Would Rain Man get a job in your company?
Have you seen the film Rain Man? Do you remember Dustin Hoffman as Raymond "Ray" Babbitt who had autism, a compulsive nature, minimal interest in people and was suffering from various fears of rain as well as taking flights? Can you imagine him getting a job in your company?
I was recently assessing several corporate diversity and inclusion policies for British Petroleum, Danone, Swiss Re, SAP and other multinationals. Having a solid strategy for gender and age diversity is nowadays becoming mainstream. To have inclusion policies for employees with handicaps, LGBT and employees with HIV (which is especially relevant for corporations operating in developing countries), is starting to be more common practice in the corporate environment as well. What I was really astonished by, was reading a policy which had a goal to have 1 percent of its overall workforce coming from the autism spectrum by 2020.
So coming back to Rain Man - many of the above mentioned depicted attributes are known symptoms of autism, but the film is also known for popularizing the misconception that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) typically have savant skills, this isn’t always true. What you see in the movie Rain Man does happen, but is quite rare.
So why employ people with ASD if they are not having magical skills like extraordinary memory or counting skills? What value can they bring to the workplace and what steps should your company take in to support employment of people with ASD?
3 reasons why to employ Rain Man
1. Attracting new talents and leveraging tremendous value in terms of the work discipline. People with ASD can have such as a passion for detail, discipline as well as improving and optimizing process.
2. Decreasing fluctuation. The fact that you as a corporation is providing employment opportunities to someone with tremendous eagerness to get a job will help your company with improved staff retention.
3. Creating a culture of appreciation and tolerance in your company. Shaping and developing attitudes of tolerance, respect and understanding towards diversity is essential to growth and prosperity of any company.
3 steps how to get started
1. Start small: establish a volunteer project to help people/kids with autism and/or internship programs to prepare your staff for a new diversity challenge within your company.
2. Identify suitable job positions for people with ASD such as programming, software testing, data-entry and business analysis.
3. Work with local or international organizations that have experience with employing people with ASD (e.g. Specialisterne ) and is able to assists with job training for people with autism and for your current staff.
Still not persuaded to open the door for Rain Men in your country? Get more inspiration and read some stories about companies like SAP, Microsoft , Freddie Mac and Walgreens who have implemented these programs into their workplace.