For companies with federal contracts, OFCCP would like to see employees with disabilities totaling 7% across all job groups. For successful recruitment and retention, such companies need effective outreach and recruitment measures that would allow them to reach this goal. Below are examples of three companies who have made a big difference in the lives of candidates with autism.
Mary Ellen Smith, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of worldwide operations, in a blog post early this year (April 3, 2015), announced the company’s pilot program to hire candidates with autism for full time positions at the firm’s Redmond offices in Washington. For this initiative, Microsoft has partnered with Specialisterne, a company that helps candidates with autism find meaningful employment. Microsoft’s pilot scheme will initially recruit 10 people with autism. If successful, the scheme could extend to more vacancies worldwide.
Ms. Smith has a 19-year-old autistic son called Shawn. She wrote that “People with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code. It’s a talent pool that we want to continue to bring to Microsoft!”
Though the new pilot program is focused on autism, Smith said Microsoft is “passionate about hiring individuals of all disabilities.”
SAP SE, the German software maker, has hired 53 workers with autism worldwide since 2012 as reported in a Bloomberg business report in June 2015. “We do have clear anecdotal evidence of business benefits from our pilot program,” including gains in productivity, quality, customer relations, people management and innovation, said Jose Velasco, who heads SAP’s autism program in the U.S. SAP, also a Specialisterne partner, has consulted to 50 companies looking to start similar programs.
Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne, had seen a struggle in the tech companies to find workers who can perform specific, intense and sometimes tedious tasks. Autistic workers, with their extraordinary abilities for memorizing, concentrating and repetitive tasks, fill this need. For people with autism, consistency and predictability is comforting and the technology industry is said to be suited for such employees because of its predictable nature. “They have a real passion for detail,” Mark Grein, executive director at Specialisterne, said in an interview of employees with autism. “They tend to be very good at following a process, improving a process, optimizing a process.”
Mortgage company Freddie Mac, which has an internship program for people with autism, is finding that they can fill a variety of positions, including in data analysis and customer service. “All the full-time employees hired through that program have worked out”, said spokeswoman Ruth Fisher.
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S., according to the Autism Society, an advocacy group. America’s Job Exchange continues to serve employers with their disability and other diversity recruitment needs. Visit our Disability Job Exchange for more information on disability laws, career advice and tools.