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Effective Autism Employment

In: Business

Despite decades of slow but steady progress in autism awareness and understanding, the employment rate for autistic workers in British Columbia remains shockingly low. A recent study showed that of the 50,000 adults with an autism spectrum diagnosis across the province, over 80% of them are either unemployed or employed in menial roles that don’t match their skills or qualifications. Not only is this an insult to the capacity of autistic workers, but it’s also a massive drain on the welfare system as many autistic adults draw benefits when, with the right support, they could be working and contributing to the province’s tax base instead. 

Strengths of Autism In the Workplace

The low employment rate for autistic adults in British Columbia comes as a surprise to companies who have already taken the step to neurodiversity their workforce. They have followed in the steps of global corporations like Microsoft and JP Morgan Chase to discover and benefit from the strengths of autism in the workplace:

  • An eye for detail – while it’s true to say that no two autistic individuals have the same set of characteristics (hence the idea of a spectrum rather than a rigid diagnosis), an eye for detail and excellent levels of concentration are common traits across many autistic employees. These skills help them to excel in fields like computer programming, accountancy and medical research, which all allow for limited social interactions and high levels of defined work that can follow flowcharts and checklists. 
  • Out of the box thinking – many autistic individuals describe how they perceive and understand the world in different ways to their neurotypical peers. In the workplace, this means that they are often able to see new solutions to old problems which makes them experts in systems analysis and software testing roles. While both of these require more involved interpersonal interactions, as they will be expected to give and receive feedback about their projects, these can be achieved with the right types of support. 
  • Simplified communication – not all the benefits of hiring autistic individuals come from the workers themselves. There are repercussions for how your staff react to their new colleague, and one common response that has been seen in many companies is a simplification of communication across the company. This is both in terms of formal communication, such as agendas and conversations in meetings, as well as informal discussions around the water cooler. All of your workers will find they need to be more concrete and concise as they speak with their colleague, and this translates into a dramatic decrease in gossip and wasted time in meetings. 

How To Retain Autistic Workers

It’s clear to see that adding neurodiversity to your workplace will help you to get an edge over your competitors. Navigating the world of neurodiverse and ASD employment can be tricky, especially if you don’t have any expertise on your hiring team. This is when teaming up with an autism talent management agency is a great investment in your company’s future. Not only will  they help with recruitment and interviewing the highest quality autistic candidates, but they will also be instrumental in retaining autism workers in these ways:

  • Training – one of the most important aspects of effective autism employment is training for the existing staff and supervisors. Some of this will be generic myth-busting autism training to answer common misconceptions about autism as a whole, and some of the training will be specific to supervisors and team members to help them get the best from their new colleague.
  • Feedback – one of the main reasons why autistic workers tend to leave positions early is through a lack of feedback, or overly negative performance reviews. An autism talent management agency will have experts who can train supervisors about how to give simple, concise and positive feedback to an autistic worker that will not only keep them in the job but also drive their performance to new highs. 
  • Accommodations – finally, hiring an autistic employee comes with many benefits both to the individual themselves and to the organisation at large. However, these advantages come with a series of accommodations that will need to be made to help the new hire be successful. Given the individualised nature of autism, these will vary from person to person, and the autism talent management agency will know them well enough to be able to advocate for the right accommodations. These can range from sensory issues, such as reduced lighting and quiet working spaces, to checklists for their daily workload. Companies who engage in effective autism employment find that the benefits far outweigh the changes that need to be made.

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