By Byran Dai, on Aug 27, 2020

The Secret to Attracting Top Talent in the Age of COVID: The Autism Advantage

Employees on the autism spectrum are uniquely suited to perform skilled tasks at a time when remote work has become the norm

Organizations like SAP have pioneered autism inclusivity in the workplace

Before COVID, the United States recorded its lowest unemployment rate in a half-century at 3.6%. But even then, the unemployment rate for adults on the autism spectrum remained as high as 85%. This in spite of employers reporting strong capability for detail-oriented work, sky-high retention rates, and increased workplace morale in the team when hiring from this population.

There’s a reason we refer to the “autism spectrum.” It’s because these individuals display a wide variety of talents, skills, and motivations. In the workplace that could mean that one person excels at repeatable, detail-oriented data tasks, while another might be a whiz at building financial models. Just like with anyone, every individual is different.

There are many reasons for this mismatch between capability and employment opportunities. A key factor is the importance placed on working in a formal office environment. People with autism sometimes find it hard to read social cues and interact with others, which can give a falsely negative impression of their performance or enthusiasm.

The shift to remote work triggered by Covid is changing all that. For now, nearly all work is virtual. But there’s also an emerging consensus that, even after Covid has passed, the future of work will focus less on physical presence and more on the quality of work performed.

In short, it’s a perfect opportunity for companies to tap into the extraordinary talents of people on the autism spectrum. Realizing this potential — both for companies and for employees — was the spark for Daivergent.

Daivergent is now making it easier than ever to hire by launching its Sourcing Employees with NeuroDiversity (SEND) program that provides companies with fully-subsidized interns and employees on the spectrum. We’re committed to making sure that companies, from startups to Fortune 500s, who are ready to embrace the autism advantage can do so as easily as possible by providing this guide.

Why Remote Work Plays to the Strengths of Autism Talent

The transformation to Work from Home (WFH) is nothing short of a revolution in work, tearing down social barriers that have too often been responsible for keeping strong candidates on the spectrum out of consideration. Remote work aligns powerfully with the aptitudes of Autistic employees by allowing collaboration and communication to occur in a setting and timeframe more conducive to them. What may have been previously construed as a custom “accommodation” for the employee is now the default standard operating procedure for all employees.

Already, companies that focus on hiring from the autism community have leveraged the virtual model as a means to provide incremental accommodations that unlock considerable potential. A recent Forbes article covered how NYC-based startup Ultranauts thrived during Covid with its 100% remote workforce by doubling down on their best practices including the creation of a “user manual” that each employee could share with one another.

Those same tactics used to support neurodiverse employees were passed over to Ultranauts’ Fortune 500 and startup clients to help their neurotypical employees in the remote transition! Similar practices by remote-first, autism-led companies like Xceptional and auticon across roles in quality assurance, business intelligence, and consulting have showcased that opportunities to leverage Autistic talent cut across all job functions and industries.

SEND Takes Risk (and Cost!) Out of the Equation for Employers Hiring Autism Talent

The question remains: how can companies with limited budgets and no prior experience act upon this awareness to bring employees on the spectrum into their organizations? This was the catalyst for Daivergent to launch the SEND pilot program with the State of California.

The SEND program democratizes the ability for companies to hire and receive support for remote autistic employees, no matter their budget, by:

  • Matching 2,000+ vetted candidate profiles that qualify for full wage subsidies to eligible companies needing strong talent for data entry, graphic design, sales support, and email-facing customer service roles
  • Fully covering salary, tax, and payroll costs of a new hire on the spectrum for up to 6 months
  • Eliminating legal risk and administrative overhead to the company by SEND assuming the employment relationship with the new hire, along with SEND taking responsibility for all payroll setup and operations
  • Providing all coaching and support through SEND service partners and community agencies, which removes the need for the company to provide coaches
  • Allowing companies using popular Vendor Management Solutions (VMS) like SAP Fieldglass to access talent through their own hiring platform
  • Only requirement is for the company to define the job description and responsibilities they expect from the selected employee

Companies embracing remote work are looking for ways to attract strong talent while keeping an eye on the bottom line, and autism is becoming the solution. Employees on the spectrum have become the ideal fit due to the conduciveness of the virtual environment for unlocking their productivity, and through the SEND program, companies across the US can tap into this exceptional remote talent pool.

If your startup or company would like to check if you are eligible to hire fully-subsidized interns/employees from SEND, please take our 1-minute screening assessment here.

Opinions expressed by Daivergent contributors are their own.