Home' HR Monthly : June 2019 Contents June 2019 HRM magazine 19
ARE YOU BIASED?
Tr a i n your team to manage unconscious biases
effectively with AHRI’s Managing Unconscious
any direct sunlight on my face. It took me about
an hou r to adjust to a new environment, new
people, new sounds, new light, and then I’d have
to work an extra hour each day.”
To overcome this, McKay spoke with her
facilities manager and asked to return to the
same desk each day. The organisation agreed,
and it helped significantly, she was able to settle
into her day in a matter of minutes.
“ Very small things can make a world of
difference to the person with autism, and it
benefits the company; you’re going to have
somebody whose dedication to their work is
significant,” says Rogerson.
The term neurodiversity – which encapsulates
the autism spectrum, ADHD, dyslexia,
dyspraxia, Tourette synd rome, Down syndrome
and more – was coined by Australian
sociologist Judy Singer, and popularised by
journalist Harvey Blume. In a 1998 issue of The
Atlantic Blu me wrote, “Neurodiversity may
be every bit as crucial for the human race as
biodiversity is for life in general.”
Rogerson says that neurodiversity in the
workplace is important, but says there are many
people who sit on the more severe end of the
autism spectrum who will have great difficulty
ever gaining employment. A nd retention can
be an issue for those who are able to enter the
workforce, but with the right support they can
be great contributors.
“If you see people with severe autism, it’s
quite obvious. But for people with milder
forms of autism, it’s much harder to notice.
Slightly different behaviour and a different
way of doing things can be misunderstood. It
puts people in HR in a very difficult situation,
because somebody being reported for behaving
a little bit oddly or not quite doing what they’re
supposed to could be considered somebody that
has to be spoken to.”
In 2015, the United Nations estimated
that the global u nemployment rate of autistic
employees was around 80 per cent. The
Australian labour force participation rate for
employees with autism is significantly higher (42
per cent) than the UK (15 per cent) and the US
(11 per cent), but there’s still plenty of room for
improvement, starting with recruitment.
Most interview processes aren’t designed to
bring the best out in a candidate with autism.
Green says, “Traditional recruitment strategies
rely heavily on anxiety provoking assessments
where there’s a time limit, unexpected questions
or scenarios and first impressions that are
based on social interactions. These can be really
overwhelming and difficult for many people on
“Something as simple as sharing the interview
questions beforehand via email can reduce this
anxiety and sense of being overwhelmed.”
It’s still important to keep in mind the best
person for the job. While minority groups
sometimes need extra assistance in breaking
through certain barriers, they shouldn’t be hired
just for the sake of it.
“Just wanting a more inclusive work
environment isn’t enough,” says Rogerson.
“Make su re you’ve got somebody who can do
the job and that they want to do that particular
job. One instance I can think of is an autistic
woman who was placed in a daycare centre,
but she’s really distressed by children crying. It
was such a terrible placement. Everyone was too
busy looking for a job for her that they forgot to
think about what would interest her.”
An organisational approach
A lot of organisations already understand
the benefit of hiring staff who are wired
differently. Microsoft, for example, initiated
an organisation-wide Autism Hiring Program
to engage the unique skills that employees
with autism have to offer. The Department of
Human Services utilised the DXC Technology
Dandelion Program – an initiative that places
neurodiverse staff into organisations – to
welcome 34 neurodiverse staff into their offices.
Retention rates for those placed through the
program are at 92 per cent.
In 2015 JPMorgan Chase implemented a
hiring program, with a four-person pilot that
quickly grew to 85 staff working in 10 different
business lines across six different countries.
Six months into the pilot program, the
employees on the spectrum were compared
against their neurotypical colleagues and found
to be 48 per cent faster and 92 per cent more
productive. According to James Mahoney,
global head of Autism at Work, this was due
to “strong visual acuity, attention to detail and
superior ability to concentrate”.
While she respects the work of autism hiring
programs, McKay says they’re usually designed
for securing work for first time employees,
not people like her who find out about their
diagnosis 10 years into their career.
“They’re often looking to get autistic people
into tech roles, or cyber security, which is great
if that’s what you want to do, but if you don’t it
can be really hard.
“Our skills, experience and talents are just
as valuable as anyone else’s. We exist in all
professions and all walks of life. Autism is
just having a different brain. It’s not a child
throwing tantrums and reciting prime numbers.
Just see autism as an accepted form of difference
and everything else will fall into place.” •••
23/5/19 6:37 pm
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