Neurodiversity Hiring Initiatives & Partnerships
Partnerships can help ensure a talent pipeline for neurodivergent candidates.
Many companies, from large corporations to small businesses, have developed successful neurodiversity hiring initiatives that are helping to improve their bottom lines and increase the employment rates of people with disabilities. Employers often form partnerships with nonprofit organizations, disability-focused groups, and state and local agencies to ensure their hiring initiatives are successful. For ideas on local and state organizations to partner with, see EARN’s “Resources for finding Job Candidates with Disabilities” webpage.
As part of its focus on inclusion and diversity, Capital One in Richmond, VA set up an internship program aimed at bringing in young people on the autism spectrum to work at the company. The program, called Autism at Work, originated in 2009 as the brainchild of Capital One associates with children on the autism spectrum. In 2015, the program’s first year, four of the seven interns who completed the program went on to work full-time at Capital One.
The DXC Dandelion Program is an initiative to help neurodivergent workers build Information technology skills to develop and advance in careers in the field. The original concept was developed by Michael Fieldhouse, an executive at DXC. Since its inception, the program has established seven teams in four states and territories across Australia. The program’s aim is to offer opportunities for neurodivergent candidates, including autistic workers, to develop skills that will prepare them for future careers.
EY’s neurodiversity initiative, now known as the Neurodiversity Centers of Excellence (NCoE), began in 2016 as a small pilot in its Philadelphia office. The company’s goal is to leverage the strengths and sensitivities commonly associated with people with neurocognitive disabilities, including technological and analytical skills.
Neurodivergent EY professionals perform a variety of tasks and processes for clients. Employees in the program are often housed within a client’s office alongside colleagues that focus on client relationships and other tasks, while other neurodivergent employees work out of EY’s offices and handle tasks for multiple clients across various areas of the business.
As is the case for most successful neurodiversity hiring initiatives, EY’s program does not require traditional recruitment and onboarding practices. Instead, they employ a project team and a host of external resources to source, select, onboard and support new hires.
Ford Motor Company
Following the success of a pilot program at its Dearborn, MI headquarters in 2016, Ford Motor Company expanded its hiring initiative for autistic workers later that year. The goal of FordWorks is hiring and supporting autistic employees. The company began the pilot program by working with its Product Development Vehicle Evaluation and Verification supervisors and Human Resources department to review open jobs. It then partnered with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, which sent staff to Ford to shadow jobs and determine which would be suitable for the particular strengths of employees with autism and to help address any issues that might arise. The company then worked to develop a “playbook” of what they learned from the pilot program to expand Ford’s work-experience programs to accommodate a variety of different types of disabilities.
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 is geared to highly qualified candidates who have had a hard time finding or keeping work due to challenges related to social communication. Through the program, the company works with each candidate to match abilities to jobs and help build “soft” skills. The program began with four interns and has since had 17 additional interns complete the program, nine of which were hired for full-time positions. Watch a video about Freddie Mac’s neurodiversity hiring initiative.
JPMorgan Chase (JPMC)
JPMorgan Chase's Neurodiversity Hiring Program has focused on hiring neurodivergent employee since 2015. Since its onset as a four-person pilot, the program has grown significantly to connect with at least ten lines of business in multiple countries. Job roles for neurodivergent workers who have participated in the program have spanned a wide range of areas, including software engineering, app development, tech operations, business analysis and personal banking.
JPMC works with organizations with experience delivering services and supports to people with disabilities to help ensure success for their neurodivergent employees. The company taps this crucial experience so that neurodivergent candidates 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. This BEST Program often includes neurodivergent workers with extensive support needs, including workers with intellectual disabilities. In 2022, JPMC selected Bryan Gill, the former director of BEST, as the company's Global Head of Neurodiversity. Gill leads JPMC's efforts to recruit and support neurodiverse workers.
KeyBank & The Precisionists, Inc.
A partnership between KeyBank and The Precisionists, Inc., a company that provides job training and placement services for people with disabilities nationwide, is placing people with developmental disabilities in essential roles at several KeyBank locations in Cleveland. The jobs include positions related to anti-money-laundering efforts, fraud detection, data entry and analysis and mailroom services. As of February 2020, eight people with autism or other developmental disabilities have been contracted to work with KeyBank through The Precisionists, with plans for more placements in the future. KeyBank has found that many autistic employees excel at detail-oriented and repetitive tasks, performing as well as or outperforming their peers without disabilities.
Thanks to this partnership, The Precisionists is also growing its operation. Headquartered in Delaware, the company 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’s began its Autism Hiring Program, now the Neurodiversity Hiring Program, in 2015 to attract talent and build an inclusive approach to support autistic workers. Since its inception, employees hired through the program have worked across various teams within the company, including software engineering, data science and content writing. All positions are based in Microsoft’s Redmond, WA headquarters. The process for acceptance into the Hiring Program includes attending a Hiring Event, where eligible candidates are given an initial technical skills assessment, and after that a phone screening and then an invitation-only, week-long campus event to determine if a candidate’s skills and workability match with the company’s needs. New hires have onboarding support, including job coaches and Microsoft mentors.
Microsoft has expressed that the larger goals of the Neurodiversity Hiring Program are to increase the percentage of employees with disabilities at Microsoft and to change the high unemployment and underemployment rates for autistic people and other neurodivergent workers. In order to do so, they also work closely with other companies who have disability-focused hiring initiatives and are a part of Disability:IN's Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable.
Microsoft has also hosted an annual Neurodiversity Hiring Summit for many years alongside other members of the Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable. The event brings together companies with existing neurodiversity hiring initiatives and companies that want to learn more about hiring autistic workers, along with experts in the fields of neurodiversity and employment. Microsoft also hosts the Neurodiversity at Work Virtual Career Fair concurrently with the Summit, which provides opportunities for neurodivergent job candidates to connect with recruiters in an inclusive environment. Past Career Fair participants have included Bloomberg, Deloitte, EY, Ford, JPMC and IBM.
SAP, a multinational software corporation, hosts an internationally recognized Autism at Work program that operates in 12 countries and employs approximately 150 people with autism. Launched in 2013, the program leverages the unique abilities and perspectives of autistic workers to support innovation within the company. Roles occupied within the program include human resources, marketing, finance, software development and customer support, and include a range of job duties, from task-oriented activities that support business operations to more complex, creative areas such as software development. Each April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, SAP hosts events across the globe to promote the Autism at Work Program and dispel myths associated with autism. The company’s goal is to expand the program to have 1 percent of its total workforce – approximately 650 people – identify as people with autism by 2020.
Willis Towers Watson
Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory and brokerage company, began their autism hiring initiative in 2014 with a pilot program in the company’s White Plains, NY office. Through a partnership with Specialisterne, a nonprofit foundation that connects people with autism with employers, and AHRC, an organization supporting people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, the pilot program employed 18 seasonal data analysts. The program was then expanded to officers in Connecticut, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Due to the success of the pilot programs, the company also expanded the program to the UK in 2016.