Why Dell Is Making Neurodiverse Hiring A Priority
When most people think of diversity and inclusion initiatives, they think about race, gender, ethnicity, and perhaps age. But a growing number of employers are embracing neurodiversity—the variation in how individuals’ brains work and process information—and realizing that workers with autism, for instance, have been overlooked assets.
Catalyst Supporter Dell Technologies is one of the companies leading in this area. Last year, Dell Technologies launched a pilot Autism Hiring Program in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, that included a two-week skills assessment for intern selection, followed by a 12-week summer internship for the selected adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By the end of the pilot, several interns were hired as full-time employees, and the program was expanded and brought to Dell Technologies headquarters at Round Rock, Texas.
“We’ve seen tremendous talent come in through this program—talent that would otherwise be overlooked if we were not actively recruiting in these non-traditional ways,” says Lou Candiello, Senior Manager of Diversity Talent Acquisition at Dell Technologies. “We have filled critical positions across cybersecurity, data analytics, software engineering, artificial intelligence, and more with truly gifted and neurodiverse talent.”
In an interview, Candiello explained how the program was developed and what Dell Technologies learned along the way.
Catalyst: What was the impetus for starting the program?
Lou Candiello: Expanding the talent pipeline and bringing in traditionally underrepresented groups is critical for our business, and it’s why our strategy is rooted in building and attracting this future workforce.
About half a million people on the autism spectrum will legally become adults over the next decade, meaning a large majority will have the potential to enter and contribute to the future workforce. As an organization committed to bringing diverse perspectives to the table, investing in hiring and training adults with autism is not only the right thing to do, it makes clear business sense.
This group has incredible strengths: strong attention to detail, commitment to quality and consistency, creative and “out of the box” thinking and lower turnover rates.
Watch Charles Surett, an intern hired as an engineer, talk about his experience:
You started small – just a dozen or so participants – and you have used community partners. Can you explain why?
We are deliberately starting slow to prove the model so that we can scale for broader impact in an effective way. We are innovating and establishing scalable solutions and not just talking about our results.
One element of our neurodiversity program is to focus on autism, but we want to dovetail some more traditional internship experiences for students. Identifying the right community partner in each respective location is imperative to the success of our program. Each state is different in the way in which it offers services and support to citizens, so we need a partner with expertise on the ground.
We partnered with Horace Mann Educational Associates and local Arc affiliates in Philadelphia and Austin, to rethink the traditional interview process and remove barriers that may limit an individual from fully showcasing their true abilities and potential.
How is Dell Technologies sharing the takeaways from this program?
This year, Dell Technologies joined the Autism @ Work Employer Round Table. Together, this group of innovative leaders are spearheading autism-focused hiring initiatives.
We’ve received a lot of recognition and interest in this program from the likes of The New York Times, Reuters and so much more, and we hope this not only shows our commitment to diversity and inclusion, but also encourages our industry peers to follow suit.
Danielle creates marketing materials and digital content for social channels. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Danielle lives in Forest Hills, NY, with her teenage son.