Unconscious Biases

Workplace suitability for people on the autism spectrum

At Focus Professional Services, 70% of our employees are on the autism spectrum. We are financially viable and our business model is sustainable. We are living proof that hiring individuals on the spectrum is “bottom-line” good for business.

So why aren’t more organizations neurodiversifying? Partly it is due to the unconscious biases that exist in the workplace, which stem from a lack of knowledge and understanding about autism.

Over the last several years, I’ve heard and continue to hear the same concerns – or biases – from organizational leaders about the suitability of their workplace for people with autism. As a business owner with considerable experience in neurodiversification, I’d like to address and clarify these preconceived notions:

Bias # 1:  I don’t have the management expertise to employ people on the autism spectrum.

Well, who does and so what? Just because your management team doesn’t possess this expertise, it doesn’t mean they can’t acquire it. There are lots of resources available. At Focus, we offer both training and ongoing support. The time investment is minimal and the return is substantial. By hiring people with autism, your management team will not only learn about autism and how to effectively manage employees on the spectrum, the new skills they acquire will make them better, more confident managers overall, which benefits all employees.

Tip: Hold back on judgement and instead be curious when an employee responds or does something unexpected.


Bias # 2: Our workplace is chaotic and nothing is documented.

Welcome to the real world. Your workplace is not unique. Fact is there are very few workplaces that do not have some chaos or ambiguity, out-of-date documentation, or no documentation at all. That’s just the way it is in today’s fast-paced business climate. The solution is to ensure your new hires can work in your environment. Keep in mind that people on the spectrum differ in their abilities to work well with deadlines, conflicting priorities and ambiguity – but then so do neurotypicals!

Tip: Assign a “go to” person for the new hire while they learn the ropes.


Bias # 3: Our workplace isn’t autism-friendly.

Many people think that becoming “autism-friendly” requires enormous change, which will be expensive, time consuming and inconvenient. They couldn’t be more wrong. In reality, the modifications you need to make are typically minimal in scope and cost. Yes, your HR processes will likely change, but that is something that will benefit all employees. We have a short summary for which jobs are suitable for people with autism here.

Speaking from experience, I say – just do it! Invest the time in “autism in the workplace” training and HR adaptations. Focus Professional Services can help you with both, plus we provide ongoing support to smooth the transition. Ultimately the productivity, innovation, and loyalty you receive from employees on the spectrum will more than offset these minor organizational changes. As one of our clients at a leading financial institution said: “Take that leap of faith, individuals on the spectrum will produce. They get the work done.”

Tip: Ease into neurodiversification by contracting a company who hires employees on the spectrum and offers neurodiversity services.


Bias # 4: I won’t take the risk of something going wrong.

Another common misconception is that something catastrophic will happen because people on the spectrum couldn’t possibly be competent or reliable. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Employing autistic individuals can significantly contribute to a company’s productivity and success. Just think about that client I mentioned earlier who said: “They get the work done.”

Tip: Training and support make a huge difference.


Bias # 5: I don’t have the time.

None of us are immune to the time pressures that exist in the workplace. But what if we took the time to neurodiversify, would the results make it worthwhile? Consider the facts:

  • You’ll gain access to a rich talent pool. People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have incredible skills, are very productive and extremely r
  • Work teams make better decisions and come up with better solutions when team members think and approach problems differently.
  • According to McKinsey research, diverse businesses deliver 35% better results than non-diverse businesses.

Tip: Make neurodiversity a priority today – your organization will benefit for years.


Focus Professional Services can help you move toward neurodiversity in two ways. You can either outsource your IT quality assurance and testing to our neurodiverse team, or we can provide neurodiversity consulting services to you. For more information, contact Carol Simpson at carol@focusps.ca.