- Pet services franchise Dogtopia released a manual to instruct its companies in how to hire people with autism. Its Autism Employment Manual was distributed to more than 100 Dogtopia franchisees with new tools they'll need for the hiring process, according to a statement. The company said it partnered with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center to create the manual.
- The manual educates franchisees on the best ways to recruit, train and "make a difference in the lives of employees with autism," Dogtopia said. The franchise added that its "new educational tool teaches and guides owners on how to diversify their teams while bringing on a dedicated employee with a unique set of skills."
- "Hiring employees with autism has positively transformed our workplace," Connie Emery-Walker, Dogtopia's east coast corporate store operations manager, said in the statement. "Our team is proud of our social mission to employ individuals with autism and our pet parents have thanked us for what we are doing for the autism community." To date, Dogtopia employs 20 people with autism, the company said.
Hiring people with disabilities and neurodivergent people is more than just meeting a diversity goal. Workers with differing abilities have unique skills and perspectives that employers need, though they often need help sourcing these workers. For Dogtopia, and other companies, partnering with organizations with ties to specific worker populations can enable them to connect.
In 2016, EY launched an initiative to promote neurodiversity in its workplaces, too. Its Neurodiversity Center of Excellence piloted forms of sourcing and interviewing to better accommodate candidates with autism. In a tight labor market, employers could consider underrepresented groups they might be overlooking.
EY's program required getting buy-in from executives, and talent professionals at any organization should be prepared to ask for support from senior leaders for diversity hiring initiatives if they are to be successful. Fortunately, more CEOs are seeing the value in diversity today. For example, more than 150 CEOs recently signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative, a commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
HR may still need to tread carefully. Sometimes initiatives designed to bring particular groups of workers onboard, such as women, people of color or people with a disability, aren't carefully executed. Speaking during a February webinar, Felicia Nurmsen of the National Organization on Disability recommended that employers seeking to hire more underrepresented groups first recognize their own biases. "Recognize your own bias. Focus on people. And increase your exposure to bias," Nurmsen told participants. "What's most important is that we ask the right questions and that we're having the right conversations."