Inclusive Employment in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

By: Taryn Oesch – 01/18/2018

The benefits of employing adults with autism and/or intellectual developmental disabilities (autism/IDD) have been proven in companies that have already implemented inclusive employment programs. But many of those employers are large companies with the HR infrastructure and staff to dedicate to ensuring the success of the programs. What if you’re a small or medium-sized business (SMB)?

You can still make these programs work and obtain the benefits employees and employers reap when company culture and hiring and training processes are inclusive. I’d argue that the benefits are even greater for SMBs, which tend to put an emphasis on corporate citizenship and community involvement. Here are some tips.

1. Identify potential jobs in your organization.

There are plenty of jobs that adults with autism/IDD can fill. For example, some individuals with autism are drawn to and successful at administrative or data processing roles that involve repetitive work or coding jobs at tech companies, while some individuals with IDD can succeed in roles like being a bagger or a cook. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, for example, is a North Carolina business that successfully hires adults with IDD. They’ve been so successful that last year they opened a second cafe in Charleston, S.C.

2. Create a support network.

Small businesses can sometimes feel like a community. What better environment for an employee with autism/IDD, who needs a support system to provide the accommodations that will help make them successful? Train your current employees on awareness and how to work with their new co-worker, train the new hire’s supervisor on how to manage an individual with that disability, and celebrate everyone’s successes. More engaged employees – with or without disabilities – mean higher productivity and performance for the organization.

3. Create a mentoring program.

When your first hires with autism/IDD have some experience under their belt, have them mentor new ones with the same type of disability. This mentoring relationship will help the mentee learn the ropes and the mentor build confidence – improving the performance of both employees and demonstrating a clear ROI for your business.

4. Tell your story.

Supporting adults with disabilities, and benefiting from their performance, should, of course, be enough motivation for an employer. But by sharing the success of your inclusive hiring program, you also become more appealing to customers, who more and more are looking to buy from companies that demonstrate corporate responsibility. You’ll also help other businesses see the benefits of such programs and start exploring inclusive hiring as well.

5. Leverage free resources.

Organizations like The Power of the Dream, the Autism Society of North Carolina and Arc of the Triangle provide online resources, consultations and supportive employment services to help you hire, train and manage your employee(s) with autism/IDD. You can also find job coaches through these organizations who will be able to provide on-the-job support for your employee and help both of you identify and make the necessary accommodations.

These tips just scratch the surface of how hiring, training and managing employees with autism/IDD can be a feasible employment option for SMBs. To learn more, contact us.