Neurodiversity - a benefit for employers

Employers in the UK have a hidden gap in their workforce. A gap that is rarely spoken about, probably because it’s invisible to the naked eye and because it may be perceived as too big to deal with.

The gap is neurodiversity.

What do I mean by neurodiversity? Neurodiversity represents the differences in some individuals that have their brain wired slightly differently. We all have differences of course, but people that are neurodiverse cope with conditions like Autism, Dyslexia, ADD and ADHD every day.

I use the word cope, as the traditional workplace environment and attitudes are set up with the ‘neurotypical’ in mind. Open plan offices, endless meetings, bright LED lighting, task and context switching to keep up with multiple responsibilities – these are all examples of challenges that would only need minor adjustments to enable neurodiverse colleagues to manage and thrive, rather than cope.

auticon is an IT consultancy, exclusively hiring autistic adults. Our overarching goal is the social impact we can have by employing qualified, highly intelligent and multi-skilled adults on the autism spectrum and integrating them into client teams as tech consultants.

In the UK, only 16 per cent of autistic adults are in full-time employment. And of those that have previously had a full-time job, 43 per cent have either left or lost their job because of their autism. Quite often, they are subjected to a ‘job’ that gets them by, rather than having a chance at a career they deserve.

The first blockade to employment for adults on the spectrum is the interview process, so we got rid of it.

Read: Breaking down barriers to effective team diversity

At auticon, we hire autistic adults based on their cognitive skills, not their ability to hold a conversation about what they do practically, in an overwhelming and intimidating interview process. We test the skills ourselves with a series of practical tests along with a three-day workshop. Our job offer is based on merits, rather than the ability to talk about merits.

This is when their career in technology with an employer supporting full-disclosure of their neurodiversity begins. Disclosure in itself is a barrier for a lot of adults on the spectrum, as they hide it from employers in fear they will be discriminated against. In a lot of instances, they are or have been.

Feeling that you are included, valued and have a purpose in the workplace is important to most people’s life satisfaction. After all, we spend a lot of time at our desk. But for people with autism, an employer can find it difficult to provide this just for lack of education about their condition. As a result, some adults on the spectrum have had difficult experiences in the workplace, which in turn has impacted on their mental health.

We change that at auticon.

Our candidates become IT consultants employed by auticon, fully coached and supported, before being matched with a company that requires their cognitive and technical skill set to work within their team.

The ability to spot patterns, having a different approach to solving problems, sustained concentration, strong logic and the desire to be an expert in their field, are just some of the qualities that sets our consultants apart.

As soon as we start working with clients - who include well-known companies like Virgin, KPMG, GSK, as well as start-ups and SMEs - the education and support process begins to raise awareness and acceptance towards our neurodiverse colleagues.

We ensure the teams working with our consultants receive training about autism in general and any specific needs their new colleague may have. A one size fits all approach doesn’t apply here. Everyone is individual, and any adjustments we facilitate are always person-centric. We then offer ongoing support and advice to our consultants and clients. Consultants receive regular coaching sessions and clients receive ad hoc support whenever they need it.

It’s our goal to create sustainable careers for as many autistic people as possible. In 2018, we opened offices in the US, Switzerland, Italy and Canada. The UK office doubled the number of consultants we hired compared to the previous year. In 2019, the UK office will expand from its firm presence in Greater London and open its first office in Scotland so that we can offer more career opportunities to people living in the North.

auticon allows UK corporations to tap into the incredible neurodiverse talent pool. We create rewarding careers for skilled autistic people and change our clients’ perceptions by delivering excellence.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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