The Business Case for Hiring Autistic Team Members
Employing autistic professionals creates benefits on multiple levels
Auticon is an award-winning IT B2B consulting business. All Auticon consultants are on the autism spectrum. We pride ourselves in creating autism-friendly work environments as well as delivering outstanding quality to our clients.
About Disability Confident
The Government’s Disability Confident campaign aims to encourage employers to recruit and retain disabled people, removing barriers to work faced by disabled people. The campaign works with employers to show that employing disabled people is good for the individual, business and society and aims to make a significant contribution to the Government’s ambition to halve the gap between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people.
Even though employers shouldn’t expect “Rain Men”, adults on the autism spectrum tend to have unique strengths that non-autistic adults don’t have.
At Auticon, we find that autistic team members often outperform their non-autistic co-workers on the following points:
Most Auticon Consultants are astoundingly good at deducing or recognising patterns. They are able to see correlations and interdependences in large amounts of data. A skill that is incredibly useful in IT jobs, but also beneficial to many other professions.
Innovative problem solving
Autistic adults often think outside socially conditioned thought patterns. Employing people with autism opens up new perspectives for teams and shows a valuable alternative point of view.
One of the most notable strengths of adults with Asperger syndrome is the ability to think logically. This frequently goes hand in hand with being mathematically or scientifically gifted.
Concentration and perseverance
Many autistic individuals can stay focused on tasks for astonishing lengths of time. This perseverance and ability to concentrate stays consistent, even across routine or repetitive tasks.
Adults with Asperger syndrome tend to have one or more particular areas of interest and become experts, often gathering an astounding volume of factual knowledge.
Autistic individuals often prefer concentrating on the task at hand rather than emotional or social matters. Conversations will often focus around assignments or facts.
Many autistic individuals are lateral thinkers and able to cross-connect seemingly unrelated information, creating original and creative solutions for problems or challenges at hand.
Truthfulness and sincerity are distinctive autistic traits. It is however a myth that people with autism cannot lie. Most simply do not see the purpose in untruths and have a pronounced passion for fairness and facts.
Precision and bottom-up thinking style
Autistic employees show great attention to detail and tend to be perfectionists. Their differential processing style often yields invaluable additional information.
So what can employers do to make the most of those skills?
As diverse as anyone: just like any person, autistic adults are each unique in their personalities. The best starting point usually is to ask the person directly what helps them focus on their work. However, we do know from experience that the following suggestions often benefit the entire team, as they ensure efficient communication and a well-structured work environment for all members. Clear objectives are not just beneficial to employees on the autism spectrum – in many cases it will reduce the amount of redundant work and substantially increase team satisfaction.
In most cases, a few minor adjustments can ensure everything runs smoothly. Providing a work environment that is well-tailored to your employee’s needs will allow them to fully realise their potential.
Top ten tips for creating an autism-friendly work environment
A suitable office space will likely increase your colleagues’ productivity. Reducing sensory input wherever possible (e.g. providing a space that has blinds, avoiding neon lights or disruptive background noises) are all good places to start. Having a quiet space to retreat to if necessary may also help. However, some autistic workers are perfectly fine with working in open plan offices.
Agree on appointments in advance wherever possible and offer a quick outline on what topics will be discussed/whether or not the autistic colleague will be required to speak or contribute.
Most autistic persons appreciate consistency. Announce changes to the work environment or schedule in advance wherever possible.
4. Implicit social rules
Do let autistic colleagues know of any specific social rules within your corporate culture (e.g. addressing colleagues by first or last names, whether you have an open door policy, etc.). Do invite your autistic colleague to join the team for break times as no one likes to feel left out. Don’t be offended however if they prefer to spend their breaks by themselves – alone time is vital for some autistic adults in order to recuperate.
A well-structured work environment can be of great benefit. Nominate one continuous contact person – ideally someone who is physically present on a regular basis. Provide straightforward instructions, targets, expected progress and deadlines for new tasks wherever possible. Offer support with prioritising tasks. Should urgent or more important tasks arise, we advise you to inform the employee of the updated task order.
Communicate tasks as concisely as possible; avoid ambiguity, unnecessary detail or small talk when explaining new assignments. Indicate whether a response is expected or not. If in doubt, feel free to double check whether your instructions have been understood correctly.
Autistic employees appreciate reliability. Do ensure that you implement what you present. Offer information on potential changes as early as possible.
Avoid unnecessary interruptions as the autistic employee might take longer than average to regain focus on their work. Try your best to answer questions as soon as possible or let your autistic colleague know when to expect an answer. This will help maintain high levels of productivity.
Autistic professionals appreciate clear verbal feedback on their work performance, as they may find it difficult to judge from facial expressions or non-verbal cues.
Accept honest feedback: autistic employees may care about the task at hand more than social aspects and may at times be very straightforward in their criticism. In the vast majority of cases they are genuinely trying to help.