Business expert urges companies to consider this untapped talent pool

Associate Professor Anna Krzeminska from the Macquarie Business School is calling on companies to adapt their hiring process to the needs of neuro-atypical people, including those who are diagnosed with autism or dyslexia.

April 2 is World Autism Day, and while people with autism today have many more job opportunities – and even specially-designed shoes – than they once did, they’re still underemployed or unemployed compared to the overall population.

In Australia, the labour force participation rate of adults with autism is approximately 40 per cent, accounting for the greatest percentage of underemployment of any subgroup.

This is despite the fact that many neuro-atypical people possess highly desirable work-related talents and are capable of functioning productively in organisations, Krzeminska said.

“The problem is not with neuro-atypical people, but with hiring processes that define talent too narrowly and that rely heavily on job interview formats that are biased against people with atypical manners of interaction,” she said.

However, some organisations are beginning to use exercise-driven hiring and training methods, which allow autistic people to demonstrate their talents.

They include prominent Australian companies and government organisations such as IBM, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and most recently Auticon, an international IT firm backed by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Krzeminska argues that businesses stand to benefit by adopting employment practices that are fairer.

“Many of the people hired, despite supposed disabilities, perform well in their jobs,” she said.

Businesses also benefit when the specific character of neuro-atypical conditions are applied to certain roles. For example, research found people with autism have special abilities to complete exacting and repetitive tasks, to observe and to recall detail, and to recognise patterns that allow them to do valuable work for which others lack patience or a similar ability.

Krzeminska said that managers of neuro-atypical employees in the future will have no choice but to manage these employees as individuals, based on the belief that such a philosophy is beneficial for business and society as a whole.

This story was adapted from an article first published by The Lighthouse and has been published here with permission.

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