28 February 2018

People with Asperger's syndrome can bring real value to your workplace

Only 14% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time employment, the lowest proportion of any notable disability.

British businesses are wasting a potentially powerful resource. Far from being disabled, many with autism and Asperger's syndrome are differently abled, and they can bring a deeper range of cognitive skills and traits to the workplace.

Neurodiversity was the key message of our roundtable meeting on 13 February 2018, aimed to bring talent and diversity into companies across the UK.

We aim to help those who don't identify as "neurotypical" achieve more fulfilment in their lives, by deepening our understanding of the value autistic people can bring to the workplace.

Katrina Hutchinson-O'Neill, Director of Resourcing at Nationwide Building Society, said:

“Nationwide wants to help change the perception of Asperger's syndrome from being considered a disability to a welcomed and valuable difference. This event was about starting the conversation about the recruitment of neurodiverse workforces and the processes involved."

Influential businesses and HR figures joined us to discuss how organisations can better tap into talented professionals with Asperger's syndrome. On hand to provide a personal account was BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham, who wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's, a severe form of autism, until he was in his forties.

Nationwide and Aspergers Syndrome

Picture from left to right: Laurel Herman, CEO of ASPIeRATIONS, Katrina Hutchinson-O’Neill, Director of Resourcing at Nationwide, Chris Packham and Tom Portingale, Employer Brand Manager at Nationwide.

Describing common traits and characteristics in the workplace, Chris spoke of the task-orientated approach and the drive for precision and perfection found by those at the higher end of the autistic spectrum. He feels these differences shouldn't be inhibitors for organisations looking to recruit, but should be celebrated and embraced.

Chris said that his ability to visually retain information, plus his desire for knowledge, doesn't make him disabled, but rather enabled.

Katrina agreed, saying that many neurodiverse candidates do not consider their autism as a disability at all.

Laurel Herman, CEO at ASPIeRATIONS, a community interest company, said:

"This discussion shows that businesses in the UK are starting to take steps to support people with Asperger's syndrome, but there is much more that needs to be done.

If we are to see a real change it must come from the top. We need business leaders to follow Nationwide's lead in recognising their responsibility to make their organisations and hiring practices more inclusive."

Watch Chris Packham’s powerful statement

Broadcaster and Naturalist, Chris Packham, explains why Neurodiverse candidates are so valuable.

"I'm not disabled, I am enabled.

And I'm enabled in ways which many typical people aren't.

They're very focused and they're very narrow, but if I apply them to a particular task, they are, I would argue, unbeatable and invaluable."

At Nationwide, we're committed to working with communities to create a better Britain. Among our initiatives is our Community Grants programme, which aims to tackle the UK housing crisis. Discover more.

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