As part of Autism Awareness Day in 2015, tech giant Microsoft introduced its Autism Hiring Program, designed to foster inclusiveness by integrating individuals with autism into the workforce. Now, the company is seeking to expand the program, sharing what they have learned with other organizations so that they too can benefit from the unique strengths and talents of employees on the autistic spectrum.
Microsoft’s passion for empathy and inclusion stems, in part, from its CEO, Satya Nadella, who has experience raising a son with severe cerebral palsy. Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program runs parallel to its “democratization” of its tools and technology, which it is making accessible to other companies to create a “Microsoft platform.”
The hiring process of Microsoft’s Autism Training Program is uniquely tailored to individuals with on the spectrum. Rather than having prospective employees sit down for a traditional face-to-face interview, candidates in Microsoft’s autism training program participate in a multi-day process that involves meeting hiring managers and various teams, learning more about the company, and team projects and skills assessments. Thus far, the approach has proven successful, bringing engineers, scientists, and analysts on board.
To expand its program beyond Microsoft, the company has joined the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable, a group of 16 organizations with similar autism hiring programs. According to a report this month by Windows Central.com, the Roundtable has collaborated to create the Autism @ Work Playbook to help other employers start or expand their own inclusive hiring efforts. Microsoft’s autism inclusion initiative has expanded beyond its headquarters in Redmond, Washington to its campuses in Fargo, North Dakota and Vancouver, British Columbia.
"My hope for the future is that we won't see this as a program, but instead a natural way of recruiting key talent in our organizations," Microsoft’s corporate vice president Mary Ellen Smith was quoted as saying.
“We look forward to seeing the program grow in these regions and continue to expand,” Neil Barnett, Microsoft’s Director of Inclusive Hiring and Accessibility, said.