Hart Schaffner Marx: Neurodiversity at a Classic American Suit Maker
(10 pages of text)
In 2015, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Hart Schaffner Marx, a 130-year-old U.S. maker of men’s suits and sport coats in Des Plaines, Illinois, set out to create an employment program for people with autism with the help of the company's partner, Autism Workforce. Unlike other similar employment programs, this program aspired to employ people who were seriously affected by autism challenges. The two partnering organizations had worked diligently to activate work skills in people with developmental disorders, and now sought to extend and leverage their initial successes. In 2017, the company’s CEO and owner was now facing decisions about how to extend and leverage the employment program’s initial success.
This case can be used in an undergraduate-or graduate-level course on human resources management, people management, talent management, social enterprise, implementing innovation, change management, or in more specialized courses on diversity management. After completing this case, students should better understand:
- the challenges of diversity management and employment, especially the employment of neurodiverse or autistic people;
- how careful process design and support of job performance can overcome constraining factors and facilitate performance that might not be possible without such design and supports;
- the main principle that underlies “universal design”—that designing for a challenged population often produces solutions that work better for a much broader population;
- how different ways of thinking (such as autistic people’s aversion to disorder) can challenge the organizational status quo and lead to positive change; and
- the difficulties of implementing innovations, especially the friction regarding “the ways things have always been done” generated by change programs, and how these frictions can be overcome.
United States, Large, 2016-2018
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