In spite of forward thinking companies like Microsoft, Ernst & Young, and Accenture who hire people with autism through suitable hiring processes, many employers hesitate to employ those who do not excel socially. There are many reasons why you should hire someone who lives with autism spectrum disorder. Managers may replay what they hear about those with Asperger's (autism spectrum disorder in the DSM V)...awkward social skills, poor emotional control, difficulty working with a team. But while those things can be said of potential employees, supervisors may not be aware of the many strengths those on the spectrum can offer your company.
Tight labor pool
As of March 2018, the unemployment rate remains at 4.1%, but the labor participation rate is grew to 63% (the highest jump since 2010). Employers are looking for talent in non-traditional ways, but informed business owners can access talent in novel places.
Around 12% of the population may have a disability at any given time. Only 40% of those are employed, around 5% of the workforce. Creative businesses can use unconventional hiring to access the available half (or 5%) who wish to become employed.
Strengths of those living with autism
The following ten traits were self-reported at higher rates than those without autism in a study by Lorenz and Heinitz:
- Attention to detail
- Logical reasoning
- Visual skills
- Creative solutions
- An ability to prefer repetitive tasks
- Facility with numbers
The following list of traits are reported equally as strengths by both those with and without autism spectrum disorders:
- Organizing ability
- Apprehension (ability to learn)
Both groups reported that emotional control was difficult. What may set those without autism apart is their ability to monitor the social environment and modify their behavior quickly to be socially acceptable. Those who live with autism may take longer to regain emotional control or to limit their emotional outbursts to appropriate workplace reactions. A coach or mentor can provide support in navigating these situations by guiding the employee with autism. A close fit between the person's interests and skills provides the best placement and success in your business.
Why should you hire candidates living with disabilities
Cost effectiveness. Scott, et. al. compared the costs to the employer of hiring those with and without ASD. The study found a negligible difference in cost between employing the two groups, either full-time or part-time. In a study by Jacob, Scott, Falkmer, and Falkmer (2015), employers who hired employees with autism spectrum disorders had employees who consistently contributed to the success of their business. Often, the costs of vocational rehab and coaching are born by area agencies and not the employer. Partnering with the organizations that provide you skilled talent may help you exceed your business goals in unexpected ways.
Retention. Employment candidates living with disabilities are not offered the same number of opportunities as those without. As such, these employees stay at their jobs longer lowering the overall cost of employment.
Federal Contracts. Employers who have federal contracts are already familiar with 2014 Department of Labor goal. The DOL challenged employers to hire employees with disabilities until participation reaches seven percent.
Untapped Resource. The Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire compiles statistics from federal agencies. In 2016, only 35.9% of people with disabilities are employed compared with 76.6% of employees without disabilities. Pre-recession rates are 39.5% and 77.7% respectively. Given that 11.5% of potential employees may have a disability and half remain unemployed, the savvy business owner can have their pick.
Technology. Businesses that leverage technology increase productivity for all employees. Workers can self-accommodate with technology at a minimal cost. Examples include screen-reading software, apps that organize schedules and provide reminders, e-mail, and other adaptive software. These tools enhance productivity and allow employees with disabilities to provide valuable services to your company.
Remote work. While telecommuting grows and fades in popularity, it provides an employee with the flexibility to remain productive. The employee may need to stay home due to illness or inclement weather. Flexible schedules and project based work organization can increase employee productivity.
Specialists. Workers who live with autism have interests they are passionate about. If that interest is also a career goal, the person will have a deep knowledge of the subject. That expertise can provide the employer with extraordinary skills. Encouraging that specialization increases the value to you, the business.
Jacob, A., Scott, M., Falkmer, M., & Falkmer, T. (2015). The Costs and Benefits of Employing an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE, 10(10), e0139896. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0139896
Lorenz, T., & Heinitz, K. (2014). Aspergers – Different, Not Less: Occupational Strengths and Job Interests of Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. PLoS ONE, 9(6), e100358. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100358
Scott, M., Jacob, A., Hendrie, D., Parsons, R., Girdler, S., Falkmer, T., & Falkmer, M. (2017). Employers’ perception of the costs and the benefits of hiring individuals with autism spectrum disorder in open employment in Australia. PLoS ONE, 12(5), e0177607. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177607