German software company focuses on autistic employees

by HRM28 May 2013

Disabled people are underemployed across the world, and given almost 1 in 88 people suffer from autism, there is a good business case to proactively increase the employment of adults with this condition.

One global company is determined to do exactly that. Software giant SAP has set the goal of hiring autistic people for testing positions and hopes by 2020 that 1% of their global workforce (65,000) will be made up of autistic employees.

Autism is a neurological disorder that traps people in their own minds, often leaving them unable to communicate, socialise or reach their potential without intensive and expensive intervention therapy.

The German company was working with Danish firm Specialisterne, which helps adults on the autism spectrum find work.

"By concentrating on the abilities that every talent brings to the table, we can redefine the way we manage diverse talents," said Luisa Delgado, an executive board member at SAP, in a release. "With Specialisterne, we share a common belief that innovation comes from the 'edges.' Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st Century."

Specialisterne founder Thorkil Sonne was motivated by his son Lars, who was diagnosed with autism when he was age two. Sonne, an IT specialist, was struck by how remarkably adept some autistic children are with technology.

“I could see the skills, and I could see the need in the corporate sector for these skills,” he previously told The Star. Sonne's firm has now expanded to Poland, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the US and the UK.

SAP has already hired autistic adults in India and Ireland on pilot projects and both were successful, the company said. The company would expand the program to Canada, Germany and the United States this year.


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