Tapping into Generation A & Reaping Real Financial Returns


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Tapping into Generation A & Reaping Real Financial Returns

By Garth Johnson and Amy El-Sayed

Very few businesses in Canada have realized we have an amazingly profitable and yet untapped resource in this country. Those who know about it know just how much it has increased their bottom line. What is it? It isn’t a “what” at all – it is a “who” – it is the over 800,000 Canadians with disabilities who are ready, willing and able to work. The evidence is compelling – employing people with disabilities pays. Not only do you hire people who will be more productive, loyal and honest, you will reap the benefits of employees who stay in their jobs longer and are safer workers. Not only that, but you’ll also inspire the rest of your staff to be better employees who are more committed to your company as well. If you’re interested in seeing the proof, email us and we’ll send you links to reams of quantified data and studies. (Tracy, what email is ok to use here?)

So why isn’t business rapidly hiring these people? Mostly, Canadian business owners are unaware of the huge potential here. Some are afraid or ignorant when it comes to engaging these gifted people. Some are prejudiced. For a long time, hiring people with disabilities was promoted by many as “doing the right thing” or a moral obligation and that has to change. Of course it is the right thing to do as a human but is also the right thing to do for your business and your customers and that ROI or Return on Disability as Rich Donovan calls it, must be what we promote this as going forward.

We launched Meticulon as a self-sustaining business project in 2013 to employ the amazing abilities of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in very complicated and highly detailed IT work. Some people with ASD have uncanny abilities to be extremely focused on very detailed, structured quality assurance, software testing and big data analysis work. When properly evaluated to identify their skills and interests, fully trained and minimally supported in navigating the social norms of the workplace, our consultants consistently out perform anyone else in both speed and accuracy in this work – just ask our amazed customers.

Canada is facing a labour shortage and yet we have a huge resource pool we’re not tapping into – the stats for Autism alone identify that there are close to 5000 Canadians diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that will be turning 18 this year.[1] Autism is often broadly defined as a developmental condition affecting behavioral, social and communication patterns.[2]

Regardless of how you choose to frame it: ASD is here. And all reasons aside, the numbers are increasing.[3] So how do we as a society prepare for Generation A?

Well, there’s one simple approach: embrace this untapped workforce.

Workplace diversity has often been touted as a competitive advantage as it can provide creative and innovative approaches.[4], [5] Canada prides itself on being a “multicultural mosaic,” highlighting the many different threads that make up the beautiful tapestry of our nation. And yet, as of April 2015, articles discussing workplace diversity are still, somewhat understandably, focused on a small niche of a much broader concept.[6] So let’s talk about another niche of diversity—neurodiversity; making space for people who often look just like the rest of us on outside, but probably think and communicate in non-typical ways. Honestly, working with individuals on the spectrum can be very similar to integrating people from new and different cultures, but overcoming these simple differences offers real financial and work culture returns.

Here’s the bottom line – ready or not, here comes Generation A and they’re going to force us to change how things are done in the workplace or we’re going to have a huge and needless unemployment burden to carry. But it doesn’t have to be a problem – it is an opportunity.

Supporting someone with an ASD diagnosis in an employment position does not have to be cumbersome. As one individual put it “I don’t think it’s anything other than patience, respect and understanding of people who are different than you.”[7] So here are some strategies we have used to successfully employ our people with ASD:

1. Focus on Abilities and Strengths

Every employee comes as a package—strengths and areas of improvement combined. Individuals with ASD have been linked to reduced turnover, a keen eye for detail and a need for perfection.[8] Supervisors who have managed ASD diagnosed individuals have identified them as punctual, dependable and knowledgeable of their job roles and duties.[9] Furthermore, a large number of individuals with ASD have postsecondary education. [10],[11],[12]

Meticulon has altered how we interview and assess candidates. There is no “sell yourself” in our intake process. Instead, we use a series of tests and exercises to identify the skills and gifts each candidate has and map those to our job opportunities. We have Engineers, Advanced Mathematicians, High School grads, and, of course, Computer Scientists in our consultant pool – all doing what they know they love and what know they can do. Interview processes are broken and we have to fix them for everyone but especially for people with disabilities – what they can actually do is much more important that what they can sell you on in 30 minutes is – and we all know it.

2. Find the Right Fit

Individuals with ASD—like their neurotypical counterparts—want to work in roles that capitalize on their knowledge and expertise.[13] Surveys conducted have found that individuals with ASD have found fulfilling work in various industries such as teaching, IT, business, retail, catering,[14] accounting, sales, photography, etc.[15] So find out what your employee with ASD is not only good at but also what they really have a passion to do and then get them doing that.

3. Garner Understanding

Many organizations that have taken on ASD diagnosed staff have found that other members of their teams have become informal mentors.[16] By educating staff about both the strengths and barriers which individuals on the spectrum face, team members are often better equipped to support their co-worker(s) with ASD. There are many agencies and groups out there that will be happy to help make your workplace ASD-friendly. In fact, many of the strategies employed by individuals on the spectrum will probably benefit all of your staff!

4. Offer Simple Employee Support

Most individuals on the spectrum have a pretty good idea of some of the strategies that may help them, such as wearing noise-cancelling headphones or using transition lenses. Others might not realize some of their challenges. Bearing this, it is beneficial to keep an open mind and try a few different techniques if something doesn’t seem to be working.

5. Check-in regularly

It’s vital to make sure you’re supporting all of your staff, not just those diagnosed with ASD. So take the time to see what the rest of your team needs. Diversity can be a strength and/or a disadvantage. If you’re not taking the time to include and value the rest of your organization, they can feel singled out and that can work against the overall company potential and morale.[17]

We use a simple 2 question daily check-in question with our Consultants, meet for 15 minutes every two weeks to talk through a structured “how’s it going” checklist, and do a quick performance review with their supervisor once a month to ensure everyone has what they need to succeed – our customers love it and they’ve started using it themselves. Moral goes up, turnover goes down and everyone feels better about their job and their company – it is amazing to watch.

Make Small Changes…Change Someone’s Life

Creating a powerful team will never be a one-size-fits-all approach, but these general guidelines can be tailored to create an incredible workforce. We know this because it is the backbone of our business. Our Assessment process takes at least four weeks to complete; we do not place employees in contracts until we have observed their actual work abilities, and fully trained them for the work we do, which can take another four weeks. But at the end of all of this, we know our Consultants can do their work, and we know they can do it exceptionally.

We follow all of these steps, and add a few more touches to really bring out the best in our Consultants. As a company, we’ve done everything from assisting our staff in planning transit routes, to helping them set up a dating profile! But at the end of the day, all of our Consultants are working in roles that maximize their potential and allow them to earn a decent living. As a result, they are more independent, have a better sense of self and contribute to society.

Diversity is providing everyone, regardless of their unique identifiers, the same opportunities to be active participants in their environments. It’s bigger than culture, it’s bigger than age gaps, it’s bigger than abilities.

Aren’t you interested in seeing what your business may be missing? Diversify your workforce—see how the Autism Advantage can make your business even better than it already is!


[1] Shattuck, P. T., Narendorf, S. C., Cooper, B., Sterzing, P. R., Wagner, M., and Taylor, J. T. (2012). Postsecondary education and employment among youth with an autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics, 129, 1042-1049. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-2864

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

[3] CDC

[4] Roberge, M-E. and Dick, R. (2010). Recognizing the benefits of diversity: When and how does diversity increase group performance? Human Resources Management Review, 20, 295-308. doi: 10.1016/j.hrmr.2009.09.002

[5] Stevens, F. G., Plaut, V. C., and Sanchez-Burks, J. (2008). Unlocking the benefits of diversity: all-inclusive multiculturalism and positive organizational change. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44(1), 116-133. doi: 10.1177/0021886908314460

[6] McNaughton, N. (2015). Diversity: It’s more than cultural differences. Business in Calgary, April.

[7] Hagner, D. and Cooney, B. F. (2005). “I do that for everybody:” Supervising employees with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20(2), 91-97.

[8] Autism Speaks Family Services: Employment Think Tank. (2012). Retrieved from: insert link.

[9] Hillier, A., Campbell, H., Mastriani, K., Izzo, M. V., Kool-Tucker, A. K., Cherry, L., and Beversdorf, D. Q. (2007). Two-year evaluation of a vocational supports program for adults on the autism spectrum. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 30(1), 35-47.

[10] Baldwin, S., Costley, D., and Warren, A. (2014). Employment activities and experiences of adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 2440-2449. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2112-z

[11] Gotham, K., Marvin, A. R., Taylor, J. L., Warren, Z., Anderson, C. M., Law, P. A., Law, J. K. and Lipkin, P. H. (2015). Characterizing the daily life, needs, and priorities of adults with autism spectrum disorder from Interactive Autism Network data. Autism, 1, 1-11. doi: 10.1177/1362361315583818

[12] Muller, E., Schuler, A., Burton, B. A., and Yates, G. B. (2003). Meeting the vocational support needs of individuals with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 18, 163-175.

[13] Baldwin, S., Costley, D., and Warren, A. (2014). Employment activities and experiences of adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44, 2440-2449. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2112-z

[14]

[15] Muller, E., Schuler, A., Burton, B. A., and Yates, G. B. (2003). Meeting the vocational support needs of individuals with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 18, 163-175.

[16] Hillier, A., Campbell, H., Mastriani, K., Izzo, M. V., Kool-Tucker, A. K., Cherry, L., and Beversdorf, D. Q. (2007). Two-year evaluation of a vocational supports program for adults on the autism spectrum. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 30(1), 35-47.

[17] Stevens, F. G., Plaut, V. C., and Sanchez-Burks, J. (2008). Unlocking the benefits of diversity: all-inclusive multiculturalism and positive organizational change. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44(1), 116-133. doi: 10.1177/0021886908314460

Disability Tax Credit | The disability tax credit (DTC) is a non-refundable tax credit that helps persons with disabilities or their supporting persons reduce the amount of income tax they may have to pay. For more information, go to http://www.cra.gc.ca/dtc.

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