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Summary:

Those on the autistic spectrum often display highly focused and analytical traits. SAP is the latest company – and the first major multinational – to move to harness these characteristics for IT-related work.

SAP

Following successful pilots, SAP will step up its hiring of people on the autistic spectrum, the German business software firm announced. Working with an outfit called Specialisterne, the company will bring in hundreds of autistic staff around the world to work in fields such as software testing, programming and data quality assurance.

This is the latest move in what appears to be an interesting new trend. Plano, Texas-based CRM firm Alliance Data recently started seeking out workers on the autistic spectrum, as have other IT-related businesses such as the Berlin-based consultancy Auticon. SAP is the first major multinational to adopt similar hiring policies.

Because autism tends to come with impaired social abilities, it can be problematic in a work environment. As a result, many people with autism find it difficult to gain and hold a job. However, the autistic spectrum is wide and many of those with low-level autistic spectrum disorder – such as the recently reclassified Asperger Syndrome – can function in a work setting.

People with autistic spectrum disorders often display highly focused and analytical behavior and it is these characteristics that companies such as SAP and Alliance Data are finding can work to their advantage, particularly in the context of software testing and programming. In its statement on Tuesday, SAP said it saw “a potential competitive advantage to leveraging the unique talents of people with autism.”

According to SAP human resources chief Luisa Delgado:

“By concentrating on the abilities that every talent brings to the table, we can redefine the way we manage diverse talents. 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.”

SAP previously piloted its new hiring policies in India, where it worked with Specialisterne – a Denmark-based IT consultancy specializing in employing autistic workers – to hire 6 autistic software testers. It claims the result was a boost in productivity.

SAP also recently completed the screening process for hiring 5 autistic workers in Ireland. The company said the global expansion of the new policy would begin in the U.S., Canada and Germany this year.

  1. Lori Brienesse-Frank Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    So great to see companies recognizing the strengths of individuals with autism. I just really wish you wouldn’t use the word “sufferers.” My son does not feel he “suffers.” He embraces his autism and recognizing the gifts that it brings. The word suffers implies some kind of pity toward these individuals.

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    1. David Meyer Tuesday, May 21, 2013

      Thank you for that – it’s something that I was thinking about as I wrote it. Can you suggest a more positive term that can be easily substituted in?

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      1. Marilyn Lee Tuesday, May 21, 2013

        Regarding autism, you could simply write that “someone HAS autism.” You do not have to use any other verb such as “suffers”, thereby avoiding any negative inferences. If you wish to further describe the category, then you can include the specific spectrum. There is so much we don’t know about autism and if we could just celebrate the positive attributes of this condition the world would be a much better place.

        My nephew is autistic, but he’s very intelligent, sociable, loving and quite high functioning. He brings so much joy and laughter into our lives simply because he interprets information differently and he can come up with solutions to a problem that you would never have thought of. Or sometimes he’ll give a response/comment to a situation that is totally unique, but makes so much sense. Definitely, an “out-of-the-box” thinker.

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  2. Looking at this from another perspective, it shows that companies do discriminate against people with autism (even though there are laws in most countries that make this kind of discrimination illegal).

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  3. Derek Kosik Sunday, May 26, 2013

    sometimes having aspergers is a curse .. because you notice things other people miss completely and annoys the shit outta me ..

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  4. Are these positions available in other states besides TX?

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  5. Are these positions available in SC

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