The Neurodiverse Workplace

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report announcing a 15% increase in autism’s prevalence in the United States, to 1 in 59 children, from 1 in 68 two years previous.

Having someone on the Spectrum in your life is more and more common. You might have met them in the queue at the grocery shop or noticed high functioning autism in your best friend’s life partner.

So why is it that society still struggles to integrate autistic people into the workplace? Neurodiverse people frequently need accommodations, like headphones to prevent auditory overstimulation or they avoid making eye contact (I wrote more about this in a detailed blog post). Most of these challenges can be managed and the results can be great. Many on the Spectrum have a high IQ and research shows that some conditions, including autism and dyslexia, can bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics.

In order for these people to showcase their talent, companies need to change the way they recruit and their career development policies to include a diverse pool of talent.

Not surprisingly, when autistic people get the support they need, companies are thriving overall. Hewlett Packard Enterprise launched a program which introduced over 30 participants in software-testing roles at Australia’s Department of Human Services (DHS). Preliminary results suggest that the organization’s neurodiverse testing teams are 30% more productive than the others. After the success of this program, the Australian Defense Department is developing a neurodiversity program in cybersecurity. You can read more about it in this article published in Harvard Business Review.

How can we start employing more autistic people?

Don’t rush the process; make sure you are hiring the people with the right CV for the job. Partnering with companies that already have experience in autistic behavior is a way to facilitate knowledge exchange. Expect a change in your company culture and your employees.