enable autistic students studying at universities to access paid internships and tailored careers support and advice”.
Photo on NationalAutisticSociety
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