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Thinking Differently: Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

Approximately 250,000 young adults on the Autism Spectrum in the US are expected to graduate high school in the next five years, creating a unique challenge and opportunity for employers. College graduates on the Autism Spectrum often have qualities that are in high demand for employers, such as attention to detail, ability to focus, and innovative thinking, but remain a largely untapped talent pool.

Innovative companies, such as Microsoft, JP Morgan, Ford, and EY have begun to focus on social innovation by scouting for neurodiverse talent. As a result, they report increases in overall employee engagement and boosts in productivity. Industry experts from the neurodiverse hiring program at Microsoft along with Uptimize, industry leader for Autism in the workplace training, share insights that will help you build scalable efforts to include neurodiversity as part of your organization’s recruiting goals.


Unknown Speaker 0:23

Thank you for joining us for today's webinar, thinking differently neuro diversity in the workforce. I'm Laurie apples, the host for today's webinar, and director of the spectrum Support Program at Rochester Institute of Technology. Over the last 10 years, the spectrum Support Program has served over 300 degree seeking students. on the autism spectrum, the services provided include individualized mentoring and coaching, pre orientation program, sponsored social events in consultation and training for faculty and staff. Cross campus collaboration and referral and customized career preparation seminar courses ensure that students have the support they need to navigate the transition into through an out of it. It is 100 year history of focus on Career Education fuels employment opportunities for students who graduate from IIT, with an impressive 95% of students either entering the workforce or graduate study within six months of graduation. However, nationwide employment outcomes for people on the autism spectrum even those with college degrees remain unfavorable and job seekers with ASD often need additional support to ensure they move towards successful employment experiences. The spectrum support program works with our campus partners in career services. To assist students on the spectrum with learning the career planning, and personal marketing skills needed to build high quality resumes. negotiate the job search process, prepare for successful interviews and transition to new work experiences more smoothly. Today's webinars and acknowledgement of the importance of creating truly inclusive environments on our college campuses, in our workplaces and in our communities, especially as we celebrate autism awareness and acceptance month. Today's webinar is sponsored by the neuro diverse hiring initiative that are at an innovative partnership between the spectrum support Partner Program and the Office of Career Services and cooperative education that works to connect talented jobseekers on the spectrum with employers seeking your diverse talent. Ultimately, the neuro diverse hiring initiative seeks to help employers think differently about job seekers who might be wired differently. Those whose perspectives are unique, whose thinking is sometimes unconventional. Those who think differently. Before I introduce you to today's moderator, there are a few housekeeping items I'd like to make you aware of participants are automatically muted, but we welcome you to put your questions in the q&a box. Throughout the presentation. We'll attempt to answer as many questions as possible. All participants will receive a follow up email with a link to the webinar recording. We encourage you to share this link out with anyone who can benefit from the information we share today. captioning is being provided for today's webinar. If you require captioning, please post captioning needed in the q&a box. And we'll share a link with you. Now I want to introduce you to Janine row. Janine is the Assistant Director for careers and disabilities in RTS Office of Career Services in cooperative education. And she'll serve as today's moderator.

Unknown Speaker 3:54

Thank you, Laurie. I'd like to give a brief overview of our general topic today. And then I'm going to introduce our subject matter experts. So when we discuss neuro diversity, we're referring to the perspective that differences in learning and thought such as those often attributed to the autism spectrum. These aren't just elicit deficiencies. These are differences that often come with unique skills that can be leveraged to create value for organizations. So our hope today is that we can encourage employers to think more deeply about how they can utilize neuro diverse talent. And why is neuro diversity so important to us. Of course, as you know, autism is on the rise. And this has created some unique opportunities and some unique challenges for both employers and for anyone who supports emerging adults. So no matter what your role is, we think it always makes sense for you to think about the steps that you can take to be more inclusive of this population. And we're just thrilled to see a lot of buzz in the employer communities about neuro diverse hiring. A lot of employers are starting to realize the impact that a cookie cutter approach to recruiting has so cookie cutter approach are really looking for a very precise set of technical and interpersonal skills. It works pretty well for many job candidates. But candidates on the autism spectrum, they may get overlooked because their corners don't exactly match what the employer is looking for. But they can make up for that with some deep pockets of skill that can have a profound impact on an organization. So I'm just thrilled to count you all among future focused thinkers that will help recognize the potential of neuro diverse employees, and who want to help neuro diverse individuals shine. Our other objectives today, we could move to the next slide. Include demonstrating the business case for neuro diverse employees, learning about best in class models to support your nervous employees and the practical strategies that you can use. Let's go to the next slide. Thanks. like to introduce our participants, those of you on the call. We had 170 registrants, and we asked you all about your current knowledge on neuro diverse employment. 47% of you indicated that you're beginners in this area 39%, you have an intermediate or moderate level of knowledge, and 14% of you are experts. So we hope that you will all weigh in in the q&a, because all of your perspectives are important and valued. We also asked you about what types of questions you had. And the highest interest areas were in recruiting neuro diverse candidates and providing ongoing support. So now I'd like to turn our webinar over to some of our subject matter experts. We're going to start with Ed Thompson, who's director of optimized, which is an organization that supports companies to help reach their neuro diverse hiring goals. So and hopefully you can tell us a little bit about your organization.

Unknown Speaker 6:58

So thanks to me. So I'm a Thompson, I'm the founder and CEO of optimize. As you can probably tell, I'm originally from the UK, we have offices, both in London, and in Denver. Can we go to the next slide. So we built tools, digital tools to support neuro diversity in the workplace. And these are tools both for neurodivergent, jobseekers and for employers, our training products for both revolve around self paced bite sized video learning with additional downloadable resources. And for employers, we offer a suite of on demand training toolkits for managers, co workers, mentors, HR teams, and anyone else involved in neuro diversity hiring programs, or neuro diversity inclusion initiatives. Next slide, please. So from the beginning, we've had a very collaborative approach to our work here. And I think that's partly because we believe nobody has all the answers, it's by working together that we can get there, the quickest part of that has been deciding to focus very much on the tools to seed and scale these programs. And we work with an increasing number of partners who conduct research, who provide in person assessments, who are in person consultants, who help you recruit and find talent. And so another part of the collaboration has been actually working on the products themselves. And we continue to work with multiple sources to create really what's become almost a kind of curated crowdsource set of tools that keep getting stronger as they are iterated with more input from researchers, employers, focus groups, near University, export experts, and so on. And I'm happy to say as well, that we've already we've always had neurodivergent people themselves helped to shape our products, but now we have them appearing in them as well telling stories and giving tips on topics like hiring accommodations, management and career progression. Okay, so last slide, please.

Unknown Speaker 9:28

So I want to talk just a little about why you know, diversity at work initiatives are already underway at so many organizations and Jen is going to talk more about how Microsoft's have approached this and the benefits they've achieved and aim to achieve going forward. I think this focus on neuro diversity at work has come from two things. It's partly because of talent challenges, often critical talent challenges, common to many organizations, most often In 2018, especially those in tech, I think, with any kind of tech function, but but also beyond that, I think we can summarize these ads. How do you keep your best people? Are you losing high value subject matter experts and spending lots of time and money trying to replace them? How do you avoid losing talent in the hiring process? And at Microsoft, and Jen can talk more about this. I know, they found that some of the great employees they've hired as part of their autism program had previously applied to the company and not being successful, really proving that programs like this can remove obstacles to recruiting great talent. And then how do you encourage the best people to apply as recruiters? Why do we go to MIT or Stanford, or MIT, it's because we want the best people. And relating to our discussion today, we know that a substantial percentage of this talent is likely to be neurodivergent. And may not know that your organization is somewhere where they can bring their innovative thinking, data analysis, attention to detail, and all sorts of other skills. So I think a lot of companies have found themselves with expensive talent management, unfilled job vacancies, high turnover, and also homogeneous looking teams. And these are teams that the overall diversity and inclusion business case, in the last decade, in particular, has proven are less effective than those which include and blend people who have different perspectives and who bring different perspectives. So these challenges have often become CEO level priorities now and not just HR priorities. And I think what's intersected with them in our case and what's led to Microsoft and others developing programs that that can, to some degree turn these challenges into amazing opportunities has been an overdue cultural change in the understanding of neuro diversity and neuro divergence. So for a long time, you have these inverted commas, conditions, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD that have have been defined by negatives and challenges and in very medicalized language in any kind of medicalized societal framework. And as we're now seeing these in their true light as different thinking styles and with strengths, many strengths of which can be brought to work as well as challenges.

Unknown Speaker 12:34

This I think, is is opening people's minds. And to Janine and Lori's phrase helping people think differently about people who think differently, I think we're also recognizing that many challenges experienced by neurodivergent people, whether in society as a whole, or in the workplace, are the result of a world being shaped for neurotypicals. And that these challenges can often be mitigated with accommodations and accommodations that are often cheap and, and easy to make. So now, we have Richard Branson saying that his dyslexia has been a gift. We have entrepreneurs like David Neeleman saying, There's no way he take a pill to get rid of his ADHD, it's just been too important to his success. And we see hiring programs, hiring autistic people, and JPMorgan Chase is one example where they found their neuro diverse teams to be 50% more productive in comparative testing. So I think neuro diversity at work is about tackling the core talent challenges that that most employers and recruiters are facing, and I'm sure those are familiar to two people here. We know that up to 20% of people are neuro divergent in some way. We know this is a high potential talent pool. And we know that new technology is supporting even people who have more substantial challenges, and who in the past have struggled to find sustainable employment. But almost every organization has evolved processes and practices that are shaped just for neurotypicals. They have processes that assume that everybody thinks the same way when we know that they don't. And when in fact we act, we actively want to include people who think in different ways. So the likelihood is that without intentional steps to change this and without really kind of being intentional about it, employers are just engaging with a tiny percentage of that talent pool and it's a fraction that is either so brilliant that they just managed to shine through or that they've managed to teach themselves to fit in to workplaces that are shaped for for neurotypicals. And I think what companies like Microsoft have been doing is rapidly noising that this talent is out there recognizing they need to be intentional about how they attract and hire and retain and retain it. And as a result, they're starting to engage with a much bigger percentage of that pool. They're finding that that talent can make a great impact. And they're finding that steps to include neurodivergent people are often universal accommodations that benefit everybody in the thing, so I'm going to hand it to Jen now to talk more about Microsoft's own program.

Unknown Speaker 15:37

Can we move to the next slide, please. And we can skip ahead. So as a brief introduction, this is Junghwa donyo, and the senior inclusive hiring Program Manager with Microsoft and I've been working with our autism hiring program since we launched three years ago, April 2015, at the UN World Autism Awareness Day. And this slide again, all this information will be sent out but wanted to talk a bit about our program, why it was designed the specific recruiting process, and I'll go into a little bit more detail as well. So to be perfectly frank, we've always had people with autism working at Microsoft. This hiring program was not new to bring neurodivergent people into the organization. What we were really trying to solve for is that front door recruiting experience. Oftentimes, we see applicants who are over educated and underemployed. So for instance, they might have a master's degree or a PhD, but they're working at a big box retailer or grocery store, stocking shelves. In addition to that, oftentimes, a phone screen is not the most effective or accommodating way to initially screen a candidate with autism based on their communication style, or some of the impacts of their autism answering the direct question that you might ask them very yes, no, without realizing that diving more into that question might help that recruiter have a better understanding of their skills and experience. So by changing that initial engagement model with candidates, looking at how our interview practices needed to be better situated for people with neuro diversity, neuro diversity, and then looking also at the onboarding to make sure that these new employees land Well, at Microsoft, we do have some specific sourcing strategies. So we have a dedicated email address, Ms., for candidates to apply to. We also have a specific career page for people with disabilities that want to apply to our inclusive hiring programs. There is a section within there about our autism program that has some FA Q's and some employee stories as well. For those candidates that do apply, I'm moving into the second column here around pre screen. For software engineer and data science candidates. They are provided with a technical skills assessment, which is actually becoming a best practice in the tech sector. It's not something specific to our autism hiring program. There are other engineering and product groups within Microsoft that uses as well. What it does is it's a five question two hour assessment where the candidate is asked some coding questions, design quality assurance, and it really gives our interviewers and recruiting team some insight into their skills as a software engineer or a data scientist that may not show up very well on a resume, or within the phone screen or initial interview process. So based on that, and we also have talent sourcer who does phone screens with our candidates who's received training and familiarity with neuro diversity. And based on those two inputs, we invite who we're going to have to our Redmond campus for the skills evaluation, which is a five day in person recruiting recruiting event. We're running running them quarterly right now. We just had one a few weeks ago. Our next event is going to be in August dedicated to university students. So we are always accepting applications from candidates if you would like to refer that along.

Unknown Speaker 19:42

The other point of the five day program is to help build some familiarity with the company to provide some insight to the hiring teams that are available the positions. We start out on Monday with a manager introductions which allows the interviewing teams to get to know the candidates a little bit better from a personal perspective, some of their maybe hobbies or interests. And it allows the candidates time to learn more about the jobs and the type of projects they would be working on if they were to receive an offer from a particular hiring team. It's not an interview, it's meant to be more informal and social. Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday, we partner with the learning experiences team here at Microsoft, and they go through some modules through the Microsoft Innovation Center. And what that is, are those crazy uncomfortable team building exercises like the marshmallow challenge, where our candidates are given the break broken out into teams, they get 20, sticks, a spaghetti, a yard, a yarn, a yard, a masking tape, and a marshmallow. And the team has to build the tallest structure that independently supports that marshmallow. And what we're learning through exercises like that over Monday and Tuesday are some of those soft skills that may not come out in an interview, things like who's emerging as a natural leader who's more introverted and happy to participate, but you have to draw them into the conversation. And these are things that we observe in the room and then share with interviewers to give them insight into how their team dynamics might play out. On Wednesday, we spend the entire day on interview prep. So every candidate has what we call a mock interview, which is a regular technical interview that anyone would have at Microsoft, the differences it ends 10 minutes early. There's also a recruiter. So it's a recruiter, the interviewer and the candidate, and allows that interviewer to give candidate feedback on their interview any tips on things, they could do differently, things that they were really strong at or where maybe they got stuck, the recruiter records those notes, and that's provided back to the candidate. And the rest of the day, there's coaching opportunity to dive more into that feedback. We do a presentation on writing an effective resume or LinkedIn profile and how to speak to gaps in your employment, and really focused on getting that candidate ready for Thursday and Friday, which are interviews with our hiring teams. Over that day and a half every candidate has three interviews with long breaks intentionally within that period of time for people to decompress or regroup. Often university students will bring their coursework with them to work on. And then Friday, we wrap up with a lunch with some of our employees that have been hired from the program. And really let them just sit down together, have an informal q&a ask questions about relocation or what surprised them about being a Microsoft employee. And then we wrap up the week and set expectations with the candidates that they will hear from us within two weeks, whether they received an offer or not, which is different than many recruiting practices, we want to make sure we close that loop with all the candidates. For those who do receive a job offer, they move into our hiring and onboarding process. And those that will not do get some feedback about where they can maybe put some more focus skills that they could work on so that they can apply again at Microsoft in the future.

Unknown Speaker 23:18

And then moving into the final column there on hire and onboarding. So those that are starting at Microsoft, we provide a training. This is an in person autism in the workplace, provided for that manager and the direct peers, we will sometimes invite in people outside of the team if they're going to be working with that new employee on a daily basis. And the the new employee knows that training is happening and they know that it is in support of them to help educate their team and their manager about autism in the workplace autism as a culture, and how to best support them in their new job. Everyone also receives a group of mentors which are listed here on the slide there is the manager which everyone has a manager to like set, set out their responsibilities and projects they'll be working on provide performance feedback. They have a team or a peer mentor who would know where tools are can talk about the broader organization. The community mentor is someone from the autism community at Microsoft. They're either an employee with autism or they're part of our autism info exchange was just primarily parents of children who were on the autism spectrum. And because I had that familiarity and in autism and neurodiversity, they really become more of a culture mentor. So things like taking a shuttle to another part of campus or maybe some questions about social events, or getting connected with some of our employee resource groups opportunities. And then the job coach is a partner of ours from a social agency and they span both at home and work life, so things from a home perspective Round, have you figured out your commute plan? Have you factored in time management on when you need to wake up in the morning to get ready to catch the bus or join a carpool or driving yourself. They also work with a manager to get any feedback about areas that they can grow, or maybe some communication or dealing with difficult team members or difficult conversations, and really there to support that employee land well at Microsoft in their career. So you can go ahead slide. And this is just a little a different view of that onboarding, support circle and training that is provided for the employee. And we could go one more. And these are, this will be sent out afterwards. I believe these are various videos and stories, both that have been written by our own Microsoft platforms, as well as some of the external stories like the CBS Sunday morning story that aired a few weeks ago, or the one in the upper right there. Microsoft wants autistic coders that was in Fast Company magazine. So this is just if you want to learn more about some of the awareness about our program, and some employee stories. So those are my slides. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker 26:27

Thank you, Ed and Gen. Ed, for sharing with us about a cultural shift in how we think about neurodivergent candidates and understanding that the challenges that may exist in navigating the job search process could be intentionally mitigated by organizations that allows neurodivergent folks to bring their whole selves to work. And to Jen for providing a best in class example about how recruiting, onboarding and training can be optimized for their diverse success. We'd like to, of course, move to some q&a and start with some questions that came in from participants during the registration process. So I'd like to ask both of you, do you recommend that organizations identify certain positions they think will work best for nurse candidates? And if so, how might they identify those appropriate roles?

Unknown Speaker 27:20

So this is Jen. And I'll say from a tech perspective, and many of the strengths that an individual with autism would bring to their job or the workplace, we we do identify that software engineers and data scientists and service engineers, which were focused more on some of our internal tools is often a really good fit for someone on the autism spectrum. We are looking to expand outside of those roles into some of finance and accounting, some sort of program management, where it's like project management and attention to detail and keeping the schedules. We don't have as many of those roles as we do. We're always hiring software engineers. So we're also trying to figure out how do we take that five day model and slip it a bit to also accommodate people in non technical positions. From the candidate pipeline perspective, we definitely get more candidates from the STEM fields who are applying at Microsoft, but we do see experience across the board.

Unknown Speaker 28:29

Yeah, I can share here just from our process of building training in this area, the first version of training we built, we had a module called suitable roles, because we thought that would be something that employers would would find interesting. And in the second version, we got rid of it. Because we realized and and, you know, part of this has been really engaging with this community. And yet, of course, there's a strong association with with tech roles. But I know SAP, for example, you know, started there, and now hired for over 20 different roles. And when we've done our focus groups, for every person who I suppose fits, in both the commerce stereotype, there are multiple who say, you know, I'm not a programmer, or you know, I've always enjoyed roles which have social interaction. So, from the work we've done, I think you might want to build a program and start by saying, okay, we're gonna hire five software developers, I think that would be a solid place to start. But big picture, I think you have to think of this like, you think of you have to think of autistic people in the same way ultimately, that you think of, you know, white people or LGBT people. It's very problematic to generalize. And actually, I think big picture that's even more exciting because ultimately, it is a really broad talent pool, you're not just talking about filling one type of role.

Unknown Speaker 30:07

Thanks that you have another question that came in. During registration, we see a lot of growth of programs in tech sectors, which may be inherently challenging for neuro diverse employees due to frequently changing deadlines interruptions, faster and speed expected. How can those ways field support and more diverse employees when the nature of the job itself may be a challenge?

Unknown Speaker 30:32

I had a thought on, I suppose similar topic recently. I think again, first of all, you have to think of you have to start with the universal right. So you have to start with how do we create a working environment and practices that support productive work for everybody. So, you know, frequently changing deadlines, interruptions, noise, that's not good for anybody. So I think that that's kind of where you have to start. And then when it comes to everybody, but also specifically neurodivergent, people, I think it's really important to focus on what people can do well, and then trying to create a position and putting them in a position to be successful, on the basis of the main task or tasks that you need to do, and that they can do well. So if you think about somebody's job, typically, there's one major task area of that job. So that might be 85% of their work might be 90% of their work. And then there are supplementary tasks. And I think often when neurodivergent people experience challenges at work, it's not because of their their ability to perform the core work, it's something else, it's a non core tasks, maybe they have to, you know, make a weekly presentation, or it's something environmental, that that's the challenge. So I think we're seeing organizations that are doing this, well, are approaching talent management, in a sense with, you know, what can this person do? Well, how do we put them in a position to succeed based on those strengths, and, again, that works for everybody, a part of that is ensuring that they're comfortable, they have a realistic, well communicated workload, you know, manager training can can come in there. And then for neurodivergent people as well, it can be, you know, maybe there's was one task or two task of this role as it's typically shaped that might be challenging for you, how maybe we can reassign those, and, you know, keep you here doing what you do well, in a, you know, in a comfortable environment. And that's how you're going to be successful.

Unknown Speaker 32:49

Thank you. We have lots and lots of live questions coming in. And we have several questions about the mechanics of the Microsoft program. And I'm hoping Jan, you could tell us a little bit more about how the program got started and how the program continues to have support on the corporate level, and how in the individual tasks of the different steps involved with the recruiting process, especially training and ongoing support? How are those found out throughout the organization? Sure,

Unknown Speaker 33:27

um, so when the program before we launched three years ago, a few months prior to that our executive sponsors, Jenny Lee Fleury, who's our chief accessibility officer, and Mary Ellen Smith, who's our CVP of operations, they both have children on the autism spectrum. And whether it was through employees and parents at Microsoft, with children on the autism spectrum, or their own experience thinking about how do I prepare my child for the world? How do I help them find a career in an area that's their passion? We really started to look at our hiring practices. And as we've gone through a cultural shift here at Microsoft, and really looking at a growth mindset perspective, as Satya Nadella will often talk about looking at how can we be more inclusive and how can we get this great talent into our company that diversity of thought and diversity of experience whether it is an individual with autism, or someone who is blind or deaf, or maybe has mobility disability? How do we really look at our hiring practices to really attract, hire and retain people with disabilities to help contribute to our organization, not just for our products, but also just from a culture and experience perspective with other employees. The early mechanics around designing the program we worked with a firm called special sterna, where we've taken some of their best practices like the employee support, circle of mentors, the training readiness, some of the interview accommodation and carry that forward, their program initially was much more labor intensive. And we knew in order to make it scalable for us as an employer, and to be able to run it as frequently as we can, and to bring these talented individuals into the organization, it was always our goal, to bring everything into into within our own teams. So I actually sit on the accessibility team in our legal department, I work very closely with our global talent acquisition or staffing group, as well as our HR partners around the recruiting practices, the interview, and then the onboarding and retention, to gather feedback, not just from the managers, but also those employees. So some of the things that we're working through right now are about career development, and how current career development doesn't mean you have to become a manager or a director or a general manager, it could be expanding skills within role or maybe trying a different team out those sorts of opportunities for candidates as well. I think I caught on all of your points are genuine. But if I miss something, let me know. That sounds

Unknown Speaker 36:26

basted We have another question. Um, the Microsoft program is quite impressive. I'd be interested in the presenters thoughts about this on a smaller scale in companies that have 10s or hundreds of employees, it might be only looking to hire one or two people at a time.

Unknown Speaker 36:46

Yeah, that's a great question. Um, so there are some smaller employers getting into this space. There is the autism network employer Roundtable, which is sponsored through USB ln. And as employers are coming on board, we're sharing our best practices so that other companies can learn from our experience across different industries as well. So you why JPMorgan Chase, are part of that SAP Ford Motor Company. So I would say really looking at your interview practices, and what can you change in that interview to be more accommodating, and set up a candidate for their best experience to showcase their skills, things like allowing longer breaks in between interviews, or maybe interviewing over two days instead of one. We pretty much go into all of our events, whether it's the five day program or a one on one interview that whiteboarding is not expected or encouraged from the interviewer perspective. That's both from the perception of having to perform on a stage as well as some some of the other physical or neurological comorbidities, co-morbidities with autism, to really put that candidate in a great way to showcase their skills with an interviewer. So that interview changing. There's some great resources online, like we, you know, Ed had mentioned where we utilize the optimized training for managers, employees and HR professionals. So what resources could you maybe provide online to learn about more as autism as a medical condition and diagnosis as well as how to support that employee in the workforce? And then joining communities, I would say, learning from other crap other employers such as ourselves, or other communities, or social agencies that

Unknown Speaker 38:45

also support autism at work programs. Thank you, Jen. We have several questions coming in around the topic of disclosure for our candidates. And I'm sure that we can all understand the anxiety that comes with disclosing any disability but especially a non apparent disability in the employment process. So I'm hoping I think we're all in agreement that disclosure is a good idea, you know, for our candidates. But what would you say to a candidate who may have a disability, but maybe they're not necessarily comfortable identifying as neurodivergent early on in the job search process, and what advantages do they have in working with specific autism hiring programs?

Unknown Speaker 39:44

So this is Jen and I all even broaden that to say any candidate with a disability. By knowing upfront as an employer, for someone to disclose, it helps us prepare that in Review to be an inclusive experience. From a neuro divergent perspective, things like I just mentioned about not using whiteboards or allowing a candidate time to think through a question or instead of letting their just be silent, ask them. Do you need any clarifying questions on that? And, you know, maybe do you want to write it out on paper, we recommend interviewers actually type out their questions on a piece of paper to bring into the room so the candidate can reference that. Because what we would not want to have happen is an candidate show up for an interview, have not told us that they have a disability. And then as an employer, we're scrambling to provide supports and accommodation that we could have known about ahead of time, also to prepare interviewers, so they are aware that this candidate is neurodivergent. They are blind, they are deaf, so that you know, if there's an ASL interpreter in the room who talked to the individual, not to the interpreter, if someone is interviewing who's blind, we're going to expect that they're going to use their own device to do coding problems, don't even think about using a whiteboard. So those kinds of things that we can prepare the interviewer for as well, so that they can provide a good experience to that candidate through the interviewing process. So it really helps the candidate be in a good position, to showcase their skills, their experience, what they're passionate about, you know, if it's a university student, what they worked on, through their coursework that they were really happy about, and where they want to take their career, if it's someone who's later in their career, the opportunity to talk about some of their challenges in the workforce and how they've worked through that. So it really helps us set up a great experience for that candidate and the new employee for them to disclose that they have a disability. This is it.

Unknown Speaker 42:00

We've started to think about disclosure kind of in in two types, you've got reactive disclosure, and you've got proactive disclosure. And reactive disclosure, which has kind of, unfortunately, I would say been been the norm across many organizations, especially with with less understanding of neurodiversity than there is now is when somebody discloses under pressure, for example, their manager is saying, you know, why are you having so much trouble with with with this task should be easy for you, or co workers are complaining to a manager saying, you know, this person's not engaging with us or they're not conducting a task? And typically, that, although it does get you to that point where you can have the conversation about, okay, what do we change, you're getting to it through a kind of high friction process. And I think in the past, sometimes, managers and co workers who haven't been familiar with neuro divergence haven't always responded well, to somebody disclosing in that way, maybe seeing it kind of as an excuse, which has a negative cycle that other employees wouldn't then choose to, to disclose. And what's been really interesting about working with companies like Microsoft, is that you're seeing a culture change where, you know, Microsoft might be hiring people in Seattle, but you're having somebody at Microsoft, in a completely different office, who's who seeing that the organization is taking neurodiversity seriously, and is being inclusive to autistic people, and who is proactively disclosing who's saying, I want to talk about some accommodations for me. And that I think we again, we'd all agree is great, because that gets you into the conversation of Okay, well, how do we adjust your, your experience? I think whether it's in the organization, its existing employees, or its hiring, you always have two levels, you have the level of how do we create a process and an environment and train people to have the skills such that we build people's confidence and and create almost, you know, fewer reasons to need to disclose almost. And then but then also, how do we create a culture where people feel comfortable doing that advertising that you're taking the university seriously, I think is a, you know, very high impact first step to that that can kind of tilt the ratio between reactive to proactive.

Unknown Speaker 44:49

Great, thanks so much. And there's one other question that's sort of related. How do you prepare other employees for working and communicating with new employees on this bactrim

Unknown Speaker 45:04

Yeah, that's something that, you know, we do in our training, and I think, find is, is is really important. It's partly because still, you know, understanding of new universities is often limited, you know, we know that one in seven people have a direct kind of personal or family link to somebody who's on the spectrum. And those folks, you know, may well know more. But I think the the overall basic understanding of neurodivergent, especially how it relates to the workplace is, is typically low. So there is value in First of all, starting with, you know, what are we talking about here? And why is this relevant? You know, why should I be spending my time as, as a co worker, learning about this, and when you can position this as actually neuro diversity is a human reality that everybody thinks differently, and how you're going to be effective at working with people on projects, how you're going to, you know, build your, your own reputation as an employee, within your team and beyond, it becomes self evident, that it's important to understand that people think differently, how people think differently, and then what are the practical steps as an employee that you can take there? I think that relates in many ways to project work, it could be little things like, you know, how do you format documents? How do you work together on on shared tasks, sticking to the plan, and so on. And it could be understanding that people have different social communication preferences. Not to assume somebody who doesn't use eye contact is kind of unfriendly not to force people through peer pressure to join the team drinks, and so on. And just to be more aware, and accommodating of the fact that people have these different thinking styles, the different preferences, and actually excited by the potential of bringing that together in a way that everybody can can be themselves and everybody can can perform to a good standard.

Unknown Speaker 47:27

I think so this is Jen, the only thing I would add on to that, because he did a really great job. In his answer that is, we also tell team members to ask that employee directly, what is best for them? What How would they prefer? Would they prefer an email and then follow up with an in person conversation? Would they rather have things summarized and have one conversation at once to talk through maybe issues in the job or the project that they're working on? And really not putting that employee in a corner or treating them differently, but really working with that individual to find out what's best for them?

Unknown Speaker 48:10

Yeah, I think I think that's really just to build on that I think that's so important. Because, you know, we know from neurodivergent employees, you know, that the first time that they engage with one of their co workers, let's say on a new project can be stressful, because you know, that they're maybe unsure of, you know, how they're going to come across of how their co worker is going to view them. And there's, you know, there's one company ultra testing who, you know, have a lot of autistic QA consultants in their team, and they've developed something called a bio deck. And it's, it's kind of a quick summary, that each employee fills out about themselves as to who they are, but it gets into things like communication preferences, you know, how, how should you reach me, when should you expect me to respond, and so on. And, and I think things like that are almost gonna, you know, emerges as, as best practices. And then as Jen says that, you know, they're doing something similar at Microsoft. So you take the time to, to think about how does this person operate, and then to just to, you know, to make sure that you tailor your work in, you know, in a way that can work effectively with them.

Unknown Speaker 49:36

Thank you. Yes, I think that was a really good overview of on a macro level, what can an organization do to demonstrate that they're accepting and inclusive of neurodivergent individuals and also approaching the individual on a one on one level of what works best for them and giving them multiple opportunities to share that is important. Just looking at At the time, and unfortunately need to move us toward a closing. And so I'd like to ask and meet our subject matter experts, what they're looking forward to, in terms of innovative neurodiversity practices for 2018. And 2019, either at your organization or with organizations that you're working with.

Unknown Speaker 50:24

This is that, I think, you know, to some extent, looking back over the past five years, every organization who's taken steps in this area has been innovative. And I think everybody is necessarily continuing to innovate, because we know that this can have great impact, we know that we can get round the challenges, but you know, there are challenges. And these are challenges that are being worked through. This is why, you know, the employer roundtable exists. It's why we have sessions like this. And it's why as optimize we, you know, work as collaboratively as we do, we're involved in, you know, multiple research projects, to understand this better and to continue to, you know, develop better and better practices. I think what I'm, I suppose I'm excited to see, and I think we're starting to see is organizations working towards a, you know, that the end goal, I think that the holistic, you know, joined up approach, whether it starts with neuro diversity inclusion training, you know, where do you start with, how do we keep people? How do we create, how do we change the environment, or whether it starts with a hiring program, like gender, this, you know, this is never something that can be isolated ultimately, to, to one part of the organization, you know, I have a friend at a big tech company, he says, typically, everybody's involved in recruiting that, right, so you might have seven interviews with the team. Now, I think we know that if, you know, five of those seven, know nothing about neuro diversity, there's a danger of people falling out through that process. So I think practically, again, everybody's innovating. I think it's about finding a starting point, building momentum building results. And then ultimately using that and having the vision to think about how do we scale this awareness and acceptance across the whole organization? How do we make sure that everybody who needs to feels comfortable proactively disclosing and how do we work towards processes that actually organically help you hire and attract the best talent and make sure that that doesn't slip through the net, and I think that's a journey. But it's an exciting journey for everyone to be on.

Unknown Speaker 52:54

So this is Jen. And from an employer perspective, you know, both Ed and I have mentioned the autism at work employer Roundtable. So for someone like Microsoft to provide our best practices to individuals and companies that are looking to create programs to help support people with disabilities, find employment that's meaningful and that they're passionate about. Looking forward. We Microsoft, and some of the other organizations such as SAP or DSC technology, are looking towards what's the next part of that program. So career development is really something that for our employees we've hired through the program is an area that we're developing a bit more because their career development might look different than a neurotypical individual. I see up in the in the presentation right now. There's the upcoming autism at work summit. The week in two weeks time. There is some live streaming sessions that will be available including our keynotes. So a link can be provided for follow up if you'd like to register for the live streaming. It's going to cover a variety of topics from an employer from a hiring and supporting employees perspective. There is also a virtual career fair that Wednesday the 25th for candidates with autism, and there are eight employers participating in that across various industries. So if you would like to refer anyone to that, where we would love to have candidates have the opportunity to meet virtually with other employers to learn more about their programs and job opportunities that are available.

Unknown Speaker 54:42

To me, I just add just to add one more thing to the innovative practices. question which is I think it's really important how people understand the difference between neuro diversity and mental health. But also the correlation and the convergence. And that's something that, obviously mental health itself has been, which is great. Completely kind of transformed in in awareness of that, and, and workplace best practices and a lot of organizations have training now on mental health. But there is it's very important, I think, to bear in mind that neurodivergent people frequently have mental health challenges, I think, often because of the the difficulties that they've experienced in the past, of navigating society, workplaces, education, that hasn't been shaped for them. And you know, some of those challenges can can persist. So we're doing some work, we're doing some work with partners, I know, some of these employers are are looking at that, too, to continue to develop strategies to help people be comfortable and to have kind of support frameworks to make sure that that people can can be successful, and those can be mitigated.

Unknown Speaker 56:10

Great, thank you so much. And so we're down to just our last few minutes. So as we wrap up, the first thing I want to do is really thank our panelists, Jen and Ed, for joining us to share their expertise, their experiences, I think this has been an incredible opportunity for us to think about how we can work together to really move this important work forward. As we wrap up, there's a few things a few events and resources I want to share with you. As Jen mentioned, the autism that works summit that's happening in a few weeks, and in the follow up email, you will see a link to the live stream registration for those of you wishing to participate virtually. Also the autism at work virtual career some career fair, and you'll have some information about that as well. We also want to make you aware of a resource for human resource professionals and leaders across functions who want to learn more about neuro diversity, the benefits to their organization, how we can support in our diversion people to be comfortable and successful at work. So that's the neuro diversity at work guide for human resource professionals. And we will include a link to this guide in the follow up email as well. And lastly, we hope you'll join us again as we continue the thinking differently webinar series as part of the neuro diverse hiring initiative here at RMIT. We posted a few save the dates and registrants for today's webinar will receive an invitation to register for these future webinars as well. So again, special thanks to each of you for spending your lunch time with us today. Thanks so much.

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