Autism at Work

ILR’s Yang-Tan Institute helps connect employers with neurodiverse workers.
The ILR School’s Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability is facilitating the hiring, retention and advancement of neurodiverse individuals, particularly those with autism.
Friday, July 24, 2020

The ILR School’s Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability is facilitating the hiring, retention and advancement of neurodiverse individuals, particularly those with autism.
 
The sub-focus on neurodiversity in the workplace is a reflection of the institute’s commitment to workplace disability inclusion, according to  Susanne Bruyère, professor of disability studies and director of the Yang-Tan Institute.
 
The initiatives include an undergraduate credit internship program and companion course, online resources, faculty and student participation in Autism at Work summits and an eCornell course. By sharing best practices and research findings, the institute helps employers recruit people with autism.

“These companies are moving so fast in the recruitment process that we’re learning as much from them as they are from us,” said Bruyère, who described the work to ILR Dean Alex Colvin in a segment of ILR’s podcast, “Work! The Future of Work, Labor and Employment.”
 
During semester-long internships, students learn to design and implement Autism at Work programs. Bruyère serves as their supervisor. “I walk them through the process of what a program looks like and have them observe how it plays out in their respective internship settings.”
 
Their online resources include benchmarking tools, disability statistics by state, archived webinars on related topics and several hundred publications.
 
The eCornell course, Autism at Work, designed for human resource professionals, but applicable to others, explores initiatives to recruit and hire individuals on the autism spectrum. Its five modules and capstone project were developed in consultation with employers and modules feature videos with an employer or an individual with autism. “We have infused the voice of employers into the program,” Bruyère said.
Recruitment, screening, selection, orientation and on-the-job training for neurodiverse individuals are among the topics covered, along with supervisor and workforce training. The two-week course, which is self-paced, launched in January. Upcoming sessions begin Sept. 2, Oct. 28 and Dec. 23.

The course prepares participants to:
· Recognize the challenges and opportunities associated with the hiring of neurodiverse talent.
· Assess business options to successfully recruit, interview and onboard needed talent, including those who are neurodiverse.
· Implement a process that fosters awareness, acceptance and appreciation of neurodiverse employees among staff.
· Address perceptions among management and staff to improve inclusivity in the workplace.
· Develop a business case for making neurodiversity part of an organization's overall employment strategy.
· Identify supervisors and other leaders are flexible, willing, and motivated to work with neurodiverse staff.

The Yang-Tan Institute has partnered with four U.S. companies - Ernst & Young/EY, SAP, JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft - and Australia’s DXC Technology to advance their efforts.
 
“SAP’s collaboration with YTI helped shape practices we implement in our Autism at Work program,” said Jose H. Velasco, program director for Autism at Work, Americas.
 
The SAP program, which has provided more than 380 opportunities for people with autism since it began in 2013, “is deployed in 14 countries and employs people on the autism spectrum in 28 different types of roles, ranging from back office support to human resources to software engineering,” he said.
 
“What I appreciate most about the partnership with YTI is the shared mission of both organizations, which allows for the effective combined use of skills and perspectives to help drive full participation in society of people with disabilities.”
 
James Mahoney, who started JPMorgan Chase’s Autism at Work program in 2015 as the head of global technology, diversity and inclusion, said that “because people on the autism spectrum think differently sometimes, they fit in nicely with our work.”
 
“We’re now in 40-plus different roles with people on the spectrum,” he said, noting that the program has grown to include 170 individuals in eight countries.
 
“We do this to pursue talent, not to be charitable,” said Anthony Pacilio, current head of the program. “We build it into the DNA of JPMorgan Chase and make sure it’s part of the recruiting process, so that in 10 years, we don’t have an Autism at Work program, it’s just part of recruiting.”

The Dandelion Program methodology, developed by DXC Technology, is offered to organizations free of charge through the Yang-Tan Institute. Since February 2017, there have been 7,560 downloads of 47 materials posted and 4,149 page hits from 565 institutions in 99 countries.