Growing to be an employer of choice for people with autism
Around 85% of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are unemployed or underemployed, even though 60% have average-to-above-average cognitive abilities and intelligence. Launched in 2013, SAP’s Autism at Work programme was designed to leverage the unique abilities of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
What did you want to achieve?
To be the most inclusive software company on the planet, SAP aims to be an employer of choice for people with autism, increasing the number of colleagues with autism while maintaining a high retention rate. We also aim to be a force-multiplier of autism inclusion within our ecosystem and a differentiator in supporting neurodiversity in the workplace.
What did you do?
Originally, the programme targeted people with skills like pattern recognition and data processing. As the programme has grown, we learned the abilities of people with autism are as unique as the individuals themselves.
We partner with external organisations to identify the best talent with ASD. Once the hiring decision is made, their new team is trained according to their specific needs. A new colleague with ASD is assigned a team buddy to support their onboarding and a mentor in their location who helps with social interactions and engagement at SAP.
Every individual is unique, and while some people with autism need more frequent or on-going support, others might not. This is an individual discussion with every employee we hire and employ. Every candidate receives the programme’s support and help in building an individual support circle with a variety of roles and people involved.
What are the results so far?
Today, our SAP workforce has more than 175 colleagues with autism in 16 countries and across more than 140 teams. They contribute daily to the success of our company in more than 28 different types of roles.
Nicolas Neumann, an Accounts Payable analyst based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, joined SAP’s Finance organisation through the Autism at Work Programme in 2016. He designed a tool that automates the posting of complex invoices with multiple cost allocations, reducing the time Accounts Payable needs to process large credit card statements from two to three days to 20 minutes. Nico’s innovation was awarded the SAP’s most prestigious recognition for innovation – the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award.
What have you learned?
We learned that the challenges for people with autism in finding and retaining a job start early in life with a lack of labour market experiences. For many of our employees with autism, this was their first work experience.