Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in a garage back in 1975. Over the years, the tech company has grown to be the third-largest corporation in the world.
Microsoft reported a net income of $16.79 billion for the fiscal year ending in 2016. It had over 114,000 employees worldwide in 2016 and is now trying to widen the spectrum of its workforce.
Microsoft started a program in May 2015 that didn't use the typical interview process. They began having job candidates come to the company's campus for two weeks so they could help work on projects. This allowed for managers to see how well they worked and if they would be a good fit for the company.
If the applicant passed that stage, the formal interview process began. Microsoft's goal was to create a hiring process better suited to people with autism's communication skills. It's the highest-profile company to go public with this type of effort.
Hiring people with autism is Microsoft's way of expanding the diversity of its employees. They will have a broader range of analytical talent that better reflects its customers' population.
Children diagnosed with autism have been on the rise over the past few decades. In the 1980s, the number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS) was one in 10,000, which rose to one in 68 in 2012. Researchers think that number grew because of the growing awareness of autism and more kids are being properly diagnosed.
It won't be long before those children are old enough to enter the workforce. The CDC says about half of the children with autism possess average or above-average intellectual ability. Adults with autism have an estimated unemployment rate of nearly 80 percent.
Some executives at Microsoft have special needs children of their own. This gives them firsthand knowledge that many people with autism have qualities suited for tech jobs, such as being methodical and detail-oriented. By implementing the new hiring process, Microsoft could find excellent candidates that other companies were not looking at.
Since there isn't an established pipeline to find job applicants with autism, Microsoft is struggling to find candidates. The tech company is reaching out to universities' disability offices to find more job candidates with autism. This new program should help bring down the unemployment rate among adults with the condition.