By Neil Barnett, Director of Inclusive Hiring and Accessibility at Microsoft
Being inclusive is not something we simply do, but rather it stands for who we are. The value proposition for diversity and inclusion within Microsoft is increasingly clear — a diverse and inclusive workforce will yield better products and solutions for our customers, and better experiences for our employees. We all need to do our part to encourage new and different perspectives, solutions, and innovative ideas to surface from all our employees.
Four years ago, on World Autism Awareness Day, we announced Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program. Given that 80% of individuals on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed, we knew there was an untapped pool of talented people who have the skills aligned to the work we are doing every day at Microsoft. Over the years, we have learned a lot about inclusive hiring and actively share our learnings with other employers interested in evolving their hiring programs.
As an outcome of working with organizations across industries, we are proud to be a founding member of the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable. About 18 months ago, Disability:IN brought together a group of employers to create the Roundtable, where the main goal is to expand employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum. Today, the Roundtable consists of 16 organizations who all have robust autism hiring programs. As part of the Roundtable, we regularly receive questions about how to get started. In response, we came together and collaborated with the University Washington Information School to publish the “Autism @ Work Playbook,” a resource for employers who are interested in beginning or expanding their inclusive hiring journey. The playbook covers topics from building your business case, recruiting and sourcing talent, going through the interview process, to training, on-boarding, and career development. This is a great resource for every organization, so please take a moment to read and share the playbook.
Throughout the year, Roundtable members along with 250 other employers, academics, service providers, and government agencies, get together at events across the U.S. to share best practices and talk about how we can work together to make an impact on changing the unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum. This year we are happy to announce there will be two upcoming summits sponsored by the Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable to bring this group together. The Autism at Work Summit in May will be hosted by Microsoft at our Redmond campus followed by another summit hosted by SAP in the Fall.
Over the years, we have continued to learn, evolve, and grow our own Autism Hiring Program. We changed our approach from a traditional interview to a cohort model where candidates come to our campus for a week-long experience to demonstrate their skills, gain feedback, and meet with hiring managers. Based on interest in the program from across the company, we have also seen an expansion of the types of roles where candidates are being hired. For example, we have grown from hiring mainly technical roles, like software engineers or data scientists, to more non-technical roles like customer support. In addition, we have recently expanded the program outside of Redmond, WA, with new pilot programs at our campuses in Fargo, ND and Vancouver, BC. These are important regions for Microsoft – we have a large campus in Fargo and it’s one of our TechSpark regions, and an ongoing vision for greater cross-border collaboration throughout the Cascadia Innovation Corridor in Vancouver. We look forward to seeing the program grow in these regions and continue to expand.
Our approach to inclusive hiring is not limited to just one event, program, or initiative. We host various career fairs throughout the year, and on April 23, we will host our next Virtual Career Fair in partnership with 14 other leading companies including, Fidelity, Deloitte, Travelers, Ford and more. If you know someone that is looking for a new opportunity, please make sure to share the event, which provides opportunities to connect with recruiters, learn about open positions and submit resumes. We also fund an annual scholarship for high school students interested in technology and offer broad inclusive hiring efforts and events. If we bring organizations together to focus on inclusive hiring, we can accelerate progress towards breaking down barriers and changing the unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum.
We look forward to continuing to partner with others in the near future to truly make a difference in the employment landscape, educational, and working opportunities for all individuals on the spectrum. If you or someone you know is interested in a career at Microsoft, please send resumes to [email protected] and learn more about our inclusive hiring efforts at www.microsoft.com/inclusivehiring. We look forward to hearing from you!