It’s never been easier to start up a new business in British Columbia, and as the economy bounces back from the worst of the pandemic, companies across the province are looking for ways to get a competitive edge. The main problem is that the traditional job pool of neurotypical workers has remained roughly constant, meaning that businesses use their typical strategies of perks and pay packages to entice the best talent to work for them. However, a new hiring trend is hitting the province; hiring neurodiverse employees.
Benefits of neurodiverse employees
Major players such as Microsoft, SAP, and JP Morgan Chase have become earlier adopters with dedicated autism hiring programs, and they are beginning to realize the unique strengths and talents that autistic workers bring to the workplace. While it’s worth bearing in mind that autism is called a spectrum for a reason, meaning that every individual will experience autism differently, there are some traits that are common across many neurodiverse workers that make them excellent employees:
- Eye for detail – one of the most common traits in autistic individuals that makes them successful in the workplace is their attention to detail and their ability to focus for lengthy periods of time. This makes careers in software testing, research and accounting highly promising for autistic workers with low support needs.
- Ability to work independently – another common symptom of autism is finding it hard to read subtle social cues and body language. This inevitably makes autistic workers wary of complex social interactions like meetings and phone calls, and they’ll often prefer to work by themselves. With the right support, such as checklists and repetitive work, autistic individuals anywhere on the spectrum can succeed.
- Out of the box thinking – it’s a well recognized truth that neurodiverse individuals see the world in very different ways to their neurotypical colleagues. This means that they will often see new ways to solve old problems as well as being able to find ways to streamline and improve existing processes. In fields such as software programming and logistics, this out of the box thinking can put your business way out in front.
Successful hiring practices for neurodiverse employees
Given the strengths that autistic workers bring to the table, it’s surprising that over 80% of the autistic adults in British Columbia are either unemployed or in work that doesn’t make use of their skills and qualifications. Part of the problem is that the traditional hiring practice of application and interview is heavily weighted towards neurotypical individuals. To hire neurodiverse employees, you’ll need to modify your hiring strategy:
- Post on autism friendly job boards – the biggest step to take in your hunt for the best neurodiverse talent Vancouver can offer is to get your job posting seen in the right places. This means not only putting your job advert out on autism friendly job boards, but also creating an autism friendly job posting. This means being concrete and clear about what the job entails and what skills will be learned on the job versus those that successful applicants should already possess.
- Offer phone and in person applications – written applications are hard to write for everyone, but for autistic job seekers, the skill of selling yourself and making abstract connections between skills you already have and skills you will need can be highly challenging. Instead, offer to meet prospective employees in person or over the phone to talk with them about the job and what accommodations and changes your business will need to make to hire them.
- Use group or task based interviews – finally, the face to face interview is heavily weighted towards neurotypical workers, with the need for social cues and reading body language inherent throughout (not to mention it’s been proven to be a poor indicator of actual job performance). Instead, have autistic applicants take part in task based interviews where they undertake aspects of the actual job, or group interviews where they take part in a meeting or task with current employees to see how well they interact with others.
While it’s possible to make these changes to your hiring practices by yourself, it’s worth your time and money to team up with an autism talent management agency. These businesses will work with both your company to make it more autism accessible as well as finding and train the best neurodiverse talent in the city. They will also provide support for both you and your employee to make it a long term and successful partnership