Despite economic uncertainty, the job market remains tight. This is especially true for tech workers. Yet there is an undertapped labor resource to help address this problem. Although people with autistic traits are more likely to pursue STEM degrees, they are disproportionately overqualified for the roles they are in. Forrester found recruiting and management practices that don’t select candidate merit as effectively as commonly thought. Such practices can turn away qualified autistic candidates. Organizations that intentionally engage this sector of the workforce have seen business results ranging from higher-performing management to improved innovation — while maintaining healthy revenue growth.

A key is understanding different communication styles and behaviors. Also recognize that certain characteristics are a strength rather than a weakness when placed in an appropriate environment. For example, someone who struggles to understand the emotional expression of others might be better suited for a job requiring more logical or linear thinking and emotional calm. Successful recruitment also means having a better understanding of the skills you need for a job. Does a data scientist really need to be the most persuasive communicator? Maybe all you need is someone who can convey the findings and recommendations from the data analysis. Let someone else make the market pitches.

The Path To Autism-Friendly Hiring Comes In Three Steps

  • Create a pilot plan to attract and retain autistic talent. Evaluate recruiting, interviewing, work environment, and culture for practices that may be unintentional barriers for talented recruits, then craft a pilot to modify those practices. Pay particular attention to job descriptions, requirements, and accommodations.
  • Add structure and remove ambiguity from your interview process. The interview process at a typical company requires social presentation and impression management skills that many autistic people find more challenging. No surprise, an interview process that relies on those skills will often select candidates based on their social presentation and impression management skill instead of their merit and potential to complete tasks relevant to the job.
  • Foster a supportive and structured work environment. Consider the work environment before onboarding new hires. The keys are a structured work environment that minimizes guesswork, a culture of clear communication that is conscious of various communication styles, and ongoing support.

Look Beyond Autism Toward Universal Inclusion

What works for autistic people can benefit many others just as well. Forrester found that recruitment and work environment changes that better accommodate autistic people also better accommodate many others. Many changes were easily tweaked and expanded to be applicable to a broader audience. View autism inclusion not as an end but as a beginning, laying a foundation for broader universal inclusion.

Forrester clients can learn more about the business results of autism inclusion from our report, Expand Inclusion To Reach Autistic Talent. Organizations ready to make change can delve into best practices found in an additional report, Discover The Forgotten Rockstars: Best Practices For Autism Hiring. Non-clients can check out this What It Means podcast episode where we discuss the research.