23 Apr 2018, in Autism & Employment
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY, has one of the most successful university autism support programs, assisting students through their time at the university and into employment.
We at Uptimize have been collaborating for over a year with RIT's autism program leads Laura Ackles and Janine Rowe on awareness activities with RIT's circle of employers, highlighting together the importance of neurodiversity at work.
Last week, RIT launched the first of a series of webinars - under the title 'Thinking Differently' - to help provide employers with more information about how neurodiversity relates to the workplace, the importance and value of hiring neurodiverse talent, and some practical insights on how to build a neurodiversity at work program in their organization.
Guesting on the podcast - which you can listen to on YouTube (link below), were:
- Ed Thompson, CEO Uptimize, explaining how neurodiversity at work can meet the key talent challenges facing most employers in 2018
- Jen Guadagno, Senior Inclusive Hiring program manager at Microsoft, showcasing how Microsoft have built a pioneering and exemplary autism hiring initiative
Want to learn more about how to attract, hire and keep neurodiverse talent? Get in touch via our contact form - we'd love to hear from you.
17 Apr 2018, in Autism & Employment
We are delighted to announce Tim Goldstein, the highly respected neurodiversity consultant and thought leader, has joined Uptimize's subject matter advisory board. Tim will be bringing his expertise and methodology to Uptimize client engagements, as well as helping to steer Uptimize's content and products as we continue to develop best-in-class solutions in the field of neurodiversity at work.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s at 54, Denver-based Tim Goldstein has become an eminent “Neurodiverse Communications Specialist“ with a unique appraoch to helping leaders and employees better understand how coworkers on the autism spectrum function.
Having had a successful career both as a senior technical professional in corporations and as an entrepreneur, Tim brings a nuanced perspective to building strategies to support neurodiverse workers. He has taught his concepts at Cornell and written a book, Geeks Guide to Interviews.
Ed Thompson, CEO of Uptimize, said "Tim brings a huge amount to the table as a subject matter expert. The combination of Tim's understanding of business and his personal experiences as an autistic tech professional make him an ideal fit to be part of our journey".
Tim Goldstein said "I am delighted to join Uptimize’s advisory board with the opportunity to help expand and refine their already best-in-class training. I'm also excited to help clients through presentations, workshops, and webinars to help them fully benefit from Uptimize’s leading edge training".
For more information on our advisory board, visit www.uptimize.com/about
13 Apr 2018, in Autism & Employment
Last week we were pleased to attend a lunch at the UN building in New York, bringing together global experts and practioners in the field of autism at work. The tone and atmosphere was highly positive - unsurprising given the rapid rise in attention on this topic even just over the past 24 months.
After a series of speeches - and one-to-one conversations with others at the event - these were our three key takeaways:
1. Everyone agrees autism at work isn't just a CSR matter
The topic of ROI was frequently cited, as was the need to continue to position autism initiatives to HR as high-impact talent strategy plays - not charity. This syncs with Uptimize's own ethos and view of neurodiverse teams as a clear competitive advantage.
2. Autism-at-work is a global focus
At Uptimize, so far we have worked principally in the US, the UK and Australia - though we are looking to create versions of our products in other languages, following client requests. It was great to see attendees from China, the Americas and Europe coming together to share best practices and future strategies.
3. Autism-at-work will benefit from further data, proving the impact of neurodiverse hiring
This was something that came up in the discussion; our view is that while the initial data has been highly positive (witness JPMorgan Chase finding their neurodiverse teams have been 50% more productive!) there is a need for further, more wide-ranging studies across the space. This is something we are committed to facilitating at Uptimize with our university partners - watch this space!
Want to know more about our work? Please get in touch through our website contact form.
4 Sep 2017, in Autism & Employment
At Uptimize, we work closely with a number of partners whose services, ethos and mission complement and sync with our own.
One such partner is Integrate Autism Advisors (formerly Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) based in New York, an organization than specializes in helping employers to recruit autistic talent.
Integrate’s founder and President, Marcia Scheiner, is – like Integrate’s other key figures - the parent of an adult son with Asperger Syndrome. Previously, she spent 25 years in financial services, building up an impressive private sector resume before founding Integrate.
Marcia has now written a book - An Employer’s Guide to Managing Professionals on the Autism Spectrum – a definitive guide to managing people with an ASD effectively. The book covers all aspects of managing a direct report on the spectrum, from ensuring the manager truly understands autism itself, to social interaction, emotional regulation, and work performance.
“A very valuable guide to the chagallenges that people with autismface in the workplace… this will help ensure the workplace is inclusive for people with autism”
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director, Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University
“… unique and especially useful in today’s competitive landscape, where employers are looking to tap into this unexplored talent pool”
James Mahoney, Executive Director, Head of Autism at Work, JPMorgan Chase & Company
We strongly recommend this book as both an introductory and complimentary resource for managers with autistic staff. You can purchase a copy here:
30 Mar 2017, in Autism & Employment
Autism spectrum conditions result from differences in brain wiring, and can affect social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
The ‘spectrum’ relates to the range of conditions within the autism range – varying from so severe that a person may be almost unable to communicate and need round-the-clock care, to milder versions such as the well-known Asperger’s Syndrome.
Busting The Myths
Stereotypes about autism abound – many of which are inaccurate. For example, it’s not just men who have autism spectrum conditions; while the typically accepted ratio is 4:1 male to female, recent research suggests there are likely to be more undiagnosed women than men.
Another myth buster: the fact that the majority of people with autism are of standard or above average intelligence. Only around a third have an intellectual disability along with their condition.
The Positive 'Flip Side'
Autism, like dyslexia and ADHD, is typically characterized in terms of negatives – the challenges people on the autism spectrum face as a result of their condition.
These can include ‘executive function’ challenges - such as a tendency to limited or repetitive interests, and a resistance to change - as well as social communication challenges with body language, eye contact, reading other people, and assessing situations for ‘appropriate’ social behaviour.
Yet as with other such conditions, there is often a more positive ‘flip side’ to autism: one that makes many people on the autism spectrum very effective employees in the right work roles.
The Unique Strengths of Autistic Workers
Auticon, a successful consulting business whose autistic consultants provide IT and compliance business services to corporates, list 9 common attributes of people on the autism spectrum that give them a significant advantage at work.
These include an ability to focus and concentrate over long periods; exceptional attention to detail; logical and analytical skills; and typical personal traits such as honesty, sincerity and loyalty.
Other firms like ULTRA Testing and Aspiritech are successfully operating similar models to Auticon, leveraging many of the unique skills of autistic workers and the particularly good fit between these skills and many of the work demands of the tech industry.
Underemployment Remains High
However, despite the skills that people with autism can bring to employers, they are currently missing out in the job market – and as a result, on having the independence, self-worth and life options of a successful career – in a big way.
A Huffington Post article of 2012 described job prospects for adults with autism in the US as ‘crushingly bleak’ – and sadly, the situation is similar 5 years on. Nationwide, around 85% of working age adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed – according to a report by Drexel University in 2015, 20-somethings with autism are significantly less likely to be employed even than their peers with similar hidden disabilities; just 58% are employed, as compared to 95% of with learning disabilities and 91% with a speech impairment or emotional disturbance.
Employers Continue to Face Skills Shortages
While adults with autism continue to struggle to find work, many employers – and especially those in the tech industry – continue to struggle to fill open roles. The ‘tech talent shortage’ continues apace: a recent survey of by IT outsourcer Harvey Nash and auditing firm KPMG of over 3,000 CIOs found that two thirds said that hiring challenges are hurting the industry. Job site Indeed reported similar findings in its recent poll of more than 1,000 hiring managers and recruiters; 86% of companies polled said they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent.
While the shortage of suitable skills and applicants appears to be most acute in tech, other sectors are experiencing similar issues: according to the UK Recruitment & Employment Confederation JobsOutlook survey, almost half of UK employers expected a shortage of suitable candidates in 2017.
Leveraging Autistic Talent
The fit between talented autistic workers and large – often tech – companies seeking new talent has been clear for some time. Indeed, back in 2012 Peter Bell, Executive Vice President of Programs and Services at Autism Speaks, told HuffPo “The autism population represents a pool of potential employees that corporate America needs to explore”.
Some notable companies have taken up the mantle since then, led by tech giants SAP, Microsoft, and HP, with others such as professional services firm EY now also running specific programs to hire, develop and retain autistic workers. As SAP senior product manager Florian Michaelsen told TechRadar.com, “the global scarcity of talent forces us and all businesses to think in new ways – from an SAP perspective this is an easy fit, a low-hanging fruit if you will; It's estimated that some 85% of adults with autism are unemployed, so this potentially represents a unique untapped opportunity”.
What excites about not just the progress such firms have made in their recruitment efforts – SAP says it is on track to hit its goal of 1% of its global workforce (around 650 employees) by 2020 – but their potential to inspire other organizations to follow suit. As the (tech) talent shortage continues to bite, companies consistently report the need to identify and leverage new sources of talent.
Those in the vanguard, which include investment bank JPMorgan Chase (with its own series of hiring programs) are not just setting an example but also – crucially - proving the business case for hiring autistic workers; JPMC reports productivity gains of over 50% from its programs, now being significantly expanded across its offices in the US. “There’s a growing recognition that high-functioning ASD individuals have qualities that neurotypicals don’t” said Marc Lazar, program director at Aspiritech (also to HuffPo) – more and more firms are now seeking to capitalise on these hitherto overlooked attributes.
8 Oct 2015, in Autism & Employment
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a concerted effort to employ people with autism, notably a pilot program to hire coders at its Redmond offices in Washington. The announcement achieved huge coverage in the press, from the Washington Post, to the BBC, to countless disability-related publications and websites.
Along with other tech giants like SAP, and large firms in other sectors like Freddie Mac and Walgreens, Microsoft is one of a group of companies that are ramping up their recruitment of employees from this huge but often overlooked and misunderstood group.
So what’s driving this new focus on autistic workers? It’s more than a series of CSR initiatives. Over the last 5 years there appears to have been growing realization of the business benefits that recruiting people with autism can bring. Here are 5 of the most important and compelling benefits:
1. People with autism represent a vast, untapped talent pool
Autism diagnoses have rocketed in the past 20 years – now, 1 in 68 children in the US are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Around 100,000 young people with autism will graduate from college in the US in the next 5 years.
Meanwhile, the ‘war for talent’ continues to rage, with simple supply and demand economics leaving more than half a million open jobs in IT in the United States (according to the White House’s own figures). Simply put, people with autism represent a talent pool that no talent management professional should ignore.
2. People with autism make great employees
It’s not just the prevalence of people with autism – it’s the fact that people with this condition often have outstanding traits for being highly productive, loyal employees. Structured thinking and often exceptional abilities with numbers can make effective programmers, data modelers and testers. Others with more verbal or visual brains can make outstanding researchers or designers, as the legendary Temple Grandin proved with her award winning work in livestock handling design.
3. Recruiting people with autism makes a positive social impact (CSR)
People with autism are numerous and talented, but they are currently missing out on the job market in a big way. Currently only 15% of adults with autism are in full employment – the lowest rate amongst comparable disabilities – resulting in significant societal costs.
The conventional route into employment – the interview – can be a huge challenge for people who can struggle with social communication skills from body language and tone of voice to self-advocacy. As autism is a hidden condition, people on the autism spectrum can suffer unconscious discrimination from ill-informed employers, whose hiring, interviewing, onboarding and management know-how and processes are often completely unsuited to this very significant demographic.
4. Hiring people with autism can benefit ALL employees
It’s not just people with autism themselves that benefit from being given a fair chance in the 21st century workplace. HR leaders looking to develop strong cultures with high satisfaction and low employee turnover should consider the broader benefits of diverse recruiting – companies like Sodexo that have approached diverse recruiting strategically are reporting significant boosts in employee engagement.
Moreover, the focus on making accommodations for autistic employees such as improving lighting and reducing noise in the workplace are likely to benefit all of your team. It’s not expensive to do this either, as demonstrated in the US Dept. of Labor's report “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact”.
Furthermore, bringing on autistic talent provides for both a management challenge and also a management training opportunity, helping you to build leadership capability and ‘EQ’ across the organization.
5. Hiring people with autism can boost your brand
The autism community itself is vast, with passionate bloggers and substantial advocacy and research groups – as it’s such a prevalent condition, millions of people are either on the spectrum or are closely related to someone who is.
Huge PR coverage of Microsoft’s initiative and those of Walgreens, SAP and others – in both the mainstream and disability-specific press - attests to the significant brand potential of creative recruiting from this hitherto much-neglected pool of talent.
FInd out more about autism awareness in the workplace here.