Through a targeted recruitment initiative, cloud and software company SAP have employed 100 members of staff in three years who are on the autistic spectrum.
The scheme was introduced in 2013 and is designed to target people with autism as part of the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. SAP partnered with a specialist recruiter to identify candidates for technology-focused roles such as software testing, programming and data management.
The programme was first piloted in India before being rolled out in the US, Germany, Canada and Ireland. However, the scheme is yet to be introduced in the UK because it does not currently have a large enough presence in the region.
SAP employees volunteer to become ‘buddies’, helping new autistic recruits settle into the organisation. Long-serving employees who have a thorough understanding of the company and its culture are encouraged to mentor the new recruits.
Stefanie Nennstiel, global leader for autism at work and senior director of diversity and inclusion emphasised that the recruitment drive is not a corporate social responsibility initiative. Staff who volunteer to be a buddy and those recruited by the scheme “become better communicators on both sides of the equation”.
When it comes to recruitment, Nennstiel said companies need to “look beyond qualifications and interview skills, which many autistic people really struggle with. Different people’s styles help businesses and employees become more creative and innovative. Many companies need new skills and behavioural styles, and people with autism form just one possible talent pool.”
Nennstiel hopes that by 2020 SAP will have one streamlined recruitment process for all applicants. “It positively impacts our brand and company identity, thought leadership and ability to capture the best possible talent. Our employees are really proud of what we do,” she added.
According to research from the National Autistic Society, just 15 per cent of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment and 53 per cent would like to receive employment support.