Once an employee has been hired, it’s important to have a consistent onboarding process. This removes communication issues, increases employee’s confidence and helps the existing team support a new member. Below are some ideas which can help you develop or improve your onboarding process.
When speaking with employers across Halton Region, they were very generous with their process, what worked for them and what they plan to implement based on our conversation.
Provide Clear Communication Lines
Establish an understating of the lines of communication:
- Who to go to ask for help or direction.
- When is it a good time to talk to your manager about work load, priorities and tasks that need to be completed.
- Ask a coworker to be a mentor. This mentor is someone who is available to support, work with the new employee, someone to talk to about the lines of communication and unwritten social rules or hidden curriculum in the workplace.
Create Mentor / Buddy System
A Mentor works with the autistic employee to give direction, answer questions not only about the work tasks but about the social interactions, lines of communication and unwritten rules in the workplace that occur daily. This person should be open to answering questions and being direct about how the autistic employee is communicating and interacting with other employees. :
- Could be a co-worker or a supervisor
- Is supportive with new employees
- Has an understanding of how to support an autistic co-worker by working with an autism employment specialist and the autistic employee together to establish a plan.
- Is open to talking about what support is needed in clear concrete language.
- Is willing to train and advise a new employee on the unwritten rules within the workplace
- Works with the autistic employee without disclosing their diagnosis to all employees
Accommodations or adjustments are made to support an employee reach the same outcomes as their peers by using a modified process. Most workplace accommodations can be made at a minimal cost.
Set time aside to have a conversation about accommodations. It is vital that this conversation be framed “lets discuss how we can remove barriers in our workplace that you see as preventing you from making your best contribution” You can feel the difference if the conversation is framed as ‘ let’s discuss what is wrong with you, which unfortunately is how many accommodation discussions start, even though the thought is well intentioned.
Provide Onboarding Checklists
Using a tiered check list system ensures that an employee knows at each stage of their starting on the job what is expected and what they need to complete.
This can tie in to an organizations matrix of KPI’s and eliminates any confusion that can happen with verbal only communication.
Ensure Supervisor Is Supportive
We recommend that a meeting be held with the supervisor to review the expectations listed below, answer any questions that the supervisor is concerned with and express your feeling of confidence in the supervisor and that their experience will be productive for the company and the autistic employee.
Behaviours to be modeled:
- Talk openly with the employee to understand the individual and the supports the individual needs in the workplace.
- Communicates concretely, clearly and concisely with the autistic employee.
- Give regular feedback on work performance, highlighting the successes as well as the skills that need to be improved
- Does not disclose the diagnosis to other employees without the permission of the autistic employee
Create New Employee Visibility
One employer had an excellent system where different positions or tenure with the company was signified by a different colored vest.
This made it VERY easy to see who was a brand new employee, who was a supervisor and who was a manager. A solution like this is also helpful to overcome any language barriers and streamlines the communication process.
Confer With Autism Employment Specialist
It can help to have an Autism Employment specialist available for the onboarding process to support the new employee, the supervisor and the mentor.
Consultation should be available as the employee continues to work in your employment, as needed, when there are changes in the workplace.
- A new supervisor, who needs to understand the autistic employee and their workplace adjustments.
- The employer has concerns or questions and needs a resource person to review these concerns with.
- Assistance advocating or mediating for the employer or employee to understand changes in the workplace.
Provide Actionable Feedback
Provide specific feedback on performance with actionable steps. Managers and coworker’s should:
- Give regular feedback on successes, work well done.
- Use language that clearly and concretely describes the tasks completed and describe the steps required for skills improvement
- You completed 25 widgets successfully in the time allotted. Well done.
- It would be great if you could focus on mastering the drill press with accuracy
A way to ensure that the onboarding process for autistic or neurodiverse employees is more accesible is to provide some training to the supervisors, managers and team members within the organization. Why? This adds a layer of understanding about why someone might have accomodations on the job and reduces friction if challenges arise.
Accommodations or adjustments are made to support an employee reach the same outcomes as their peers by using a modified process.
When onboarding a new employee, set time aside to have a conversation about accommodations. It is vital that this conversation be framed “lets discuss how we can remove barriers in our workplace that you see as preventing you from making your best contribution.” You can feel the difference if the conversation is framed as ‘ let’s what is wrong with you, which unfortunately is how many accommodation discussions start, even though the though is well intentioned.
Workplace accommodations or adjustments could include:
- Restructuring work or daily tasks by dividing larger tasks into smaller steps.
- Using equipment or devices needed such as noise cancelling headphones instead of ear plugs.
- Tinted safety glasses.
- Adjusting the work locations to work in an area clear from distractions such as a busy work area.
- Written instructions for work tasks to be completed each day, with priority tasks highlighted.
- Provide a supportive mentor to help bridge the understanding of supporting an autistic employee with the workplace routines and structures.
Straight forward accommodations do not require documentation, but the agreement must be clearly understood by employer and employee.
Modification in work structure accommodations can be documented within the employee learning plan for employment.
e.g. wearing noise cancelling headphones.
More complex accommodations may require specific documentation, accommodation letter, or form.
e.g. Adjustments to the lines of communication for the employee to receive clear written instructions from the supervisor.
“The duty to accommodate people with disabilities means accommodation must be provided in a way that most respects the dignity of the person, if doing so does not cause undue hardship. Human dignity encompasses individual self-respect, self-worth and inherent worth as a human being. It is concerned with physical and psychological integrity and empowerment. It is harmed when people are marginalized, stigmatized, ignored or devalued. Privacy, confidentiality, comfort, individuality and self-esteem are all important factors. “