By Mike Park
Data that points to the exceptional talent of individuals on the autism spectrum is on the rise. The data – and countless real-life examples – show that many in this talent pool possess gifts for pattern recognition, problem-solving and innovative thinking. When it comes to certain roles in IT, analytics, and business operations, employees with these gifts can really shine, often surpassing conventional or neurotypical employees in the same roles.
This is a finding that CAI learned firsthand when we piloted a program employing a team of neurodiverse employees to help the state of Delaware’s Department of Transportation manage a large digitization project. The state had tried previous efforts to convert paper files for electronic storage and found them to be too slow and prone to error due to the repetitive nature of the work. The department needed an innovative solution – and CAI Autism2Work (A2W) provided it. A team of four employees completed the work ahead of schedule and with notable accuracy.
The A2W program has been built on this fact – that workforce inclusion can offer companies a competitive advantage. A growing number of public and private organizations engage our A2W teams to solve their problems. A2W teams work for pharmaceutical companies, law firms, banking and financial institutions, and healthcare solutions providers. They write test scripts for new ERP systems, analyze data for reporting, develop software, and manage identity and access tools. One thing is consistent: the teams exceed expectations.
Why does this model work so well? Why do our clients see such success in building employment practices that include individuals with autism? One key ingredient: the A2W Team Lead, who fosters the human-to-human factor with A2W team members while aligning roles and skills with the needs of the enterprise.
Team Leads are frontline managers, working with each of our A2W enterprise clients to understand their specific business problems, tailor the workflow to address those problems, measure the team’s results on a regular basis, and continuously develop and evolve the team’s skills as needed.
Team Leads work closely with each A2W associate to further develop them not only to support the current role but also to aid them in achieving both short- and long-term career goals. Their leadership activities commence during our Job Readiness Training and sustain throughout the client engagement.
Team Leads are trained and certified to work with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as designated by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), which is the only training and certification program endorsed by the Autism Society of America. These certifications ensure that the A2W Team Leads embrace and follow industry standards and best practices for workplace communication, optimal team workflow, and professional development.
This commitment to workplace inclusion ensures positive outcomes for our A2W teams. It ensures not only that A2W employees get the training, ongoing support, and resources they need to excel at their jobs, it also ensures that the team contributes fully to the organization's success. And we see that success repeatedly. At a large bank, the metrics for the A2W team members exceeded their neurotypical peers who had two or more years of experience. At a dental insurer, the A2W team verifies data with 95 percent accuracy. At a health solutions provider, the A2W team completes four times the number of security requests it is asked to complete. Findings from collective A2W clients show that productivity increases by as much as 60 percent when they employ A2W team members.
A2W Team Leads serve in an important capacity as a liaison, mentor, and supervisor to A2W team members, providing essential communication, technical know-how, and coaching that enables people to do their best work. These are the hallmarks of a successful workforce inclusion initiative and essential components of our commitment to our clients.