Why You Should Hire Autistic Employees

Thinking out of the box in hiring and human-capital management might provide a clinching competitive advantage.
David McCannJanuary 15, 2014

I’ve long favored an approach to managing employees that stops short of anything that smacks of regimentation, particularly when it comes to a clock-punching mentality. It might not apply to an assembly line, but for many commercial endeavors — designing software, providing outsourced accounting services and writing feature articles come to mind as random examples — when the work gets done should often be subservient to how much of it gets done and how well.

Opinion_Bug7A Harvard Business Review blog post makes that very point, noting a developing trend in the technology industry: “If a very talented worker can’t get the dress code right, has trouble with authority or can’t seem to arrive at the office until 3 in the afternoon, exceptions are sometimes made.”

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Right on, as we used to say back in the day. Where it’s possible, judge workers by how much they produce and how good it is. Valuing other criteria is just distracting.

A corollary idea is that it’s not good business to cling too tightly to notions about what kinds of people will make attractive employees. Much good might be accomplished by throwing away many such assumptions. The HBR blog post leads with a discussion of enterprise software maker SAP’s plan to hire hundreds of employees with autism, some of whom “have an exceptional ability to focus on the repetitive, detailed work of software testing.”

That’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that a field as competitive as the one SAP plays in should be striving to achieve.

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