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original. We need people who are different to come up with
ideas that are different and recognise the value in new ideas.
Business history is full of people who’ve invented stuff but didn’t
realise they had something valuable.”
One of the many exciting things around employing people
with autism, Austin says, is the clarity around how they
contribute to business value. If innovation comes from the edges,
then people who think differently to the norm will be integral to
WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES?
Discrimination, whether positive or negative, is always going to be
a problem for organisations when they hire. Austin says none of
the companies currently involved with Specialisterne felt qualified
to diagnose or choose a candidate who may have been determined
“on the spectrum”. That is why they sought the help of agencies
such as Specialisterne, who in turn rely on the diagnosis of medical
professionals and locate candidates through social agencies.
In Australia, Austin says, it is possible that businesses will need
to apply for permission to positively discriminate in hiring. When
employing people with autism, businesses are plucking talent from
a pool of largely unemployed people, to take on roles that others do
not naturally excel at, so it is unlikely to be a problem.
More specific obstacles include physical workspaces. Often noise,
bright lights or excessive social contact can upset some people on
the autism spectrum. While it doesn’t have to be individual offices,
spaces can be shared by two, three or four people, but they need to
be quiet says Specialisterne founder, Rhorkil Sonne. “The formula
for success is to set out expectations with tasks clearly defined and
planned, with a contact person to go to if the person with ASD has
a question or feels uncomfortable.”
Education of people already within the organisation to dispel
myths around what people with autism are like and how they
behave is another issue. In Denmark, fellow employees have
learnt how to adapt to people with autism. “Everyone has to say
what they mean and mean what they say, no sarcasm or irony,
and just be nice to each other. Often that softens the way people
communicate in an office – and people appreciate it” says Sonne.
How you attract people with autism into the workforce and hang
on to them, will impact on advertising and on-boarding processes
“A lot of the tex t books or business school HR practices aren’t
as conducive as they could be to hiring people with inspired
peculiarities,” Austin says. “At SAP, for example, they are revisiting
a lot of their HR practices with an eye to improving them.”
In the end, such diversity is good for everybody involved. It takes
people out of unemployment, offers them a sense of value, and
improves the quality and profitability of a business’s output.
“The advantage of this program is it takes a disability and turns
it into a special ability,” Austin says. “That’s kind of exciting.”
“ THESE PEOPLE ARE FALLING OUT OF
THE EMPLOYMENT SYSTEM BECAUSE
THEY DON’T INTERVIEW WELL .”
MICHAEL FIELDHOUSE, HPE DIRECTOR, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT &
EMERGING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
By the end of 2015, says Professor Rob Austin from
Copenhagen Business School, the EU expects to have 900,000
open positions in the IT sector (according to the European
Specialisterne has a global goal to enable one million jobs
for people with autism and similar challenges called The
Dandelion Program. The IT sector will be a major contributor to
the success of this goal.
Specialisterne now has a presence in 13 countries, including
the UK, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, US, Germany, Switzerland
and Spain. Boasting major partners such as SAP, HP and
Microsoft, Specialisterne aims to shift public perception of
those with autism from ‘disability’ to ‘special abilities’.
In Australia, Specialisterne has been launched with the goal
of creating 12,000 jobs for people with autism, beginning with
the IT, mining services and agribusiness industries.
16/02/2016 3:37 pm
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