Do great minds always think alike?

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

2 minute read 26 Apr 2018

Diverse teams bring a range of opinions to the table. Could neurodiversity bring further valuable perspectives?

As businesses adopt applications like robotic process automation, they become more data-driven and connected. Strong analytics and cybersecurity are critical for effective, stable operations. At EY we’re addressing these strategic business issues by leveraging an often-overlooked pool of talent – people on the autism spectrum.

In 2016 we launched a neurodiversity program in Philadelphia to hire people on the autism spectrum to serve as Account Support Associates (ASAs).

ASAs organize and analyze data sent in from account teams and translate it into meaningful information to help improve our client service.

Our neurodiversity program is part of a wider, ongoing effort to continuously rethink who, and how, we recruit, to meet rapidly changing business needs.

Sam Briefer, one of the first hires under the neurodiversity program says: “We bring something to the table that a lot of people cannot. We are very detail-oriented. We analyze things in a very specific way, and we are good with numbers. And we see things slightly differently, which means we can come up with new and innovative ways of doing things.”

“But,” says Director Hiren Shukla, who leads the organization’s Automation Central initiative for the Americas and the ASA Program, “For the neurodiversity initiative to be successful we couldn’t apply our usual recruiting, training and on-boarding practices.”

People with autism often communicate and interact differently. “So instead of traditional face-to-face interviews we interview by phone and Skype, conduct online skills assessments, and then bring in finalists for live training and group exercises where they can show their problem solving skills and work in team settings,” says Hiren.

By thinking more widely about who we recruit, we’ve got a whole new perspective on how to create value and where we can innovate.
Hiren Shukla,
Automation Central initiative

“From the start, our neurodivergent colleagues began to identify process improvements and recommendations that’ll help our client-facing teams provide services more efficiently. In the first month alone, they identified process improvements that cut the time for technical training in half. In addition, the team learned how to automate processes far faster and subsequently created additional training materials to help others.

“Their different approach to problem solving has encouraged all of us to challenge the status quo and ask ‘can this be done in another way?’.”

“By thinking more widely about who we recruit, we’ve got a whole new perspective on how to create value and where we can innovate,” concludes Hiren.


A neurodiverse workforce can help to provide the analytical mindset needed in a rapidly changing business environment.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.