Neurodiversity at Westpac Group
In Australia, 1 in 70 people live with autism. One of the greatest challenges for people with autism is finding employment – with the current unemployment rate for people on the autism spectrum at 32% – that’s triple the rate of people with a disability and six times the rate of their neurotypical able-bodied counterparts.
The social and interpersonal nature of traditional recruitment processes, with formal interviews and culture-fit assessments, can make it difficult for people with autism to secure roles. And yet many people on the autism spectrum possess an impressive range of skills which are in high demand for many organisations. Analytical skills, problem- solving abilities, confidence using data and digital software, attention to detail, resilience and perseverance are all skills organisations are seeking to keep pace in the future of work and are well-developed in many people on the autism spectrum.
That’s why in 2017, Westpac Group introduced a dedicated Tailored Talent Autism Hiring Program to turn the traditional recruitment process on its head. This program is now in place to capture in-demand skills from the market and provide a new pathway for people on the autism spectrum who may struggle to get into roles through mainstream channels.
This dedicated program is built on Westpac’s existing ‘All in Flex’ policy and contributes to the Group’s growing flexible work culture. Flexibility is vital to helping neurodiverse talent achieve their potential, as well as offering agile working environments with quiet or focused spaces or the ability to dial-in to meetings and town halls. But this type of flexibility is also valuable for any employee.
Under Westpac’s ‘All in Flex’ policy, people leaders are encouraged to allow flexibility for all roles across the group. This could be part-time or job- share arrangements, flexible hours or start and finish times, working from home or from another location best suited to the individual, or accessing flexible leave options.
Four key goals
Westpac’s Tailored Talent Program has four key goals:
- To create new pathways into employment for people on the autism spectrum
- To reach untapped potential with a deliberate drive to hire candidates with in-demand capabilities who may otherwise not be found through traditional recruitment processes.
- To lead the way and be the first Australian bank to run a program specifically aimed at hiring people on the autism spectrum.
- To find the right roles and create a work environment for people with autism to thrive through a tailored recruitment experience.
For neurodiverse hires, access to flexible work arrangements is a key contributor to creating a supportive work environment – for example, starting later to avoid the sensory impact of a peak hour commute, finding a workspace that suits sensory needs (such as working from home on busy office days, quiet spaces away from high traffic zones and kitchens) and using collaboration technology tools to dial-in to large meetings and stay connected to colleagues.
With Westpac’s ‘All in Flex’ policy already in place, existing employees already use many of the flexible work arrangements Tailored Talent participants may require. What might be considered a special accommodation at another organisation is not above and beyond what leaders would offer any employee and this allows for a seamless onboarding experience for Westpac’s Tailored Talent participants.
The first cohort of Tailored Talent program participants commenced in February 2018. Westpac partners with Specialisterne,
an organisation with expertise in autism employment, to co-deliver the tailored sourcing and selection process and provide ongoing support to the selected candidates.
There is still more work to be done in redesigning traditional recruitment methods, but to date, the program has shown neurodiverse talent can thrive in Westpac’s work environment.
Given the successful outcomes from the 2018 program, recruitment for a second intake will commence in late 2020. Westpac’s I&D vision is to be one of the world’s greatest companies for inclusion and to be known as an organisation that values neurodiversity, creating meaningful career pathways for people with autism.
To this end, Westpac tracks program-specific metrics such as:
- Retention of participants
- Performance of participants
- Demonstrated work outcomes of participants
- Senior leader advocacy
- Feedback from people leaders, participants, and teams
Westpac’s strong culture of flexibility has helped make this program a success.
Without Westpac’s ‘All in Flex’ approach, it may have been more challenging to get business leaders to commit to hiring neurodiverse talent. Participants enjoy the same flexibility every Westpac employee can access and leaders are accustomed to providing the flexibility all employees need to be successful in their role.
For other organisations considering flexible working, it is critical to have a policy in place where flexibility requests are discussed positively, rather than considered a special entitlement for a select few.
If you would like to discuss how FlexCareers can help you implement flexible working at your organisation, you can contact our experts here.
Read more case studies in our 2020 Flex Report: The New Normal. Download it here.