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HR Managers need to change their approach in a flexible, neurodiverse world. By Jenny Holt
In his book, Neurotribes, journalist Steve Silberman explains that one of the central misconceptions of people with autism and Asperger’s is that they are essentially unemployable. He goes on to point out that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein had Asperger’s, as probably did Steve Jobs, and countless other big hitters in the world of business and technology. The reason many are deemed unemployable is not because they cannot do a job or have bad work ethics (quite the opposite in fact), but because they fail the interpersonal demands of the job interview.

As the 21st century nears the end of its second decade, technology is fracturing how companies organise and how employees operate. The explosion of the gig economy, currently epitomised by Uber and Deliveroo, but also by outsourced services from web design to content writing, and from VAs to remote-from-home employees. This fracturing of the traditional on-site employment structure is a real challenge to HR Managers. Until recently, HR executives were biased against remote workers, but this is changing.

Change your hiring policies and decisions

The face-to-face interview based on old interviewing techniques may be on the way out. Even the resumé is being phased out by some employers in favour of entrance examinations and practical on-the-job testing. With some auditions being done remotely and/or online or over the phone, HR Managers are required to think of new ways to assess suitability. This may mean moving away from charm and being well-spoken, away from eye-to-eye contact, and so on. It may mean hard, cold facts, test results, typed answers and portfolios. This will help the neurodiverse gain more employment as their actual talents will be judged rather than their perceived persona.

Change your work progress tracking and benefits

The switch to working from home for both remote workers and sub-contracted freelancers has actually been a boon to business in a wide number of ways.
These include:
• more engaged employees;
• more flexibility to scale up or scale down talent costs; and
• smaller offices and overheads.

There are also a legion of pros and cons for the employees themselves. These range from flexible working schedules to no more commuting to and from work every day. However, part of the HR Manager’s remit is tracking performance and assigning benefits and compensation to staff members.

An old school HR Manager may operate on the visual and social scale – who seems to be working the most, who is present, who talks to them most, and makes the best impression? All kinds of managers for centuries have thrived on this visual model. This is why Japanese employees never leave earlier than their boss, even if it means staying until midnight or beyond.

However, many hardworking, high quality employees have suffered because their work is quiet, understated, and they do not play the promotion game. This happens a lot for people with autism and Asperger’s who put all their effort into doing a good job, but see others promoted ahead of them – usually inferior employees.

Modern technology is allowing the HR Manager to track actual performance. This can range from clocking on to clocking off platforms, it can involve work submitted, actions taken, deadlines met, valuable contributions on cross-shared platforms, and a lot more. These provide real metrics demonstrating real abilities. This could mean, for the first time, compensation and benefits being fully meritocratic.

Jenny Holt is a US-based freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.

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