Yesterday We Started Something Big

I’ve been in recruitment for a long time. The Peter Pan in me shudders at the word ‘veteran’, but it’s been twenty years. During that time I’ve worked for just about the biggest and the smallest recruitment companies in the world, and everything in between.

So when I become aware of something that is truly novel, with the ability to make a positive impact in our industry, I really sit up and pay attention. Picture a meerkat popping up and gazing intently, perfect posture, across the African plains…that’s me.

Let me give you the back story to my meerkat moment. Clicks has long been a champion of diversity, with a keen focus on gender diversity in the Australian IT market. As a result of this work, we met the founders of the TechDiversity foundation two years ago. Since then, Clicks has been the Diamond sponsor for the TechDiversity Gala Awards (please buy tickets if you haven’t already – Harriet Green, IBM’s CEO, is the keynote speaker – it will be a brilliant event).

I now sit on the TechDiversity Foundation committee, and through this work I found myself in discussion with the Disability section of Jobs Victoria, who connected me with Specialisterne. Specialisterne Australia helps employers understand, value, and include the unique skills and capabilities of people on the autism spectrum.

So what do you get when you put an equally passionate recruiter, government disability employment program manager and a neurodiversity skills assessment expert in a blender?

You get Big Things.

Yesterday we held our first collaborative event. We gathered a room full of IT, Business and HR owners and senior leaders. Now before you go any further, if you think this is an exercise in pity, or a box-ticking exercise to hire your ‘token disabled person’ whose photo appears on every second page of your annual report, you are gravely mistaken. If you are interested in understanding the significant commercial and cultural benefits to your organisation, then read on.

We heard from senior leaders in the Victorian Government, who engaged neurodiverse workers via an IBM program. We also heard from one of those workers, Sam. Sam told a tale of 160 unanswered job applications before becoming aware of the IBM program. Sam was a delightful young man who spoke confidently, and generously shared his experiences, many of which made us in the audience wince at the, well, just the ‘wrongness’ of it all. He stole our hearts and we could have listened to him talk for days.

The program owner then told a tale of a complex mapping problem that a team of public servants using the latest technology couldn’t solve in six months. These four neurodiverse candidates, with their unique approach to thinking and logic, solved it in under a week. Boom.

I could go on for hours about the things we learned, and how everyone walked out of the room being truly schooled. But let me sum up.

Facts shared at the event:

  • Autism represents the largest portion of the Australian disability community.
  • In very rough numbers, this is around 250,000 woefully under-employed and extremely capable, talented adults who are ready to rock ‘n roll. So much for the War for Talent – doesn’t seem like we’re really going into battle that hard when we’ve completely overlooked this section of our community.
  • Neurodiverse people have great retention rates. Out of 46 people placed by one of our panelistst in the last two years, only one had moved on. In a neurotypical workforce, this number would be significantly higher.
  • Neurodiverse people learn much more quickly than neurotypical people.
  • It’s SO much easier than you think to employ a neurodiverse candidate. The people who need the most support are the manager and team, not the neurodiverse person themselves.
  • Neurodiverse people will tell you what they need to perform better in their jobs when you ask them. And guess what? The changes they suggest are invariably great for your neurotypical workforce too. So you aren’t just benefiting that small handful of people – the ripple effects are literally huge.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I want to create a community of ‘opted-in’ organisations. Those who can clearly see the business case for hiring neurodiverse candidates. Clicks will partner with Specialisterne and every organisation who is interested in exploring the benefits of the neurodiverse community at some point in the future (no pressure, no short deadlines). We think this is a strong alignment with the sector in which we work, and it is our vision to create a channel from job seeker identification to meaningful employment.

If you would like to form part of this community, please email me. We are just starting out, but we hope to have more events to help educate the business community, to identify which roles in your organisation could be knocked out of the park by a neurodiverse candidate, to help you identify suitable candidates and to provide you with ongoing support once you hire.

If you’ve read to the bottom, you are clearly a like-minded meerkat. So get in touch and let’s make this happen.

Sam Micich, General Manager – Operations, Clicks IT Recruitment.

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