Auticon is an international IT consultancy and social enterprise, employing autistic individuals to work on client projects. Set up in 2011, it employs more than 300 people globally, including 40 consultants and 10 back-office staff in the UK.
Steve Hill, commercial director at Auticon, says: “Our objective is to provide long-term career and employment opportunities to autistic adults. Individuals with autism can have formidable cognitive ability, enabling them to outperform in areas such as data analytics, cyber threat detection and software development.”
To ensure every placement runs as smoothly as possible, one of Auticon’s job coaches supports both the consultant and the client. “Our job coaches prepare our IT consultants for a project, explaining the corporate culture and ensuring they have everything they need,” says Hill. “They also run autism awareness training for the host company, helping them to understand the differences they may encounter and facilitating any reasonable adjustments that may be required.”
These adjustments depend on the consultant’s needs but might include placing a workstation in a quieter spot away from lifts or toilets; providing noise-cancelling headphones; or shifting the consultant’s working hours to avoid a busy commute.
Clients are also encouraged to review their communications to ensure they are as clear and unambiguous as possible. “Up to 80% of communication is non-verbal but autistic adults don’t necessarily process this,” explains Hill. “To overcome this, we recommend that leaders set clear expectations and provide our consultants with anything they need ahead of a meeting to ensure they’re prepared. This could be the agenda or details of the information they might need to present.”
Once a client has had a successful placement, most are comfortable attracting their own neurodivergent talent. “We’re happy to support them through this too, providing advice on the recruitment process and the policies they might want to put in place to support neurodivergent employees,” adds Hill. “It’s a bit like teaching someone to swim: they need lots of support to build their confidence but once they’re used to it, they’re off.”