Autistic employees can be a huge asset to your organisation. Understanding autism and autistic people will help you learn. Not only will it help you develop a deeper awareness of people’s individuality but also their unique strengths and abilities. Some autistic people have higher than average intelligence, whilst some have learning disabilities. This means the level of support people may require in the working environment may vary.
Strong Abilities in Employees with Autism
Autistic people think differently from most neurotypical people. They often think outside the box, making them great problem solvers. They are also logical thinkers and meticulous.
Autistic individuals are also able to absorb and retain a lot of information on topics of interest. They have incredible abilities to focus on activities of interest for much longer, which helps them to master certain skills and become great at them. They also work with higher levels of accuracy and diligence. Additionally, they are also visual thinkers and can identify patterns. Thus, they can identify errors. However, they may struggle with abstracts and what-if scenarios.
Autistics are also naturally good with technology. As technology is becoming a greater part of our way of living and working, leaders can tap into the skills and abilities of autistic people. This helps to enrich their workforce. The benefits to organisations are huge and recognised by some of the major tech companies such as Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Dell and Daivergent. These organisations have adapted their recruitment processes to accommodate autistic employees and put support systems in place for them in the workplace.
Challenges Autistic Employees may Face
Clear boundaries are important to autistic people. They also work well in rule-based environments. Because this helps them in establishing routines and creating a safe environment to operate in.
Change can be difficult for autistic employees with autism. Leaders, therefore, need to manage change delicately. Time should be given to accommodate the diverse workforce including those that are autistic. Carefully managing change will help autistic people and others to understand what, why, how, who and when of change. It will give them time to process the change and adapt. Sudden changes can create elevated levels of anxiety and stress.
Clear and concise communication is especially important for engaging with autistic people. Hence, as a leader, manager or colleague, you will need to communicate clearly. Give clear instructions, objectives and timescales. Anything else becomes confusing. Autistic people may struggle with understanding body language. Hence autistic employees may find eye contact a challenge. They may also find sustaining conversations for longer than necessary difficult. They may also struggle with picking up social cues or knowing what to do if they feel they are wrong.
Autistic people have some great qualities many employers desire in their workforce. They are loyal, honest, punctual, fair and reliable.
Providing the right level of support can help autistic people to thrive in the workplace. Organisations can benefit from employing autistic people. Leaders, managers and other employees also benefit from collaborating with autistic people. It helps them to develop and grow as individuals. They become better people as a result. They think about how they interact, communicate, organise, prioritise and present their work and ideas. Autistic employees can be high performing employees. Read more on Business Leaders with Autism.
Here are Top Tips for Leaders and Employers
- Adapt your recruitment processes and practices to make them more accessible and inclusive for autistic people.
- Praise, recognition and reward – show your appreciation for the work and contributions that autistic people make. You must recognise them as valuable members of your organisation.
- Clear communication of objectives, expectations and timescales.
- Give clear instructions and guidance.
- Plan and implement good change management programmes.
- Take time to understand the autistic people in your workplace.
- Set clear boundaries and rules. Good planning and organisation help.
- Clearly define job roles and responsibilities.
- Establish a support network for autistic people.
- Wellbeing – you can provide a better work-life balance, flexible working patterns and employee assistance programmes.
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