Compassionate Management in Autism Employment
When looking for a new job, there are so many factors to consider: job fit, pay, career path, and more. Each of these will have varying levels of importance to the job seeker, but one thing tends to be overlooked: the company culture and management style. In many tech companies, a majority of the interview will be ensuring that you fit into their company culture. They might want to know that you are able to switch between projects rapidly, or that you are willing to constantly work long hours in exchange for perks like unlimited PTO. At auticon, instead of screening people out, we screen people in. That is to say, we make sure that our culture fits you by using a management system called compassionate management.
What is compassionate management?
Compassionate management is a system of management that is based around, you guessed it, compassion. But what is compassion? When mixing words like “autism” and “compassion” and “workplace” some people might think that sounds like a charity. But auticon is not a charity, it’s a tech company. So why would a tech company use compassion to manage its employees? Let’s dive in.
Compassion is not sympathy. Compassion is seeing someone’s needs and taking action to meet those needs. Outside of the workplace, this could be that you see a friend struggling to juggle a lot of things in their life, so you offer to do some errands for them. In the workplace, it’s that a manager takes the time to get to know every employee and their needs and then does their best to meet them. This involves continually checking in to make sure that as needs change, they are still being met.
These types of needs can include ensuring that someone has tools that may make it easier to perform their job, that they are being supported in the job, and that the job fits their areas of interests and is going to provide them with a career path they desire. It has been shown that a compassionate management system results in happier employees that stay at companies longer.
How auticon uses this approach to help autistic employees thrive
A compassionate management system is important for every employee, but especially autistic employees. Entering the job market when you may need an accommodation can be a scary thing. It requires a lot of self-advocacy and can make you feel like you are different from the rest of your colleagues. When a company is already using a compassionate management system, those barriers are removed. This is because the management is taking that responsibility, and everyone is getting that individualized treatment.
At auticon you will work with your team lead or project manager, as well as with one of our job coaches, to make sure that any accommodations are being met and that you are working towards your personal career goals. We recognize that every autistic person is unique, both in their needs and in their strengths. Because of that, we individualize everything as much as possible.
Accommodations on client projects
When matching our employees with projects, we look not only at the employee’s technical skills, but also areas of interest. For example, we know that Matt really likes accessibility testing, so if there are two projects starting that meet his skills, but one is has accessibility testing in it, we will put him on that project. Another important thing we consider is schedule and hours. We know a lot of our employees, and many autistic people in general, thrive on specific schedules.
Assuming clients and projects allow for it, we will work with you to make sure your hours and schedule are right for your needs. We also take into consideration sensory and other autism-specific needs when deciding on desk placement. If someone doesn’t people walking behind them, we will put them against a wall. If someone extra light sensitive, we will put them away from a window. (We already have the overhead fluorescents turned off and instead have warm toned lamps available throughout so everyone can adjust lighting to their needs.)
We know that, unaccommodated, some of these aforementioned things can make traditional office environments uncomfortable for some autistic people, and unbearable for others. Our approach is to take into account these small changes and preferences to make the environment as stress-free as possible for each employee. This way, everyone can be comfortable and just focus on their work. Of course, we cannot always accommodate every preference for every person, but we get pretty close. And we always have an ongoing open conversation to make sure the environment and projects are working for each individual.
About the Author
David Reeve is Global Chief Marketing Officer for auticon. David is a 20-year veteran of digital marketing, corporate communications, design, and brand development. His career experience draws from many sectors, including IT staffing, SaaS, aerospace, entertainment, and advertising; from start-ups to high-profile corporations such as Universal Pictures.