Neurodiversity Hiring Initiatives & Partnerships
Partnerships can help ensure a talent pipeline for neurodivergent candidates.
Organizations of all sizes have successfully hired diverse neurodivergent workers— either through specialized programs or through general hiring practices.
These efforts have brought talents, knowledge and skills that added value to these organizational missions. As part of these efforts, many organizations create and grow partnerships with nonprofit organizations, service providers and state and local agencies to ensure these hiring programs can be successful and impactful. For ideas and options on partnerships with local, state and national organizations, see EARN’s Resources for Finding Job Candidates with Disabilities page.
The DXC Dandelion Program helps neurodivergent workers harness talents and skills in information technology (IT) and other fields to propel their careers. This program grew out of work by Michael Fieldhouse, an executive at DXC. Since its inception, the program has established seven teams in four states and territories across Australia.
FALA Technologies, an advanced manufacturer in Kingston, NY, has an apprenticeship program that trains neurodivergent people and other people with disabilities in advanced manufacturing and technology roles. This program leverages the talents and abilities of neurodivergent workers for the precise and complex tasks in that sector. FALA works with a local service provider to identify, train, and support apprentices and workers. You can learn more by watching EARN’s webinar featuring FALA.
The Ford Motor Company’s hiring program for autistic workers, FordWorks, started in 2016 at its Dearborn, MI headquarters. The company began the pilot program by working with its Product Development Vehicle Evaluation and Verification supervisors and HR department to review open jobs. Ford then partnered with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, which sent staff to Ford to shadow jobs and help identify good jobs to match the strengths, talents and skills of autistic candidates.
The company also explored approaches and strategies to help address any issues that might arise. The company then worked to develop a playbook to describe what they learned from the pilot program. This resource and other knowledge sets helped expand Ford’s work experience programs to account for the access and support needs of a wide range of disability types.
Freddie Mac partnered with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in 2012 to create an Autism Internship Program designed to match business needs with the unique capabilities of autistic workers. The program focuses on highly qualified people who may face major challenges in finding or maintaining work due to difficulties in areas such as work communication. Through the program, the company works with each person to match their talents, strengths and skills to jobs and help enhance employability skills or soft skills. The program began with four interns and has since had 17 additional interns complete the program—nine of whom were hired for full-time positions.
JPMorgan Chase's (JPMC) Neurodiversity Hiring Program has focused on hiring neurodivergent employees since 2015. Since its onset as a four-person pilot program, JPMC’s program has grown significantly to connect with at least 10 lines of business in multiple countries. Job roles for neurodivergent workers who have participated in this program have spanned a wide range of areas. These have included software engineering, application development, tech operations, business analysis and personal banking.
JPMC works with businesses with experience delivering services and supports to people with disabilities to help ensure success for their neurodivergent employees. It taps this crucial experience to help ensure neurodivergent candidates can have equal access to hiring, such as through adjusting the usual interview process. Senior leadership buy-in across the firm also helps drives ways to identify positions that would most benefit from neurodivergent employees’ skills, strengths and talents. This process also allows them to provide the most inclusive work environment possible to ensure employee success.
Managers receive focused training on work communication issues that may arise, and program leaders support buddy systems of mentors for autistic employees. JPMC also operates a separate hiring program for people with other types of cognitive disabilities who may need more substantial supports. The Business Solutions Team (BeST) program often includes neurodivergent workers with extensive support needs, including workers with intellectual disabilities.
KeyBank places autistic people and people with developmental disabilities into essential job roles at several KeyBank locations in Cleveland. It has partnered with the Precisionists, Inc., a company that provides job training and placement services for people with disabilities nationwide, to help foster this effort. Jobs through this program have included positions related to anti-money-laundering efforts, fraud detection, data entry and analysis and mailroom services. As of February 2020, eight people have contracted to work with KeyBank through The Precisionists, and KeyBank has expressed plans for more job placements in the future. KeyBank has found that autistic people excel at detail-oriented and repetitive tasks, often outperforming their peers without disabilities.
Thanks to this partnership, The Precisionists is also growing. The company, which is based in Delaware, has satellite offices in Philadelphia, Nashville and Phoenix. Due to the increase in demand for talent as a result of the KeyBank partnership, the company is considering opening another office in the Cleveland area to continue filling positions in the Midwest with dedicated, skilled workers.
Microsoft began its Autism Hiring Program, now the Neurodiversity Hiring Program, in 2015 “to attract talent and build an inclusive approach to support workers on the autism spectrum.” Since its inception, employees hired through the program have worked across various teams within the company, including software engineering, data science and content writing. The hiring process includes attending a hiring event wherein eligible job candidates take an initial technical skills assessment. They then participate in a phone screening and then an invitation-only, remote four-day event to determine if their talents and skills can align with the company’s needs. New hires receive focused onboarding support, including job coaches and mentors.
Microsoft has expressed that the larger goals of the Neurodiversity Hiring Program focus on increasing the percentage of diverse employees with disabilities among Microsoft’s workforce. Their leadership has also indicated an interest to hire untapped skilled workers while also addressing unemployment and underemployment rates for people on the autism spectrum and other neurodivergent workers. This means working closely with other companies that have succeeded in running programs that focused on hiring people with disabilities. It also means participating as a member in the Disability:IN's Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable. Microsoft partnered with the Roundtable and sponsored the Neurodiversity Career Connector, a job marketplace for neurodivergent candidates.
SAP, a multinational software corporation, hosts an internationally recognized Autism at Work program that operates in 12 countries and employs approximately 150 autistic people. The program, which started in 2013, leverages the unique abilities, talents, strengths and perspectives of autistic people to foster innovation within the company. Participants fill rolls in a wide range of job areas, such as HR, marketing, finance, software development and customer support. They also perform a multitude of job duties that span task-oriented activities that support business operations to more complex, creative areas, such as design and software development.
Each April SAP hosts events international events for National Autism Month to promote the Autism at Work Program and dispel myths associated with autism. The company has previously stated a long-term goal to achieve a 1% hiring goal. Reaching this goal would mean that 1% of its total workforce—approximately 650 people—identifies as autistic.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has increasingly expanded its engagement in efforts to drive neurodiversity at work since 2018. That year, Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH launched its Autism at Work program and formed a partnership with Wright State University. This pilot program has tapped WRP to help source, recruit and hire dozens of talented autistic workers for internships at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Many of these interns have shifted into permanent jobs at the air force base after finishing their internships and showcasing their talents and skills.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in DoD has also run a successful pilot hiring program for neurodivergent workers. It launched this pilot program in 2020 in partnership with MITRE Corporation, which received federal funding to drive this pursuit. MITRE received a joint prize from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to help launch and foster its Neurodiverse Federal Workforce pilot program. Through this prize and other resources, MITRE tasked Melwood, a large service provider, to support the pilot program at NGA.
This program enabled NGA to hire neurodivergent externs and then transition them into permanent jobs at the agency after their work-based learning experiences. Throughout the pilot program, these neurodivergent workers received focused work accommodations and supports to drive their success and their inclusion at work. They also received needed guidance, professional development and mentoring and navigational supports.
Willis Towers Watson (WTW), a global advisory and brokerage company, began an autism hiring initiative in 2014 with a pilot program in the company’s White Plains, NY office. WTW harnessed a partnership with Specialisterne, a nonprofit foundation that connects autistic people with employers, and AHRC, an organization that supports people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. This partnership helped drive a pilot program that employed 18 seasonal data analysts. The program later expanded to offices in Connecticut, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Due to the success of the pilot programs, the company also expanded the program to its offices in the U.K. in 2016.