by Wayne McRae
Nearly every enterprise has done or is doing the important work of identifying and defining its own diversity and inclusion goals. For many, it’s a matter of identifying gaps and opportunities and then designing solutions that drive improvement. But, even after careful planning, ongoing committee work and the attainment of certain milestones, the truth is, many organizations struggle to meet their goals. Diversity and inclusion initiatives often start out aspirational – and in too many cases – remain so.
The challenge is twofold. The first challenge often stems from a lack of true understanding about the candidate pool and how to effectively tap into that pool. The second challenge comes from the difficulty in creating a workplace that empowers those employees to contribute their strengths fully. Diversity refers to bringing together people from different backgrounds and perspectives; inclusion is the ethos and environment that supports each employee so they can show up equally.
Even the best organizations often fall back on the hiring processes and practices that have worked in the past, going to the market with the same job postings in the same places without spending the time and energy necessary to effectively target ideal candidates. But even while advances in job search technology and collaborations between Talent Acquisition departments and hiring firms are opening new doors for organizations, building a truly inclusive environment that supports workers in the future can be tricky.
Neurodiversity is a kind of diversity that embraces a range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits. It regards these differences as part of normal variation in the human population. Generally, the term is used to refer to individuals who have neurological differences like those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or ASD. Of course, the definition of neurodiversity is broad because the autism spectrum itself is broad.
There is a common misconception among businesses that embracing neurodiverse individuals in an organization would require extensive time and effort. What we’ve found repeatedly is that, while the approach to neurodiversity should be carefully planned, it is certainly worthwhile. The return on the time you invest in training and workplace accommodation, if any is needed at all, is significant.
Very often – with the right structure to support cultural integration, supervision, and skill development – the business value a neurodiverse employee offers is greater than industry standards. When neurodiverse teams are measured against other teams where neurodiversity is lacking, neurodiverse teams consistently exceed expectations.
Of course, these success stories are not about employees with ASD working in a vacuum. They are about the outcomes of a proven, repeatable framework that supports individuals with ASD in concrete and sustainable ways. This includes job readiness and organizational readiness training. It includes workplace assessments and ongoing program governance. CAI's Autism2Work (A2W) program is successful because we know how to manage the lifecycle of talent acquisition and training to create a diverse workplace and we know how to build the ongoing structure for sustainable inclusivity. An added bonus is gaining employees who are exceptionally hard-working, have astute technical capabilities, and can process abstract ideas – traits that A2W employees almost always exhibit.
When you get the chance to sit down with someone who thinks differently and who wants to be a part of your team, you realize quickly you have an opportunity to expand the way the team works, to enhance problem-solving, to operate more efficiently. You realize quickly this is not just about the good intentions of a diversity and inclusion initiative – it is about building a very real competitive advantage for your company.
CAI’s Autism2Work program helps private and public organizations drive value, improve productivity, and enhance customer experience by realizing the benefits of neurodiversity and providing career foundation and advancement opportunities for the neurodiverse population.