The CBS news show “60 Minutes” last year featured a story on employers hiring neurodivergent employees to help tackle specialized tasks. The firm Specialisterne specializes in helping match companies with talented employees on the spectrum, whose talents are often overlooked because of unexpected social behaviors. Finding a way to create wealth by solving social problems is a hallmark of Stakeholder Capitalism principles.
For Corey Hollemeyer, Talent Acquisition Manager, at Specialisterne, her work is a passion. “There is so much talent just wasting away. There are so many people capable of work who can’t make it through an interview of the mainstream hiring process to find a rewarding career.”
Specialisterne is a US not-for-profit, originating in Denmark, dedicated to helping match the needs of companies committed to hiring autistic or related talent eager to work. “There are so many people who can’t get through an interview process who end up on government support because even if they work a limited time, they lose vital benefits. All our employers pay good wages and provide key benefits so that autistic and people with related conditions can make a contribution to society as well.”
While many of the roles usually involve Information Technology (IT), data analytics, and cyber security, involving leading consulting, financial, and engineering firms, “Not every autistic person wants to work in tech or data analytics or has those capabilities.” While it’s generally known that autistic people and those with related conditions can have exceptional abilities related to processing data and information, making comparisons, or memorizing information, others have unique skills that can help with solving customer problems such as creativity, Hollemeyer points out.
Specialisterne starts by learning the types of skills an organization needs. “Then we go out to find the people with those skills. The typical job description often contains paragraphs of information that can be unclear to neurodivergent people. We help employers whittle down the job description to focus on the skills that are truly required.”
There is no interview process, she reports. “Our method is competency based. Candidates go to our web site and fill out a form with their interests. If it’s for a specific role, there are questions related to that role. We don’t believe that the interview process is an effective way of hiring with these types of candidates. If we get 200 applications for three positions, we whittle down the list to match the skill requirements.”
The first step for selected applicants is a virtual workshop that includes three half-days for group interaction and problem solving and to help assess the ability to work with other people and to think critically. “We watch how people approach a problem. At the end of that process, facilitators create profiles for candidates that are shared with hiring managers who never meet the candidates before they start.”
Sometimes, qualified people are selected for a four-week trial period, overseen by Specialisterne staff, who provide support to the managers, especially during the onboarding process. Other times, organizations make blind hiring decisions based on the candidate profiles that are created during the workshop. “Our coaches have said they often have to spend more time with hiring managers than with the hirees, and most hiring managers have said that going through the process has made them a better manager. They become better communicators, because it’s important to be clear and specific with neurodivergent people.”
Many neurodivergent people are highly qualified to do the work required and “they often bring a very fresh view to a situation. They come up with ideas that others wouldn’t see. If you want someone who thinks differently, you might find that they are different.” The process of identifying and matching candidates with companies is laborious, but pays off, Hollemeyer says. As the table below indicates, both companies and the employees express a high level of satisfaction with the program.
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