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Monday, July 3, 2017

Ernst and Young and Neurodiversity

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience

Olga Khazan writes at The Atlantic about Ernst and Young:
[Hiren] Shukla leads EY’s neurodiversity program, a small—at least for now—initiative by the firm to recruit and hire people on the spectrum to work on data-heavy tasks like process improvement and cybersecurity. Instead of checking for a firm handshake and can-do smile during an hourlong meeting, EY takes these job candidates through a two-week process that combines virtual interaction and an in-house “superweek” of team building and skills assessment. During that week, EY tries to acclimate the individuals to the office environment. Those who “pass” get job offers.

The challenges to growing the program have been in finding the right people, Shukla says—the company works with university offices of disability and vocational rehab agencies to recruit potential new employees. People with autism are often un- or under-employed, even in their 20s. Those who do have jobs might be stuck in roles like stocking shelves or filing, which spare them human interaction but also don’t utilize their intellect.
Neurodiverse employees bring unique skills to the job, Shukla said, like blunt honesty. When the company on-boards one of its 50,000 new employees each year, it sends the new hire instructions to set up their voicemail. “One of the [neurodiverse] individuals said, ‘The instructions are not correct,’” Shukla said. “We didn’t believe it, we said, ‘We give it out all the time to people.’”
But he was right. Thousands of employees, feeling hesitant to say anything, had been wasting time puzzling over the wrong instructions.
People on the spectrum also often have superior problem-solving and hyper-focusabilities, so they excel at finding signals in noisy data.