He's nervous and awkward with people, can't tell the difference between biting sarcasm and sincere praise, and doesn't take well to crowded rooms, loud noises or sudden interruptions. He's just about the worst multitasker you'll ever see. He's also one of your best employees.

Workers on the autism spectrum don't always fit in at first, but with training and a little extra consideration, they can be among the most innovative and detail-oriented employees.

That was the message from 3M, Cargill and Best Buy managers who took the stage at the 3M "Autism and Employment" forum, which was organized by the St. Paul-based Autism Society of Minnesota.

For employers, here's the bottom-line: As baby boomers retire in the years ahead, companies will have to scramble to fill openings at all levels, from janitors to engineers. Accommodating otherwise-talented employees who suffer from social deficits will be one way to fill the void — especially in competitive artistic and technological fields that tend to draw on those with forms of autism.

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