How local businesses can do more to become ‘autism-friendly’ was the theme at this month’s Lunch and Learn event – ‘Putting the ‘neuro’ into Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace’.
The event was conceived by Alison Rimington (pictured), Senior HR Business Manager at Law at Work; whose son has recently received an autism diagnosis.
Alison joined Autism Guernsey’s Julia Watts and Guernsey Employment Trust (GET) CEO, Nikki Ioannou-Droushiotis, to bust myths around Autism and discuss the skills and specialisms the neuro-diverse community can bring to Island businesses.
With 1 in 36 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, yet only 22% of autistic adults in full time employment, there is an obvious gap between the needs of this under-represented community and the inclusivity of organisations.
Embracing neurodiversity improves competitive advantage
According to Alison, embracing neurodiversity (ND) in the workplace is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic advantage. Recent studies highlight that companies who actively embrace and promote neurodiversity see improved morale, higher productivity, and an increase in the bottom line.
She explained: “Neurodiverse individuals often excel in areas that require precise attention to detail, technical skills, problem-solving, and creativity. It’s no surprise that the highest percentage of neurodivergent people are employed within medicine, finance, and IT.“
Creating the right environment
For Autism Guernsey, it’s the simple things that can help towards making a difference to the wellbeing of an autistic person at work; shifting team building events from the pub to a guided walk or placing desks in a quiet corner, away from distractions and bright lighting, demonstrate that businesses understand the needs of their employees.
Understanding the needs of ND employees and a willingness to make accommodations from hiring to shifting office culture is vital, according to Nikki from the Guernsey Employment Trust.
Connecting people to roles
There is strong local support for businesses who are looking to fill their skills gap with people on the autism spectrum.
Since 2015 GET have supported 163 employers, including 31 States of Guernsey departments, and recently placed their 600th client into work. They report a retention rate of 72%, a result of the ongoing advice and training they offer to employers and employees.