In business — and in life — we can achieve more when everyone has a seat at the table and the opportunity to share their perspective.
This is the ethos of auticon, a technology services company built on a foundation of neurodiversity — and a champion of true workplace inclusivity, especially for those on the autism spectrum.
Located in eight countries across the globe, auticon exclusively employs people on the autism spectrum to work as technology consultants for companies like CoverMyMeds. The company pairs employees with job coaches and project managers who support their work and ensure they have what they need to be successful on the job.
“Our goal is to solve one of the world’s problems through business,” says David Reeve, head of global marketing and communications for auticon. “While charities and nonprofits provide a lot of great support for people on the spectrum, we don’t look at someone with years of technology experience as needing charity. They need a job — and one on an equal playing field.”
Here, Reeve shares how a “tech services company powered by autism” is changing the way we think about diversity in the workplace.
The Goal: Solve an Unemployment Challenge
Across the U.S., a growing population of smart, talented, hard-working people are looking for work: Up to 90 percent of adults on the autism spectrum are either unemployed or under-employed. Seventy-seven percent of those unemployed say they want to work.1
At the same time, technology roles need to be filled.
“Historically, there’ve been more tech jobs than people to work those jobs,” Reeve says. “In fact, we have so many tech jobs in the U.S. that some companies outsource these roles to other countries. What we want to hammer home is that we have great people here in the U.S. — and in all the countries we’re serving — for whom the unemployment rate is high. Our approach is a natural solution.”
Neurodiversity Presents Opportunities
In recent decades, we’ve seen waves of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. From ensuring that women and members of the LGBTQ community have the same rights as their colleagues to adopting anti-racism and anti-ageism practices, many movements over time have helped increase diversity and equal opportunity in the workplace — and in society.
Neurodiversity is another critical part of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Covering a range of mental states, from anxiety to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, neurodiversity reminds us that people who think differently don’t need to change — they need accommodations that turn a job into a “best place to work.”
While strengths are certainly individual, many on the autism spectrum have unique cognitive abilities — including systematical ways of thinking and working, pattern recognition and error detection, and the ability to sustain concentration on work that requires incredible attention to detail — that are in high demand. Applicable to all types of work, these skills are especially important within STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.
“There are cognitive benefits that come with seeing the world differently — creative points of view,” Reeve says. “When it comes to writing software code or organizing data sets to fuel artificial intelligence, having this unique perspective brings a new quality to the work, and to a team. We’ve built our company around that.”
A Supportive Model for Success
At auticon, employees receive assistance from job coaches — “part project manager, part counselor,” Reeve says — as well as a variety of management services to ensure they’re successful in their work.
These services include help setting up a workspace in a way that avoids anything distracting or distressing and interview prep. Coaches provide support to their employees’ managers to ensure the company’s needs are met, too.
“Ensuring our employees and partners feel like they belong — and that they have everything they need to be successful personally and professionally — is important to us,” says Veronica Knuth, vice president of talent management at CoverMyMeds. “We are honored to be a part of the business community that has been able to show auticon that Columbus is a place in which their employees can fit in and succeed.”
“We all need things. In fact, most employees have some sort of special accommodation,” Reeve says. “We’re all, to some extent, differently abled.”
Beyond helping their employees become valuable members of their teams, auticon works to break down and dispel any myths about working with people on the spectrum.
“What does it mean to work with someone on the spectrum? Well, we call it a spectrum because it’s different for everyone,” Reeve says. “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Ultimately, auticon champions a simple fact: Differences aren’t only what make us unique — they’re what make us valuable.
With “Be Yourself” as one of our five core values, we couldn’t agree more.
To learn more about auticon’s mission, hiring practices and more, visit them online.
- National Autistic Society, 2016