Autism Workforce > Testimonials

Hart Schaffner Marx: Neurodiversity At A Classic American Suit Maker

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.

Autism Employment Initiative

In the case-study done on the AW & OW partnership, an OW partner and office leader explained that “If you go through this process, it’s an eye-opener on what people with disabilities struggle with that you might not even assume”. This was reiterated by a global team leader who explained “working with Autism Workforce has educated me on the complexity that employment represents for somebody with a disability”. Referencing the hired employee with ASD, it was evident the employee surpassed initial expectations. A leader noted:

“And so far, you know, the person’s been on board for a little while now, he completes the task much faster than what we were ever imagining, and his skill set is much broader and more expansive than what we even realized when we hired.”

Autism Initiative in the Industrial Sector

One of the first impacts of the disability initiative that interviewees noted was the autism training offered by Autism Workforce to Prater staff. There was an unanimously positive sentiment among those who we interviewed who went through the training.

The training was described as “eye-opening” by multiple Prater employees. The CEO and others noted the included exercises “really helped accelerate who we are and who we want to be.” These exercises included a simulation meant to illustrate the importance of specific and clear instructions.

Regarding more general processes, a senior manager stated the following about the improved organization and information sharing they implemented in preparation for hiring their employee with autism:

I think it really helped us continue to get better and better at what we do, and we can use it for anybody who’s coming in because once you have a good process, documenting processes, it can’t get any better, right?  So, that’s where I think it really has helped us in the journey.

In a similar vein, another senior manager stated,

In the past we have not been very structured. It [the disability initiative] is making us better because we’re starting to create documents. We’re starting to document processes. And it was like, “Yeah, we should have done that in the first place, right?” And we’re having to standardize things we never standardized. And I view this as a really good opportunity for us to just kind of nail down these processes.