A New Approach For A New Era
The Foundation for Young Australians has been working through a series of research projects focussed on what work in the future (think 2030 ish) will look like, the skills young people today will need and how their careers will develop and evolve.
If we work on the basis that the research and assumptions are sound and to be honest I don't believe there's anything in the position being put forward that seems unreasonable, then we're rapidly moving to a very different world of work.
Now, many would suggest that there's nothing new in this idea. That with the preponderance of AI, automation and other technologies across so many sectors it's pretty well understood that jobs are changing and new skills are being required.
Perhaps what we've not really done though is to take a step back and look at it from the perspective of the generation coming behind us.
What are the challenges they are going to face as they head into careers that potentially won't look anything like the ones many of us started out in.
I'm not exactly a dinosaur, but when I left university and started working my career path was completely linear. No bones about it. Every step on the career ladder was neatly laid out from the bottom to the top.
There were no side corridors, branches or variations. You started at the bottom and over time would expect to progressively work your way to the top. The main barriers were how quickly vacancies above you would open up.
With the major shift towards focusing on solving problems (up 100%), leveraging critical thinking and creativity (up 41%) and leaning on the STEM skills so many kids are learning from primary school (up 77%) work is going to look so very different to when I started at least!
Though for some segments of our potential workforce this changing dynamic is likely to prove to their absolute advantage.
There are groups in the community today who are desperately underrepresented in our national workforce that will find their natural predispositions valued more and more.
I'm talking about the 125,000 odd people on the Autism spectrum in Australia. This is a group who have the opportunity to come to the fore in our new world workforce.
With the need to find innovative solutions, a greater reliance on science and maths skills and using critical thinking, neurodiverse graduates will be better placed to play to their strengths than ever before.
A group of natural out of the box thinkers who see the world differently to the majority is what we'll be looking for.
But the question is - what do we need to do now to ensure our recruitment practices and workplaces are able to support and develop this talent of the future?
What can we do to open our doors today to the talented and creative minds we'll need in the tomorrow?
Many of you may well be thinking - "But we need to innovate and solve problems today!"
And therein may well lie the answer.
If we want to make progress, if we want to change and adapt - what is the fastest way to get there? We could wait for the majority to move and ride the wave of momentum they create. We could follow the change leaders.
Or, we could be the change. We could be the ones to create that bow wave that drives the last movers to adapt to our lead. We could be the ones to make the first move and access the literally massive pool of talent that already exists on our doorstep.
And whilst for some, it may seem daunting, difficult and 'risky'. Unbeknownst to you, quite likely you've already been doing it today. For the thousands of unemployed and underemployed people with Aspergers and Autism along with the many other neurodiverse conditions, there are thousands still who are working. Many very successfully.
So the issue is not one of risk, but more of creating conscious awareness within our organisation. To consciously make decisions to open our doors to a wider, more diverse group of job candidates.
To consciously take the time to talk to them, to understand them and their unique individuality - arguably just as you would with any other potential new hire - but perhaps just making some small allowances for their communication and interaction style.
If you could access neurodiverse talent that could potentially drive massive gains for your organisation financially, why wouldn't you make the minor investment (and I don't say that flippantly) to improve your ability to access and retain this talent pool?
All of these potential new recruits of tomorrow have one thing in common.
They have parents.
Now most parents are anxious about what the future may hold for their child and whether they will be able to live happy, fulfilled and successful lives.
This is often heightened, exaggerated for parents of children on the autism spectrum or with Aspergers.
Whilst many employers are now familiar with the terms in principle, there are few enough who are familiar with them in practice.
As a parent looking forward, it can be easy to think "it's so hard" or "what can I do by myself?" and fall into the trap of waiting and expecting someone else to solve the employment problem for you.
But the reality is, no one else is going to make the world and the workplace more receptive, accepting and encouraging of those who are neurodiverse unless you are ready to take action yourself.
Every parent with a neurodiverse child either works or knows someone who works. Many will know people who run businesses.
Across all those contacts and workplaces, there is the opportunity to be a voice and advocate for that employer to be one of the first movers.
There are thousands of people already looking for work and getting knocked back because their resume has holes in it - they've struggled to get and maintain consistent employment, or they don't make the 'right' impression at an interview.
In the majority of cases these challenges arise due to a lack of understanding and communication on all sides.
There is much that can be done by simply encouraging someone you know to widen the net the next time they are hiring. Provide an opportunity for someone a little outside the box to showcase the value they can bring.
Encourage your contacts to be the an early adopter to the changing world of work today and foster the talent that's going to give them the edge tomorrow.
Collectively, we can be the change and create the bow wave of momentum and let everyone else follow our lead!