Elaine McFadden
October 29, 2015

SAP's one per cent challenge

SAP's one per cent challenge

SAP's Anka Wittenberg and Specialisterne Australia's John Craven at the Autism at Work launch

SAP has launched its global Autism at Work initiative in Australia, which is a commitment to ensure that by 2020, one per cent of its total employee count will comprise of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

A happy by-product of the innovative initiative is that the majority of job functions filled will be in IT, going some way towards meeting a skills demand in the industry.

Functions like data science and cyber security are examples of areas in the company where ASD employees would most likely be given roles, since the tasks of these roles are often best suited to the characteristics associated with ASD.

Speaking at the launch of the Autism at Work initiative in Brisbane, SAP chief diversity and inclusion officer Anka Wittenberg said this is a win-win situation for everyone.

“People with autism bring lots of strengths to the table that can be used in IT functions,” Ms Wittenberg told InnovationAus.com.

“We all understand that we have a shortage of talent in IT and computer science. And here we have talents that might very well fit into such an environment. It’s a win-win situation.”

“We need to think differently to innovate and we need people who think differently too. Look at Einstein for example. Research shows he is seen to have been autistic,” she said.

“And there lots of other great examples where the brain is wired differently and that means that person can be more innovative.”

While IT roles were the most obvious choice, Ms Wittenberg said there are lots of functions across an organisation where ASD employees could work, depending on the unique skill and abilities that each candidate brings to the workplace.

She encouraged corporate contemporaries to follow SAP’s lead and start to think differently about talent-sourcing. Mainstream recruitment is not autism-friendly, she said. 

Launched in partnership with Specialisterne Australia, the Autism at Work initiative would begin recruiting and onboarding candidates in early 2016, and SAP has committed to sharing the idea and program with other corporates.

Specialisterne Australia chairman John Craven unknowingly came up with what could be an initiative tagline for the future, when he urged everyone to “take the one per cent challenge”.

“We are sure that SAP’s commitment will inspire other Australian companies to follow and harness the power that autism diversity can deliver,” Mr Craven said.

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