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7 Ways Employees With Autism Can Make Businesses Better

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There is roughly 80 percent unemployment among autistic people. In our six years of experience in building Rising Tide Car Wash, we’ve learned one simple truth: this has nothing to do with the capabilities of people on the autism spectrum and everything to do with how society views autism: as a disability that requires sympathy, instead of a valuable form of diversity. In fact, there are a variety of significant ways individuals on the autism spectrum can help businesses beat their competition.

We’d venture to say there are actually hundreds, if not thousands of advantages to employing people on the autism spectrum because everyone has their own unique skills. However, this list is tried and true and can be put to work for virtually every business.

Advantage #1: Following processes and rules

This is the most widely publicized advantage of employing people with autism. Most employees degrade safety rules and process over time. In my experience, people with autism consistently follow these processes for a long period of time. Those processes are what make them feel comfortable in the workplace. At Rising Tide Car Wash, we’ve systematized every aspect of producing clean, dry and shiny cars and because our employees with autism follow the processes we’re able to provide consistently high quality service to our customers.

Advantage #2: Safety

Safety procedures can get degraded over time. A business can face issues with insurance costs running higher because some workers aren’t following safety rules and risk injury to their staff. With employees on the autism spectrum, we’ve found they follow the safety procedures just as they follow rules and processes. Blue Star Recyclers, an electronic waste recycling company in Colorado that employs individuals with autism, has never had a safety issue in over eight years of operations.

Advantage #3: Eye for detail

Individuals with autism are great at pattern recognition, quality control and detail-oriented tasks. This means they can really excel in things like cleaning, car washing, quality control and software testing. Ultra Testing, a social enterprise that employs individuals with autism in software testing, had a bug detection rate of over 20 percent better than other firms according to their client, the Webby Awards.

Advantage #4: Turnover

Turnover is most common in monotonous jobs where the role may seem to lack inherent meaning. In general, neurotypical people don’t like those types of jobs. People with autism, however, can thrive in roles in which you need consistency in the process. Rising Tide Car Wash has an annual turnover rate of five times less than the industry standard, and Blue Star Recyclers has nearly 0 percent turnover in an industry that averages 500-700 percent annual turnover.

Advantage #5: Culture of service

Encouraging our employees with autism to be the best employees they can be also means giving the best customer service they can. This creates a virtuous cycle of caring. Businesses develop a sense of purpose and a level of patience and caring that doesn’t typically happen when you have neurotypical employees. Customers can see that staff are there genuinely trying to help, rather than trying to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Advantage #6: Media and word of mouth

Media and word of mouth drive business for autism-focused businesses. The media loves to cover this type of feel-good, empowering story. This allows some autism-focused businesses to spend far less (or even nothing) on advertising.

This is certainly true for Rising Tide Car Wash. We often hear first time customers tell us they’ve seen us on TV or Facebook. Frankly, most people don’t often talk about their car wash unless something went wrong there. But when there’s a social mission involved, it starts conversations and gets customers to try a new business without the incentive of a deep discount.

Advantage #7: Loyal customers

Most small businesses don’t have any brand loyalty. Customers are there because of price, location and quality. Those things are fairly easy to replicate. It’s hard for someone to copy what your brand stands for. The social mission gives you a strong differentiator – customers will try the business because they derive value from the mission, and they keep coming back because they’re getting great quality and price at the same time. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, a coffee shop brand that employs individuals with intellectual disabilities has over 1,600 5-star reviews on Facebook alone!

Learn more at Rising Tide U.

Originally published: March 5, 2018
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