Autism is a developmental condition that people are born with. It exists as a spectrum condition, meaning it impacts each person differently. Autism was not being routinely diagnosed until 1994 which makes it a relatively new condition. It also means many adults may not have a diagnosis, and of those who do, many choose not to disclose it. Therefore, employers who are not aware of or who misunderstand how autism presents in the workplace may miss out on spectacular talent during the hiring process. Autistic employees can also be let go because employers misunderstand their behavior or co-workers find they don't seem to “fit in”. It's rarely because they under-perform.
Three recent independent studies* on the benefits of autism in the workplace found part of the benefits were related to training the organization about autism and how it may present in the workplace. A side benefit of training can be increased levels of employee engagement. The studies found most training is focused on clear communication skills, especially useful for the interview process and for managers and colleagues in the workgroup. And many employers find training beneficial well beyond managing autistic employees. With the right approach, an organization can reap the benefits of an expanded talent pool for potential employees; improve engagement, acceptance and productivity; and broaden diversity.
Let's learn how to expand the definition of acceptable workplace behavior include neurotypical and neurodivergent behavior, i.e., all human behavior.
1. LaTrobe University on the Dandelion Employment Program, an initiative by DXC Technology in collaboration with the Australian Department of Human Services, Department of Defense, and Department of Immigration and Border Protection
2. Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre at Curtin University in Australia
3. Deutsche Bank, Autistica (a U.K. autism research organization) and UCL Institute of Education