Not enough autistic adults are in full-time employment, you don’t need me to tell you that.
It’s a scandal, it’s a disgrace, but it’s not just a problem for those of us with a direct interest in the rights of those on the spectrum.
Workplaces with a higher representation of autistic employees would benefit absolutely everyone.
Here are, in listicle format, 9 reasons why it’s in any company’s interests to have more autistic employees. Those in charge of recruitment take note!
People Would Speak When They Had Something Worth SayingA lot of people – not all, but a lot – like to hear the sound of their own voice. I think of it as the Lost syndrome. In Lost, the world ends if a series of numbers aren’t punched in every few minutes, in the workplace some people fear they’ll vanish if they don’t chip in with their stunning insight at regular junctures.
Wouldn’t it be better if people made points when they really had a point worth making, perhaps having done their research beforehand…
With More Autistic Employees In The Workplace, It Would Then Be Easier For Even More To JoinAt present, the stats around autism jobs are a huge concern. Only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment according to the National Autism Society. Those 16% are not spread out evenly through professions of course, there will be some jobs with a reasonably high percentage of autistic workers, others where the numbers are shockingly low.
Imagine if there were just more autistic people in the workplace how much easier it would be for any new autistic employee. They would have role models, the whole culture would be more welcoming, the recruitment process would be more inclusive.
Anyone like me with an autistic child would have real confidence that they could have their pick of jobs and then work somewhere with a great environment, as opposed to wondering if they will get any job and that, even if they do, it might prove to be extremely stressful for them.
Workplaces Would Get A Different Type Of ThinkerThe autistic brains is wired differently and having this difference is a huge asset to any organisation. Who wants an echo chamber, who wants roughly the same ideas repeated or things done in the same way they’ve always been done just because.
The ideas put forward won’t always be the ones chosen, autistic workers don’t have exclusivity on good ideas, but then neither do neurotypicals. What we can be certain of is that if the organisation has a range of different voices it has more options to choose between.
Inclusivity Would Make Everyone Feel WelcomeNot a point specifically related to autism, instead it’s about difference and diversity in general. Any work place benefits from diversity, from different ways of seeing things, from different experiences, from becoming a melting pot of difference rather than a homogenous pot of sameness. Think of it like trifle. Trifle is better than a bowl of custard.
Quite aside from better work being produced, the whole atmosphere of any organisation benefits from having a broader group of employees. Because there is no norm, everyone fits in.
In an office where it’s nearly all men, or everyone is under 35 the newcomer who is different in some way may feel like an outsider however friendly everyone might be to them. In an office where there is no majority group, there are just people, all ages, all genders, all races, all personality types, all different but all united by this.
Any organisation like this would not have to talk about inclusion or have recruitment drives to be more inclusive, they just would be inclusive.
There Would Be Fewer MeetingsEver noticed how the less work a business has on, the more pointless meetings crop up? When everyone is flat out towards deadlines or in the middle of a big event you have the odd catch-up but not meetings scheduled to kill time and create the appearance of being busy.
With more autistic employees would there be more of a culture of people just working independently on tasks, less one of talking shop.
People Would Come PreparedThis is part two of what I call the meetings triumvirate (don’t worry we’ll move on to non meeting-based benefits).
Ever find that the first 15 minutes of a meeting are just getting people up to speed because so many turn up just because they’re invited, not because they have any great interest in the topic.
Would every autistic employee come to every meeting fully briefed – of course not. However, it would be a lot more common, there would be more people who had done their research in advance rather than expecting to be filled in during the session.
Crazy Concepts Would Be DitchedI’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that whoever came up with dot voting, crazy eights and the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a bad idea’ was not autistic. There are a lot of bad ideas, dot voting just leads to people voting for their mates’ ideas (if not their own), or the one with loads of dots already and I can’t quite remember what Crazy Eights are, but I know they’re shit.
How would an autistic person run a session – who knows, everyone’s different. I doubt it would be via any of the above though, maybe there wouldn’t even need to be a session – people could just think up ideas at a time that suited them, give them real thought, and then they could all be given a fair reading and the best one chosen.
Management Groups Would Benefit TooThere should be more autistic employees in the workplace, that is a given. Often, though, it feels as if just any job is to be celebrated, just bucking the stats is enough.
And in one way it is enough, given the odds stacked against any autistic would-be jobseeker that individual should be rightly praised. In the bigger picture, with fewer barriers to entry for autistic adults and, with the whole culture different, with so many more autistic employees, it would be natural for career progression once in a job to be easier. The first stage is to get more autistic people in the workplace, after that the natural effect will be for there to be more autistic people at all levels of the organisation.
The benefit to management groups? The same as for the business overall – different voices, different ways of seeing things, a chance to be a bit different from competitors. Step one, get through the door. Step two, smash the ceiling.
Ever More Professions Would BenefitAs more autistic adults found work the range of professions to benefit would grow. If you Google ‘good career choices for autistic people’ or ‘good autism jobs’ you get a limited range – lab technician, researcher, programmer, scientist being among the jobs often listed. There’s nothing wrong with any of those jobs, but what if the answer to ‘What’s a good career for someone with autism’ was ‘any bloody job they want’.
Could having some autistic coaches on the staff at a major sports club give the team a competitive advantage? What great films and TV might we see if there was a higher number of autistic directors and producers? The limit should only be the limit the autistic child growing up sets for themselves – what do they want to be, what’s their passion?
I should have come up with 10 reasons, shouldn’t I. Still, this does leave a gaping gap for you to fill – let me know in the comments which other benefits there would be if there were more autistic employees in the workforce.
Also, if you agree, please do share this post.