Williams and his team were pleased with the work being done by program participants. Andy, to take just one example, had quickly established himself as a high-productivity box maker. Erron’s attention to detail and organizational strengths led him to spotlight opportunities to improve processes that helped HSM decrease inventory holdings.
“He asks very good questions,” observed Davis Chand, Vice-President of Operations, “like ‘Why are we doing things this way?’ And then it turns out that there’s no good reason, and it would be better to do it a different way.”
Because autistic people often find lack of consistency and disorder disturbing, program employees often pointed HSM to better or more efficient ways of doing things.
“It’s like testing the way things have always been done here,” said Chand. “It helps us rehabilitate the old ways, so that they can work better, which we must do in such a competitive industry.” It was necessary to monitor the frustration and stress levels of employees in the program, and to coach them about it. “We go back to them and say, ‘You gave us feedback that resulted in real improvements; so even if it caused you stress, you should be pleased and proud of identifying an opportunity for improvement.”
HSM also found that having a program employee in a group changed managers behavior, in good ways. It created a need for managers to spot check, to check in with people working on the floor, and most people thought this was a valuable way to operate. There was a theme here: changes instigated by the program led to ways of managing that were better for all employees.