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Mike Westwood
Noodle Expert Member

August 13, 2020

This article details the steps Microsoft is taking to promote diversity and inclusion within its company for its employees.

By today’s point in society, many people are diagnosed with a disability of some nature. The condition may be severe or manageable depending on the individual’s situation. On top of that, there are able-bodied people who are part of a misjudged and misunderstood community. Both the disabled and differently-abled face barriers in certain areas of life, which are fortunately navigable. In the aspect of finding employment, a globally-recognized employer is taking steps to improve workplace awareness of these communities. This employer is called Microsoft, and the different initiatives Microsoft are supporting to showcase their employees’ unique talents are promising.

The phrase Diversity and Inclusion is becoming more and more common in large organizations and Microsoft is a notable example. As far as the aforementioned initiatives are concerned, Microsoft offers several Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for the various members of its company that represent diverse backgrounds. Some of these include the Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), the LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft (GLEAM), and the Disability ERG for employees with various conditions such as ADD, dyslexia, hearing loss, blindness, visual deficits and mobility challenges. Microsoft also offers a program it calls the Supported Employment Program (SEP), in which Microsoft’s Real Estate and Facilities department works with various agencies and small businesses to provide job opportunities for employees with intellectual and developmental conditions.

Some of the jobs included within the SEP program are groundskeeper, facility inspector, mail processing clerks and audio-visual assistant. The goal of SEP is to demonstrate that even with these conditions presenting cognitive barriers, the employees can succeed in a job setting and be included with their typical colleagues. Microsoft has another program independent of SEP to support candidates on the autism spectrum called the Autism Hiring Program (AHP). The AHP was created around the premise that traditional and usual job-interviewing methods present disadvantages for autistic candidates (i.e. the methods entail being able to hold conversations with the interviewer and read non-verbal cues, skills that autistic people struggle with). Microsoft has modified the interview process within the AHP where the candidates spend extra time showing their skills through means other than socializing.

The exercises in the interviews in the AHP measure how well the candidate can work on a given task, collaborating on projects in teams and assessing their general skills. Microsoft utilizes this style so that the potential employees on the spectrum can show their unusual talents in a productive and workplace-appropriate way. There are employees on the spectrum who have shared their stories about how Microsoft’s welcoming environment has made them feel more comfortable accepting and working through their social communication challenges to produce good work in their positions within the company.

From the Employee Resource Groups to the Supported Employment Program to the Autism Hiring Program, Microsoft is making strides in terms of showing the workforce what the disabled and differently-abled can achieve with the right fit and proper training. These programs are very encouraging and heartwarming for those potential employees who may think they do not possess the skills employers look for, and Microsoft is setting quite an example when it comes to an alternative interview style for autistic people. These communities are increasing with more awareness, which is very helpful for Microsoft, the workforce and for societal acceptance.

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