10 Companies Leading the Neurodiversity Movement in Tech
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- Tech companies are embracing the value of neurodiversity at work.
- Many neurodivergent individuals have skills that are highly valuable for tech companies.
- Tech companies can support the movement through hiring initiatives and programs that embrace neurodiversity.
- Several resources are available to guide companies in creating their own neurodiversity programs.
The Autism Society estimates up to 90% of autistic people are under or unemployed. However, many tech companies are starting to recognize the untapped potential of autistic and other neurodivergent individuals.
Neurodiversity in the workplace prioritizes hiring people with neurotypes like:
- Attention deficit disorders
The neurodiversity movement recognizes that many neurodivergent individuals' skills — which can include strengths in math and reasoning, high attention to detail, and comfortability with repetition — may make them highly qualified for positions in tech companies.
Why Does Neurodiversity in Tech Matter?
Neurodivergent individuals face unique challenges when it comes to being successful at work. This may partly be due to how some workplaces are structured uniformly for the "neurotypical" and lack inclusive processes for neurodivergent individuals.
The neurodiversity movement recognizes the valuable skills that neurodivergent individuals bring to businesses as a competitive advantage, often particularly beneficial for tech companies.
For instance, DXC Technology, a business that conducts neurodiversity hiring, values the skills of neurodivergent individuals, including:
- Visual thinking
- Preference for routine and systematically-oriented activities
- Accuracy and honesty
- Attention to detail
- Ability to identify errors
While productivity levels are not necessarily easily measurable and vary among all individuals, JPMorgan Chase estimated that employees hired through their neurodiversity program into tech roles are 90% to 140% more productive than others and have consistent, error-free work.
How Can Tech Companies Support the Neurodivergence Movement?
Tech companies can support the neurodiversity movement by fostering an inclusive workplace that values diverse thinking. They can create programs and hiring initiatives that support and retain neurodivergent employees. For instance, employers can conduct extended interviews with an assessment and learning or workshop component.
While neurodivergent individuals can be highly skilled in certain topics, other areas — such as communication or maintaining a budget — may not come so easily to some. Therefore, once hired, neurodiverse employees may need ongoing support through training and guidance from managers.
10 Companies Paving the Way for Neurodivergence in Tech
Many businesses are now recognizing the value of neurodiversity, particularly when it comes to technology. Through neurodiversity hiring initiatives and programs, the following tech companies have become leaders in the neurodiversity movement.
Microsoft's Neurodiversity Hiring Program consists of an extended interview process to provide support and training for neurodivergent individuals.
If the applicant's skills and qualifications match up with open positions, they may be invited to a hiring event to learn more about what it's like to work at Microsoft and have the opportunity to work on interview preparation and skills development. Finally, the candidate will interview in formal and informal settings and, based on feedback, may be offered a full-time job.
To improve their neurodiverse hiring, IBM partnered with the Specialisterne Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting neurodiversity in the workplace, in 2017. IBM has since developed the ND@IBM business resource group, which has over 1,400 members.
Formed in 2019, IBM's #ActuallyAutistic task force is a support group for neurodivergent employees offering advice and guidance. Additionally, IBM SkillsBuild provides free training courses for neurodivergent individuals on high-demand technical skills.
SAP is a software company that has fully embraced the neurodiversity movement and encourages others to join. SAP recognizes that support for neurodivergent individuals should continue after the hiring process, which is why they developed the Autism at Work program.
This program provides encouragement for their neurodivergent employees by embracing different ways of thinking and training managers to create a supportive work environment.
VMware, a cloud computing company, promotes neurodiverse hiring through their Neurodiversity Inclusion Program, an inclusive interview and hiring process, including mentoring and job coaching if hired.
The selection process consists of submitting a resume, completing a skills assessment, and, if selected, attending a week-long learning event that culminates in a final interview.
Hewlett-Packard embraces diversity and inclusion, boasting a perfect 100 on the Disability Equality Index. HP's Spectrum Success Program consists of neurodiversity hiring and retention initiatives, including a five-day workshop for neurodivergent candidates and interview opportunities. They're hiring qualified individuals with educational backgrounds in areas like computer science, information technology, and supply chain finance.
In 2019, Salesforce began its collaboration with Specialisterne to join the neurodiversity movement and created the neurodiverse hiring program Autism@Work. It includes a four-week internship program that assesses and teaches skills to the selected individuals.
In the initial program, six candidates were offered and accepted positions in the company. Due to its success with the first cohort of candidates, Salesforce plans on continuing its neurodiversity programs and continues to provide its hires with job coaching and mentoring.
DXC Technology, a global information technology services and consulting company, launched the DXC Dandelion Program in 2014 in Australia to increase neurodiversity hiring in the IT sector. The program currently employs over 100 neurodivergent individuals in positions such as software testing, cyber security, and data analytics. Due to the program's success, DXC Technology plans to expand the Dandelion Program to Europe and Asia Pacific countries.
The DXC Dandelion Program judges candidates on their skills and ability to do the job, not on body language or communication. A unique feature of the program is the on-site support model and trained neurodiversity support consultants who work closely with neurodivergent employees at the workplace.
Founded in 2008, Aspiritech provides software and quality assurance testing. Fully embracing the neurodiversity movement, this nonprofit employs adults on the autism spectrum to conduct QA testing for businesses like Bose and JP Morgan Chase.
Aspiritech also provides social programs and job training for its employees and adults with autism in the community.
Ultranauts is another company involved in the neurodiversity movement, with 75% of their professionals being neurodivergent — the majority of whom are autistic.
The software and data engineering firm advocates for neurodiversity hiring as a competitive advantage for business and has a mission to design "a Universal Workplace that embraces diversity and serves as a replicable blueprint for other employers." This includes continuous learning, prioritizing mental health, flexibility, transparency, and collaboration.
Deloitte is an accounting firm with numerous jobs in information technology, software engineering and analytics. As another company in collaboration with Specialisterne, Deloitte has joined the Autism@Work movement by implementing its own neurodiversity program, Neurodiversity@Deloitte.
Candidates attend a workshop and assessment period to demonstrate skills and gain experience. Qualified individuals may be asked to attend a three-month apprenticeship, possibly culminating in an offer for full-time employment.
Resources for Companies Supporting Neurodiversity in Tech
Sepcialisterne, a nonprofit organization based in Denmark, is a forerunner in the neurodiversity movement. They promote neurodiversity hiring and provide guidance and resources for numerous businesses spanning 14 different countries. Since 2004, they've helped employ over 10,000 autistic persons by promoting "The Autism Advantage," the competitive advantage neurodiversity provides businesses.
Created by the ACCESS-IT research program at the University of Washington, the Austism@Work Playbook is an in-depth study of how four organizations, Microsoft, SAP, JPMorgan Chase, and EY, established and continue to maintain their neurodiversity programs. The Playbook covers the planning phase, costs and returns on investment, recruiting and sourcing talent, interview and selection process, training, onboarding, and retention.
Stanford Medicine's Neurodiversity Project helps employers build a Neurodiversity at Work program, find candidates, and provide neurodiversity awareness training and support to employers and employees after onboarding. Companies that already have neurodiversity programs in place can submit job openings to the Stanford Neurodiversity Job Bank.
Companies interested in joining the neurodiversity movement can register for the SAP Autism Inclusion Pledge and receive "access to a treasure trove of resources to help you start, expand, or enhance your program." Businesses will also have the option to share their logo on the SAP website as one of many organizations that have taken the pledge to promote neurodiversity in the workplace.