As a thought leader, author, educator, and consultant on humanist manufacturing, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
During a 12-hour flight home from an international trip, I watched the movie Temple Grandin. The story is of a woman that received an autism diagnosis when she was four years old. The fact-based content looks at Grandin's many challenges since she was different from others. She is best known for championing changes to America's cattle industry—one of the more humane approaches to processing livestock in the stockyards.
"The world needs all types of minds." ― Temple Grandin
I have previously written on autism, stating that those with this diagnosis are a largely untapped pool of potential employees. If everyone is having difficulty finding qualified new employees, they would likely be interested in those who exhibit the following ideal workplace traits:
• Attention to detail.
• Ability to work with little supervision.
• Comfortable with repetitive aspects of work.
• Desire to deliver high-quality service.
• Problem-solving skills.
• Successful within roles requiring physical exertion.
Individuals with these qualifications face an unemployment rate of 85%. Not surprising given their different way of seeing and experiencing the environment around them. However, organizations able to integrate them into their workforce can realize significant rewards if they are willing to build an environment that embraces those with this skill set.
I have long argued that you cannot treat everyone equally as a manager. While you must treat them equitably, each employee needs something different from the person responsible for their care. A great example of this was Grandin's difficulty during her education at all levels, from K-12 to earning a Ph.D. While someone with a brilliant mind, she would fail when expected to do work typically given to traditional students. However, her work was far superior to her peers when given some reasonable accommodations. In essence, she was a failure when treated equally but a star pupil when treated equitably.
In the movie, Temple studies the behavior of cattle in the stockyard. The theme is that she found an existing approach to managing cattle, one often creating massive chaos. It began when the cattle entering the stockyard passed through an insect dip, a pool of insecticide to kill any bugs that may have been on the livestock. Unfortunately, poor design put immense stress on the cattle, and some would drown. Those that survived that phase would face further tension that would cause them to stampede occasionally. So Grandin instead developed handling facilities utilizing designs around the cattle's natural behavior. Unfortunately, my experience has been that many managers continue to use old-school approaches to management that violate natural human tendencies. As a result, they create much of the same stress for their workforce seen in cattle in inhumane livestock processing facilities. An issue that is further compounded when trying to bring individuals on the autism spectrum into a company.
IndustryWeek shared the positive outcomes of manufacturers integrating people with autism into their workforces. One example was the Autism at Work Employer Roundtable held in October 2017. Two companies represented at the event developed inclusion programs. Ford Motor Company produced the FordWorks program. Eaton Corporation developed enABLE, an inclusive employee resource group to support those with impressive capabilities. Their work is an example of what Mike Civello, vice president and creator/director of the Neurodiversity Inclusion Center at RethinkCare, supports as an industry sector that benefits from hiring the neurodiverse. Simultaneously, these are examples of large employers putting programs in place with equal potential at smaller manufacturing facilities.
Much like most things worthwhile in life, an organization that puts practices in place that embraces those with autism will employ individuals that can excel in a wide variety of roles. If we continue to use past methods that exclude the brilliant minds of those like Temple Grandin, we are missing out on a gold mine of talent. We should stop using old-school stockyard management approaches that exclude this exceptional talent pool.
I encourage others to watch the Temple Grandin movie. View it from the perspective of placing employees in the same set of circumstances seen by Grandin in handling the cattle in the stockyards. Then consider if your workforce approach can benefit from integrating more humane practices.
I am grateful to the mother of Temple Grandin. The doctor recommended that she should put her daughter into an institution when she was diagnosed with autism at four years old. But instead, she took the more difficult route of raising a child shunned or looked down upon by others. Thankfully she allowed the world to benefit from a brilliant mind seen by her recognition of being named a Top Ten College Professor in the Country.
Next week's blog will continue to expand our knowledge of practices to deepen employee engagement which is essential to humanist manufacturing.
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