Celebrating neurodiversity in the workplace

Neurodiversity pride symbol

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a spectrum, and no two people are the same, just as no two neurotypical people are the same. However, traits of autism are strengths, and as a company with a focus on enabling diversity in the workplace, we wanted to celebrate those for Autism Awareness Day.

Why you should hire autistic people

Traits associated with autism are valuable in the workplace and beyond.

Spectrum, an online magazine featuring news and expert opinion on autism research, says: “A growing number of researchers argue that many, possibly even most, autistic people show certain advantages, such as an unusual ability to pay attention to visual and auditory information, directness or a strong moral compass.”

Autistica, The UK’s national autism research charity, lists some strengths of autistic people, including:

  • attention to detail
  • visual perception
  • creative and artistic talents
  • mathematical and technical abilities.
  • interests or expertise in ‘niche’ areas
  • character strengths such as honesty and loyalty.

Given these strengths, autistic people would make fantastic employees. The National Autistic Society offers guidance for employers and says, “Many autistic people have a variety of sometimes exceptional skills that enable them to thrive.”

“Many autistic people have a variety of sometimes exceptional skills that enable them to thrive.”

Tech companies are leading the way

Tech companies are leading the way in hiring people with autism. Microsoft, for example, launched an Autism hiring program in 2016. The company recently expanded the program, which is now the Microsoft Neurodiversity Hiring Program.

Microsoft said: “We built the Microsoft Neurodiversity Hiring Program on the belief that neurodivergent individuals strengthen a workforce with innovative thinking and creative solutions. Diverse teams positively impact our company culture, working environment and how we serve our customers.”

Screenshot from Microsoft's neurodiversity hiring program

“Diverse teams positively impact our company culture, working environment and how we serve our customers,” Microsoft

Auticon is a UK-based company that recruits, trains, and employs autistic people to provide “a neurodiverse workforce to improve our client’s IT projects. Our hybrid onsite and offsite teams utilise the cognitive benefits of autism to provide the sustained concentration and analytical mindset to add unique insights into complex IT solutions,” says its website.

However, we should not limit employment opportunities to technology. The National Autistic Society references “roles ranging from sales assistant to computer programmer, and journalist to statistician, to name just a few.”

Directness, honesty, and loyalty are traits that any organisation should welcome.

Barriers to recruitment for autistic people

Yet, there is still an employment gap for autistic people; in 2021, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published data showing that just 22% of adult autistic people are in any kind of employment. A key issue is the recruitment process. A survey by Evenbreak found that 82% of people struggled to find disability-friendly employers, while the second biggest barrier was a lack of confidence in the recruitment process.

Barriers during recruitment included a lack of offering reasonable adjustments, relying on CVs, work experience, and face-to-face interviews. Seventy-five per cent regularly experienced an obvious lack of interest from interviewers.

Autistic people may encounter barriers during recruitment. The National Autistic Society points to barriers including:

  • understanding body language
  • maintaining appropriate eye contact
  • knowing how to start, maintain and end conversations or answers to questions
  • judging how much information to give – especially if questions are open
  • thinking in abstract ways, or considering ‘what if?’ scenarios
  • varying their tone of voice and finding the appropriate level of formality.

Addressing challenges: reasonable adjustments for autistic people

Making reasonable adjustments through the recruitment process and at work can enable autistic people to shine. Clear Talents can help you to zoom in on each step of the recruitment process and help you to adjust the workplace.

You’re expanding your talent pool and attracting a diverse workforce.

According to the British Medical Association, there are approximately 700,000 autistic people in the UK, according to the British Medical Association, or 1 in 100, says the National Autistic Society. One in four autistic people is undiagnosed, according to research.

Clear Talents enables people to self-report challenges they face at work and helps to identify adjustments that may benefit them. It doesn’t require a diagnosis.

Some examples of adjustments to make during the recruitment process include:

  • providing interview questions in advance
  • providing clear directions to the location, including photographs and maps
  • being clear about what will happen when candidates arrive (who is collecting them, and from where)
  • a clear timetable of interview events (questions versus tasks)
  • avoiding general questions and instead being specific
  • avoiding hypothetical questions
  • letting candidates refer to written materials

For more workplace tips, follow ClearTalents on LinkedIn 

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