BUSINESS AND AUTISM

BIG COMPANIES WHO ARE EMPLOYING AUTISTIC PEOPLE

Part of every reputable company’s core ethical framework is the carrying out of corporate social responsibility. This involves the ways on how an organization, especially businesses and other economic institutions, can give back to the community which in one way or another is affected by their operations. This is a check and balance system that ensures the surrounding communities are benefited from the affairs of these businesses and organizations which in turn are able to maintain their good reputation. Accomplishing these corporate social responsibility goals include, among many others, the donation of public buildings and equipment, sponsoring scholarship programs, initiating clean-up drive and other environment protection campaigns, and enriching community livelihood. Many businesses today are now hiring people with special needs in their effort to eradicate wrong beliefs about them and to raise awareness about the true nature of their conditions. This includes hiring autistic people into their workforce to be given the right avenue to showcase their strengths and capabilities despite their condition. The initiatives of these companies have created a rippling effect on the concept of humanitarianism across the globe, which motivated more organizations to follow suit. Here is a list of some of the most inspiring business companies who are hiring autistic employees to become more confident about their own potential and purpose in the community.

Walgreens

Being the second largest pharmacy chain of stores in the U.S. next to CVS Health, Walgreens Company has made a big statement ever since they started hiring autistic people in 2007. This program originally began in their Anderson, South Carolina distribution center through the initiative of Randy Lewis, who is Walgreen’s ex-senior vice president. According to Randy, he came up with the idea of employing autistic people and others with special needs after coming to terms with his own son’s autism diagnosis. Surprisingly, the distribution center became Walgreen’s most productive facility in 2008, which garnered a lot of media attention and interest from other businesses. The results of the program were so impressive that Walgreens decided to apply the same model to other distribution centers. Other companies have also set up tour appointments on the  Anderson distribution center on the plan of reproducing the same work environment.

Aside from their Anderson facility pilot program for hiring autistic workers, Walgreens also initiated a joint project with Have Dreams Academy, which is an institution for autistic people and others with special needs. They built a simulation store in Evanston, Illinois, where individuals with ASD and other conditions can train and hone their skills for the actual work environment.

Microsoft

This technology industry giant has come a long way from its small beginnings. The company’s co-founder, Bill Gates, is notable for his charity organization and huge philanthropic initiatives. Perhaps this sense of social responsibility also motivated the whole company to push through with their May 2015 pilot program that hires prospect employees on the autism spectrum. Microsoft initiated this project in cooperation with Specialisterne, a Denmark-based company that facilitates training and the job hiring of autistic individuals. It was also known that Microsoft’s corporate vice president for worldwide operations Mary Ellen Smith has a son that was diagnosed with autism at an early age, which could also be the factor which led to the creation of this pilot program. According to Smith, Microsoft’s expansion into new opportunities and the increase in its workforce diversity is its way of strengthening its foundations and customer representation. It is also noted that Microsoft has been raising awareness about autism disorder to their constituents and hosted another autism-focused event called hackathon. The contestants were instructed to present an innovate tech idea that will help autistic individuals and families deal with the condition.

Freddie Mac

This top mortgage-finance firm headquartered in Fairfax County, Virginia opened up the avenue for promising autistic job seekers to land the work suitable to their condition. Freddie Mach made it clear that people with disabilities such as ASD have capabilities and features that are advantageous in specific workplace environments and job specifications. In 2011, Freddie Mac partnered with Autistic Self Advocacy Network to realize this campaign, with the latter being responsible for making the perfect job descriptions for prospect autistic employees and training managers and higher ups how to accommodate these new recruits and assist them in adapting to the corporate life. Through this program, Freddie Mac hired fresh graduate students with a degree in finance, mathematics, and computer science who are then paid to work for the firm through an internship. According to one of the fully hired interns in an interview with Wall Street Journal, they liked the job simply because it highlights their skills and capabilities and makes good use of it, which is the kind of response that most autistic individuals would also make. Freddie Mac diversity manager Stephanie Roemer also emphasized the need to eradicate misconceptions about autistic individuals, specifically on their real capabilities and potentials that are very much valued at organizations and companies.

SAP

This multinational software company also teamed up with  Specialisterne in making an initiative focused on hiring autistic employees. They launched their pilot program in India in 2012 where a total of six autistic employees were hired for software testing job, followed by their location in Ireland. Other offices which followed suit include the U.S., Canada, and Germany. According to the company, their aim is to have one percent of their population composed of autistic employees, because their skills are an additional competitive advantage for the firm.

Aside from these business organizations, several establishments and companies today hire even more number of autistic employees as part of their workforce. There are even businesses that only hire people on the spectrum, which shows their utmost dedication in raising awareness about the nature of autism. As a result, more and more autistic individuals are now more motivated to explore their capabilities and potential, with the idea that not only do they get the chance to prove other people that they can do it, they also have the means to earn money and help their own families.