Adam is showing us the power of thinking differently.
Adam is showing us the power of thinking differently. Have you ever worked alongside an autistic colleague? The chances are you haven’t because recent estimations suggest only 16% of autistic people are in paid employment. For us however, setting up an Autism Internship wasn’t just about offering a positive solution to an under-discussed social issue, it made complete business sense.
A common sense decision
The importance of a diversity of perspective is widely recognised yet autistic people still struggle to find roles despite thinking differently being considered a priceless asset. Many autistic graduates are supported through school and university but then find they are unintentionally shut out by application systems designed for neurotypical people.
Adam struggled to find a role after his graduation. He joined the programme in 2017 and is now a Productivity Analyst in our Technology Operations team while championing benefits of similar schemes across the industry.
“Timed tests assume there is a rigid balance between your strengths and weaknesses and your processing time relates to your work performance. That just isn’t the case if you’re a neurodiverse individual.”
This means there are a large number of highly capable graduates unable to find suitable work. We launched a trial programme in 2016 to offer autistic graduates 12 weeks’ experience. We quickly recognised that, with a few minor adjustments, providing an environment autistic people can thrive in was relatively simple.
Equal chances for all
This starts with the test, which usually has to be taken as part of an application process and often represents the first insurmountable hurdle for autistic people.“Timed tests assume there is a rigid balance between your strengths and weaknesses and your processing time relates to your work performance. That just isn’t the case if you’re a neurodiverse individual.”
In the consequence this means that there are a large number of highly capable graduates unable to pass the test and prove their abilities.
Small changes, big difference
Applicants joining our Autism programme are still rigorously tested, just more appropriately. Timed responses and group assessment centres are replaced with a series of questions where graduates have one week to respond and these then form the basis of one-to-one discussions. Every successful applicant is then assigned a mentor and their line managers and colleagues receive specific training in how to work effectively with them. Small changes such as flexible working and improved communication make a big difference.
“The key is just good management skills. Things like clear communication and active listening benefit me especially but they also benefit everyone else.”
For Adam, the programme has provided invaluable experience. He has set up employee networking sessions across the bank for both autistic people and managers interested in creating more inclusive working environments. And he recently presented to industry professionals on similar themes.
“I’ve learned a lot of technical knowledge and developed my communication skills massively. Being employed is a primary way to engage someone in society so my self-confidence has sky rocketed.”
But the programme has been instrumental for us across the bank too. Adam isn’t the only one who has impressed his manager. In the first three years of the programme, 83% of participants are still with us. The programme has been such a success that it is being expanded to the US this summer.