There is no “all” or “every” in the workplace and every employee is going to have some type of unique needs. However, hiring autistic employees can offer you some unique benefits that other employees might not be able to.
First, let’s cover some basics when it comes to autism. People with autism are protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). This means that employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against them. While employers are legally required to remain inclusive it doesn’t mean that some employers and managers do.
Here are some challenges that autistic employees can face in the workforce:
In some cases, employers might avoid hiring people with autism. In most cases, choosing to not hire someone simply because of them having autism is illegal but in rare cases, they might be legal if it impedes the person’s ability to fulfill the needs of the job. For example, with jobs that require an extremely high level of mental and emotional fitness autistic people might not be selected for employment. Some of these career fields can include but are not limited to, military, law enforcement, firefighting, and aircraft pilots. Generally, these types of jobs will require a mental and emotional fitness assessment with medical professionals that will determine whether the person with autism is mentally and emotionally fit for duty.
For employers and managers that illegally choose to not hire a person because of their autism diagnosis it typically involves certain biases. One of the most common biases toward people with autism is that they are “weird” or “awkward” and might not be a good fit for the organization’s culture because of it. Another bias is that autistic employees cannot hold a job and are not likely to succeed so employers might be more inclined to hire a non-autistic employee that they feel will succeed and be a good culture fit.
Removal of Prejudices and Biaes
While people with autism can face biases and prejudices in the workplace there are also ways to mediate and prevent them from happening.
Here are some methods employers can use:
Manager Feedback Forms
The reality is every human on earth is at risk of bias, whether it is intentional and discriminatory or subconscious and unintentional. Therefore, employers can create and use manager feedback forms that put the responsibility on the manager to explain why a job candidate cannot meet the needs of a job or why an employee is struggling to perform at their current job. This method helps the manager focus on the person’s ability to meet the needs of the job in a more objective manner by having to explain it in detail. For example, this form should include questions that ask what the employee is underperforming in, why they are underperforming, and what the manager is doing to help the employee correct the performance gap.
Diversity & Inclusion Training
Another method that can help autistic people succeed in the workplace is to educate all employees about autism. Incorporating autism into organizations’ diversity and inclusion initiatives, can help in training and managing employees. Issues of the disorder and awareness of some of the challenges that autistic people may face. Also, be sure to highlight the positives and tell people about some of the benefits and strengths that autistic people can have and how they can be helpful.
Benefits of Hiring Autistic Employees
When it comes to hiring people with autism there are often several benefits that can help a business in being successful.
Here are some key benefits of hiring employees with autism:
Many colleges educated people with autism are often left without jobs after graduating despite their academic success. It is estimated that the unemployment rate for college-educated adults with autism can be as high as 85%, this means that companies can benefit from having a large talent pool of college-educated adults who are actively seeking employment. This extra talent market allows organizations a better chance at filling skilled positions with highly educated adults.
Benefits of Hiring Autistic Employees
As the world moves further into the tech-driven world more job fields will require higher levels of technical skills such as coding. Research shows that autistic employees often have a higher level of coding skills, and this is often due to their extreme attention to detail and pattern recognition. These autistic strengths can add significant value to an organization especially when it comes to finding talented employees to work in high-skilled and complex jobs.
Supporting Autistic Employees
The sad reality is that people with autism know that they will face challenges in life and especially in their careers. So, if you give a career opportunity to a person with autism, they will often have a high level of engagement, loyalty, trust, and dedication simply because you gave them that opportunity to succeed. When given the right opportunity and in the right environment autistic employees can add significant value to an organization and deliver a major return on investment.
Diversity & Inclusion
Employees are more likely to want to work at organizations where they see and interact with people that they share common traits. The last thing you want is to have employees with autism feel isolated because they are the only ones in the workplace with autism. Not to mention, if an employee with autism becomes successful, they can be a role model for other employees who enter the workplace and it’s a real-life example of how people with autism can still be successful. Look at Elon Musk, for example, he is one of the most successful and richest people in human history and he has autism.
Employing Autistic Adults
If a person with autism is unemployed and forced to live on government assistance because they cannot find suitable employment, do you know who subsidizes that living? You do. The reality is that the health of the economy is the responsibility of all of us and if we cannot help get people into the workforce and maintain employment the costs of caring for them will add pressure to our welfare systems. Not to mention, organizations might be losing out on potentially college-educated and highly skilled employees simply because they have autism.
The responsibility of employing people with autism extends far beyond one person and managers throughout the organization need to have a higher level of awareness when it comes to employees with autism and how to help them be successful while spreading that diversity and inclusion amongst their teams. While people with autism might face certain biases employers can utilize methods to break down these biases and tap into a potentially organization-changing talent market.