Making New Norms: Autism in the Workplace

October was Inclusion Awareness Month at SAP. A time for us to cherish our diverse workforce, celebrate the contributions of our Diversity and Inclusion programs, including SAP’s Autism at Work program, and call attention to the obstacles that hold back far too many qualified job seekers from entering the workforce. 

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a neurological developmental condition that impacts how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment. It is known as a spectrum disorder because every autistic person is different, with unique strengths and challenges. 

“Being on the spectrum has made me work harder towards success. Individuals on the spectrum have some very valuable skills which can be applied in the workplace.  All that I ask is to keep an open mind, have patience and give us a fair chance,” says Geovana Pascarelli, a pre-sales intern at SAP Brazil and Autism at Work program member.  

Having been diagnosed at the age of 12, Geovana is an engineering student who has been interning with SAP for over a year now. Geovana enjoys her current role and dreams of working in the software development field after graduation – a passion she developed thanks to her internship experience. So how can we make neurodiversity a norm at the workplace?  

Fostering Autism Inclusion in the Workplace 

There is a need for a positive rethink of autism. It is estimated that 1 in 70 people are on the autism spectrum, but a lack of awareness, and inadequate policies (such as office setup or staffing structures) often make it harder for people with neurodevelopmental differences to thrive in the workplace. As a leader in innovation and a driver of change, SAP challenges such traditional talent management practices by promoting autism inclusion across the organization. 

The Evolution of Autism Inclusion at SAP 

With the launch of the Autism at Work (AaW) program in 2013, SAP initiated a corporate movement that is now backed by numerous organizations. With the goal of serving underutilized talent areas and reducing barriers to entry so qualified individuals can fully develop their potential, SAP set the tone for autism inclusion in the corporate world. 

The idea took shape in Bangalore, India, where a team was volunteering to educate students on the autism spectrum through the means of technology. Through this experience, the team saw the potential of the students when in a suitable environment and wondered about their futures beyond school. This led to the innovative thought of looking at the employment angle for autistic candidates through meaningful employment. The successful pilot received support from global management and has been growing and evolving since that time.  

“If you assume competence and make reasonable accommodations, you can maximize the potential of everyone.”  

– Ferose VR, Senior VP, Head of SAP Academy for Engineering and AaW Executive Committee Member 

Today, SAP remains at the forefront of autism inclusion in the workplace, with its program garnering worldwide attention. There are AaW colleagues working across all Board Areas and contributing to SAP’s success in a wide range of functional areas. 

Resources and numerous offerings are available for the AaW community members to support their success as well as for managers to expand their inclusive leadership skills and learning opportunities are available to all employees in order to create an atmosphere of acceptance across the organization. 

Every April is Autism Acceptance Month. At SAP, the Autism at Work program and Autism Inclusion Network (or AIN, a volunteer group of employees) unite to host multiple events to enhance awareness, understanding, and acceptance.  

Here’s Why You Should Tap into a Neurodiverse Talent Pool for Your Next Hire 

By encouraging neurodiversity, teams can foster innovation, creativity, and diversity of thought. It can also have a positive impact on neurotypical employees by enabling them to grow and prosper in varied ways. Seeking the best talent necessitates considering all types of talent! 

Join the SAP Autism Inclusion Pledge Community

If you are looking for ways to accelerate your autism inclusion journey at work, we have a treasure trove of resources waiting for you! SAP Autism Inclusion Pledge is an inspirational initiative where we share our knowledge in the field with organizations who are on this journey with us. Once you register, you’ll receive access to a range of practical resources to help you start, expand, or enhance your program. Signatories are invited to virtual events designed to enhance corporate learning and facilitate peer-to-peer best practice discussions.  

Make the Pledge Today: SAP Autism Inclusion Pledge