Autism at Work Summit, a groundbreaking business effort

Just getting over the red eye flight home from the Autism at Work summit held at SAP’s Palo Alto facility. Though held at SAP, this movement is being driven by a collaboration of 4 major corporations, SAP, Microsoft, HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise), and EY (Ernst Young) in combination with universities, partners, and other companies beginning their involvement. Autism at Work is the name wrapped around these and other major companies’ efforts to integrate autistic workers into their normal business environment and culture. Amazingly, this is not being done just to be good corporate citizens, but because it is proving to be a business case that is very good for the business.

 What these companies have recognized is, within the autistic population are people whose traits and strategies aid them to be tremendous performing employees when in the right job. But, these same people can’t get through the normal hiring process due to social or communication challenges. These are areas frequently impacted for people on the ASD spectrum (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Autism at Work is about freely sharing all aspects of efforts to create programs, processes, structure, and measurements by each company. Creating a body of accessible knowledge to allow other companies to more easily implement a successful autistic recruitment and integration program. HPE has gone as far as open sourcing their process, studies, and details in collaboration with Cornell University.

 As someone on the spectrum with Asperger’s, I likely have a different perspective to share. This is the condensed version. Us on the spectrum can get quite long winded on subjects which interest us! My top impression is awe at the dedication and commitment behind this effort by very senior executives. It wasn’t so much the level, which is amazing, but the motivations to create this ground-breaking movement. They were highly personal. Having an autistic family member, stories from friends, acquaintances, co-workers struggling with a brilliant kid with amazing grades from top schools who can’t get jobs that utilize their talents. Having studied speaking, the absolute authenticity of all the presenters was obvious to me as genuine and not a speaking gimmick.

 The next most striking learning was, these efforts are justifying themselves on an economic basis. Additionally, there are totally unexpected positive benefits to the organization like improving managers effectiveness, employees pride in the company for such dedication to this cause, accelerated innovation from the input of people who are wired to see the world differently, and many more. The business case for learning and doing what is needed to integrate and support more autistic people into the workplace is compelling. It is not only a monetary case, but also a case of looking at existing programs and processes from a new perspective causing a change that improves everyone’s experience. One company while reviewing their EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) found they did not have anyone trained to deal with autistic individuals. This review resulted in appropriate resources being added to the provider’s staff to the benefit of all.

 As an aspie, the science and analytics presented were mind blowing. 12% of people on the autism spectrum have IQ’s of 120 or above. 1 in 42 boys are autistic. In one program the autistic workers are 30% more productive than their neurotypical peers. Sensory hyper sensitivity can include eyes, with some people have super night vision due to this extra light sensitivity. These examples only brush on the information given on the science.

 As an author, speaker, and trainer specializing in Engaging the Technical Worker and Neurodiverse Communication I found the advice given regarding what specific items were key to making the programs work. They found many items they felt were important weren’t and items they considered minor were the most important pieces. One of the most important pieces ended up being, having a buddy or friend they have had a positive experience with. For them, boot camps for the ASD candidates was the trick to proactively creating these bonds. The honest feedback on what is working in the field will be invaluable information to bring to my clients.

 To summarize, this event has all the signs to show neurodiversity will become a major corporate theme. From the stature of the corporations driving it to fact that it is being done without regard of company in a unique sharing of proven profitable business the movement cannot be ignored. Yes, I think movement is the right way to describe it. Many that are active in the childhood autism community are putting their interest and efforts into creating a next step. When their brilliant child graduates college, they want there to be jobs that suit their children’s skills and are challenging careers. I think this is the seed of the movement to change the face of adult autism and recognize we are just normal people wanting to feel productive and do good just like everyone else wants.

Details on SAP's program can be found by CLICKING HERE

For more details or to schedule your free Neurodiversity / Autism integration call contact Tim at his website below.

 Tim Goldstein

Author Speaker Trainer

Neurodiverse Communication Specialist


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