Nearly 84 per cent of UK autistic adults are out of full-time work and this figure needs to change, urgently. Often seen as a hidden disability, autism comes with many challenges including the ability to communicate in a way that employers understand.
According to global talent consultancy CSG, it is estimated that one per cent of the world’s population has an autism spectrum disorder, and 80 per cent of people in this group remain unemployed. Although there is no quick fix, this number can be tackled with greater flexibility in recruitment practices and a more open-minded approach by employers.
The first hurdle comes with traditional recruitment processes which are fundamentally social, built on a candidate’s ability to speak comfortably and confidently about their skills and previous experience. This can mean that the talent of autistic candidates goes unrecognised at the first stage, as communication is not always their strong point, despite the desire and ability to fit into the world of work.
New ways in finding potential needs to be embraced, as well as support from colleagues in an inclusive work culture. Employers need to provide key information and support to co-workers to help support autistic workers, benefiting both parties. Autistic employees can bring huge benefits to businesses if allowed time to integrate and become part of a team. Encouraging greater diversity enables teams to solve problems differently and approach tasks from a new standpoint.
Autistic individuals are often highly creative, can think outside of the box, and be extremely focused and determined. Detail-oriented and technically adept, autistic people demonstrate a high level of accuracy in their work and close attention to detail. These are all qualities that employers are surely crying out for.
One company setting a great example is Microsoft. In April 2015, it launched the Microsoft Hiring Programme with the specific aim of hiring people with autism for full-time positions. Through this programme, applicants are allowed to enter into an interview academy, instead of a phone or face-to-face interview. This consists of part interview and part workshop, allowing potential hires the opportunity to better demonstrate their skills.
As Autism Awareness Month this April comes to a close, more employers will have been exposed to the benefits of hiring autistic employees and seeing the positive effects they can bring to the table.
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