Categories
Diversity Flexible Working

Awareness Of Autism In The Workplace: Working On Inclusivity

Awareness of autism the workplace: Employer Inclusivity

Only 22% of autistic adults are employed in the UK as of 2020. In a modern society claiming to be forward-thinking, diversified and inclusive, these statistics are unacceptable. Autism awareness in the workplace is key to inclusivity.

With a recently reported lack of talent and labour shortage we ask businesses to think again. Just think about the opportunities you would be open to if you just adopted true flexible working practices. The doors would be open up to a previously untapped talent pool. Including many groups of people but for the purpose of this post we are talking about autism.

What Autistic People bring to the table

Autistic people, just like anyone have a wide range of strengths and talent. Some display above average skills in some or all of the following areas:  

  • high levels of concentration 
  • reliability, conscientiousness and persistence 
  • accuracy, close attention to detail and the ability to identify errors 
  • technical ability, such as in IT 
  • detailed factual knowledge and an excellent memory 

Most importantly being neurodiverse shouldn’t be a negative factor in finding employment. Autistic people may need to work in a different way than what employers are used to. All it requires is an understanding employer and an open conversation about how they work best.

The National Autistic Society, interviewed Jamie Knight; Senior Research Engineer at the BBC. Jamie has a number of important roles. These include developing software, conduct tech maintenance and ensuring their apps and services are running properly. This is just one example of how much neurodiverse people can bring to the table at a senior level. This is an example set by a large organisation and one for more organisations to follow.

Autism in the workplace: Perceiving the world around us

The first aspect of autism awareness employers need to recognise is that they need to rid themselves of existing mindsets. Neurodiverse people perceive the world differently than people who are not neurodiverse.

In NAS’s interview with Jamie Knight, he sums up perfectly how employers and society in general should view neurodiverse people:

“Look, its not that I’m defective, it’s that the environment is disabling me. So if I start modifying the environment, it will stop disabling me. I’ll still remain impaired … But I can stop it from having a negative impact on my life.”

And this is key when employing neurodiverse people. Make changes, accommodate and you will see an invaluable asset develop. Practices such as flexible working options, general acceptance and adapting to people is an easy part of creating a more inclusive environment.

Inclusivity of autistic people in the recruitment process

Accommodating neurodiverse people needs to start at the beginning of the recruitment process.

The job description

Firstly, job descriptions can sometimes ask for too much. Listing a number unnecessary requirements as “essential” to the job, when in practice they are not. This isn’t just an issue that concerns neurodiverse people, but it does present as a barrier.

Employers casually include “essential requirements” in job descriptions without thinking much of it. Such as: ‘excellent communication skills’ or ‘must work well in a team’. These skills can often be included in job descriptions where the employee would be mostly working independently or would not need to interact much with others to do the job well. If this is the case, why are these skills part of the essential criteria?

An autistic person may see this and automatically move on as they may not have these skills. Yet, they could have been exceptional in the role. However, sometimes their exceptional abilities can get falsely interpreted. This is where the myth surrounding splinter skills autism should be noted. Splinter skill is a term used for people on the spectrum who do well in certain domains or areas. That is, they could be good at art or playing piano, which might seem amazing. However, it is very rare and they still face challenges in their social life. So, recruiters should keep in mind that instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate, they should be searching for the right candidate. Consider what really is essential and what is not.

The interview process for people with autism

Secondly, let’s consider the interview process. A traditional interview heavily relies on social interaction and communication. A scenario in which an autistic person can find difficult to ‘sell’ themselves. Simple measures such as

  • Providing questions to the candidate prior to the interview,
  • Supplying clear instructions on how to find the location and room
  • Providing a quiet space for the candidate for before and after the interview.
  • Avoid general questions and try to ask more specific questions.

Why Flexible Working for Neurodiverse People is Key

Flexible working is the benchmark for inclusivity. It’s a key element of working life for neurodiverse people. For an autistic person, aspects in and out of the workplace can derail them for the rest of the day. Facilitating flexible working allows the individual to navigate a work style that allows them to thrive. If an employee thrives, they are productive and innovative. This will consequently benefit the company they work for.

Now it is true that some neurodiverse people require structure and benefit from having fixed shifts. That is fine, flexible working does not effect that. It simply means the company can work around neurodiverse employees if their environment has left them incapable of operating under their normal hours for whatever reason. This is why flexible working is an essential requirement for neurodiverse people which all organisations should adopt. They outcome can only be positive.

Awareness of Autism in the workplace improves lives

Like anyone else, it’s fair to say that neurodiverse people want a certain level of financial independence, sense of purpose and the opportunity for career development. For most adults, these aspects of life are defined by their careers. We achieve independence through the money we make from our job to become self reliant. We often strive for achievements within our job and measure our success with these. Sometimes our careers and jobs are the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, giving our lives structure and purpose. Neurodiverse people deserve to have the opportunity for these basic fundamental parts of life that everyone is entitled to.

We are reaching out to you as employers to enable this. This can be done simply by creating a more inclusive and diverse environment. A fantastic starting point is to offer true flexibility. It can not be understated the impact this can have on the life of a neurodiverse person.

For more information and support on flexible working and the opportunities you stand to gain then contact us at The Find Your Flex Group. For more information about autism in the workplace then go to Autsim.org.

Categories
Job Descriptions

Job Description: The Future is Output-Based

The first step in recruitment is creating a job description. Yet while evolution has effected other aspects of recruitment, it has past right by job descriptions. We have had the same outdated format and content for decades, and it is massively understated the negative effect this has on candidates and employers alike. From ridiculous experience requirements to asking for redundant skills, businesses have gone unchallenged on this topic for long enough. The future is now and the future is output-based job descriptions.

The “Ideal” Candidate does not Exist

Businesses need to manage their expectations when it comes to recruitment. All too often job descriptions contain a phrase that is counter productive to say the least. Many job descriptions contain the phrase “the ideal candidate will have:”. If you are a recruiter writing a job description, let me stop you right there, because this phrase tends to be followed by a long list of unrealistic expectations and you are setting up everyone involved (yourselves included) to fail. The majority of candidates will not apply based off of the fact they do not meet every single one of these needs. A small minority will lie and apply anyway just to take their chances.

The chances of you finding someone who ticks everyone of those 30 boxes are slim to none. The literal definition of the word “ideal” is satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect, existing only in their imagination and unlikely to become a reality. No human has achieved perfection since the beginning of our existence so how can it be expected from your applicants? The bottom line is your not going to get what your asking for and realistically a job description should not be about the candidate in the first place.

The Practice of Inclusivity Creates Exclusivity

Since society is making a genuine effort to be more diverse and inclusive across the board, business are trying to do the same with their workforce. When recruiting, employers now factor in; gender, BAME, LGBTQ+ and Neurodiversity as a plus. Within job descriptions, employers will even say they are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive working environment. However by actively including certain groups you are excluding others, there is something of a paradox there; you cannot be inclusive without being exclusive. This is called positive discrimination, which is a contradiction in terms in and of itself. It can be argued that by definition; discrimination in any form cannot be positive.

The whole point of diversity and inclusion is to create equality. If you are favouring someone because on their gender, sexuality or race then that is just a different brand of exclusivity. So a white, heterosexual male is automatically at a disadvantage regardless if they are just as capable of doing the job as other applicants who fall under the above categories? Is this not just more of the same issue in a different form? If every organisation does this then inclusivity is just an illusion that we are kidding ourselves with. The only way to be truly inclusive is to take inclusivity completely out of the equation and out of the job description.

Generic Job Descriptions don’t lead to Quality Candidates

Many business don’t put enough time and effort into the job descriptions. The format is so out-dated that businesses to tend to throw generic essential requirements in without thinking, or they overload it with paragraph after paragraph of information about the company. Yet they include very little about the roll itself. This is not appropriate, a full summary of the company comes later in the recruitment process not the beginning. And if the candidate really wants the job they will do their research on the company beforehand. A job description is a job description, not a company description and not a candidate description.

Another issue is the throwaway skills recruiters have in their job descriptions. What is a generic skill to an employer can be a deal breaker for an applicant. This issue particularly affects neurodiverse people. Neurodiverse people are some of the most talented people on the planet and yet so few are in employment today. They perceive things differently, so if they see a skill in a job description they do not have, they will take it no further. Though this does not just include neurodiverse people, many applicants move on when they see an essential skill that they do not have. Yet the role itself does not require the skills the job description asks for. A job where the person predominantly works alone does not require great interpersonal skills. But the at the end of the day, none of these should be included in a job description.

The Output-Based Job Description

So what is an output-based job description? Simple; you take the candidate: their skills, qualifications and experiences out of it. You also take the company out of it; no mission statements, passions, goals etc. A short two to three line introduction on what the company does is the most that should be in a job description. The rest of it is solely about the role itself and the output of the person within said role and what their day to day duties will be.

It should be based off of what an existing or past employee within that role does. Or with a new role, state the purpose of it and why it was created. There should be no abbreviations of what skills these duties will require, if the description of said duties is clear and precise the candidate will know if they are cable or not.

Take all labels out of the equation no; ‘diversity & inclusion’ or ‘flexible working’. These labels, regardless of intent, are creating an unconscious bias that contradicts their meaning. The most inclusive way to form a job description is to not include any labels whatsoever, this is the mark of true inclusion. This will ensure that the right candidates apply for the role as opposed to candidates trying to be perfect for the role.

This is the future of the job description. If we as a society hope to abolish all forms of discrimination and promote true equality within the workplace. It will give everyone the same chance, no one individual will have an advantage over another. This will of course have a domino effect on the entire recruitment process, but a positive one none the less. But one step at a time and its time to take that first step.

#OUTPUTChallenge

We at Find Your Flex challenge you and your business to take part in our #OUTPUTChallenge . [The challenge closing date has now passed]. Be the pioneer businesses in creating a better Future of Work for candidates and businesses alike! Businesses will create their 3 best Output Job Descriptions and the winner will receive 100 business credits with us for a whole year and will also be the core focus of our press release on the ‘Future of Work’. The future is now, cement your part in it by taking the challenge!