By Patrick Bardsley, co-founder and CEO of Spectrum Designs Foundation, an enterprise of businesses employing people on the autism spectrum.
I believe great minds don’t always think alike. We’re all made up of different perspectives, life experiences and various ways of looking at and processing the world around us.
My company, Spectrum Designs, chooses to see things differently. Our majority neurodiverse team has made me rethink the often-repeated phrase about thinking alike.
Having a neurodiverse workforce has proven crucial for both the business and employees alike. In this article, I’m going to share five key benefits that hiring a neurodiverse workforce can have for your business.
In an open letter published in 2021, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, remarked“The world needs a neurodiverse workforce to help try and solve some of the big problems of our time.”
Scientists have found that people on the autism spectrum consistently score higher than average on the Embedded Figures Testwhich challenges participants to find a particular shape in a larger design.
This level of attention to detail often means that neurodiverse employees make fewer mistakes than their neurotypical counterparts and is one of the many traits that make employees on the autism valuable spectrum team members.
A major problem that many employers have been experiencing in the last few years is what is now being called the Great Resignation, with over 38 million people quitting their jobs in 2021 alone. This is a problem that an employer is less likely to face with an autistic employee. According to Training Industry, employers who have opened their doors to a neurodiverse workforce have found that autistic employees have a retention rate upward of 90%.
Still, adults on the autism spectrum face high unemployment rates, although many would be eager and able to use their talents to the benefit of someone’s business. Unfortunately, many employers aren’t willing to give them a chance due to their preconceived notions about autism, creating a loss for both the employee and the employer.
Out of Spectrum Designs’ 70 employees, 44 identify as being on the autism spectrum. We have seen an average year-over-year growth rate of 30% over the last 11 years, making us proof that a neurodiverse workforce can not only sustain, but grow a business.
Boosting Company Culture
A recent survey conducted by Microsoft rated a positive work environment as one of the top five most important aspects that employees look for in a job. Hiring and including a neurodiverse workforce can drastically improve the culture of a work environment.
It is a common misconception that all autistic people are anti-social, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A study conducted by the Autism Center of Excellence found that autistic children often listed social interaction as one of their favorite activities and were able to make friends.
My team and I pride ourselves on our culture. Some of our employees will happily begin breaking out into song or dance, others will always have a new joke or a compliment to brighten your day. True inclusion and acceptance of who people are creating a safe and judgment-free environment, allowing everyone to be themselves at work. Many of these interactions would be unfathomable in a traditional office setting, but by creating an environment where anyone can be themselves, everyone benefits as a result.
These perks are not only beneficial for the employees, but for the company as well. Employees who feel comfortable and supported in the workplace have been more productive and come to work each morning with a positive attitude. This helps other employees, especially newer ones, feel more comfortable and allows positivity to spread throughout the entire organization.
Boosting Company Image
Developing a neurodiverse workforce doesn’t only boost a company’s internal image, it also boosts how the company is viewed from the outside. When a brand has a strong purpose Consumers are four times more likely to trust the company, and six times more likely to defend the company from criticism.
Appreciating the value of diversity is also beneficial when looking to fill open positions. A survey conducted by Glassdoor found that 76% of job seekers listed diversity as an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. The same study also found that these numbers were even higher when coming from underrepresented groups—80% of Black and Hispanic employees and 79% of LGBTQ+ employees said that diversity is a crucial factor in determining where they would like to work.
Vice Media Group, in collaboration with Razorfish, found that 82% of consumers say that the brands they buy stand for a greater social purpose. By valuing diversity and opening your business’s doors to a neurodiverse population, you can simultaneously boost your company image and make your workplace more appealing to incoming applicants.
People on the autism spectrum are known to be some of the most reliable when it comes to following the rules of professionalism. Many autistic people flourish in a structured environment, where they are expected to follow rules and abide by a routine.
This can make them invaluable resources to an organization where workers are expected to perform a set number of tasks. A set structure can be comforting to people on the spectrum, making it unlikely that an autistic employee will take advantage of your trust.
As you can see, hiring a neurodiverse workforce can have benefits for you, your customers and your employees. As society continues to move forward, diversity and inclusion will continue to be major themes. Furthermore, the biggest problems of our time will require an acceptance that great minds are everywhere, and they’re probably not all thinking alike.