Tech companies are hiring adults with autism - the next wave of skilled employees

Autism awareness expert, radio host, author and speaker Paul Louden.

HOUSTON, TX (August 1, 2016) – As the global community grows increasingly reliant on highly specialized technology, a new pool of talent will be needed to fill the employment gaps. Corporations that are serious about gaining an employment edge should look toward hiring those with autism, says one local autism awareness expert. 

“In the past, autistic employees were relegated to menial labor, because the focus was on repetitive tasks,” said Paul Louden, host of “Theories of Mind” radio on Business News Radio 1110 KTEK-AM in Houston. “Now we understand that repetition is really an attention to detail, so there has been a reframing of the way that we think about autistic employees.”

Louden, who was diagnosed with autism as a young adult, understands that, just as there is no one type job, there is no one type of individual with autism. “Now that we know autism better, we can focus that knowledge into a much more advanced workforce,” he said. 

The vast majority of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed. By filling roles that highlight their unique set of strengths and abilities, employers can gain a market edge over competitors while encouraging diversity and inclusion. Forward-thinking tech companies like SAP, headquartered in Germany with offices throughout the United States and the world, are pioneering innovative hiring and retention practices in an effort to bring on board people with autism. SAP’s groundbreaking program, Autism at Work, has been recognized for its commitment to looking outside of traditional hiring methods and practices to tap into this highly qualified pool of talent and knowledge.

One of the key breakthroughs for SAP has been in recognizing that potential hires will not do well in the traditional interview setting – prolonged eye contact and understanding language nuances like humor and sarcasm are among some of the challenges. “The traditional interview techniques don’t always lead to the most qualified candidates,” said Louden. “As interviews are primarily a social process, a social disorder like autism puts the interviewee at an automatic disadvantage, as, unfortunately, social awareness equals intelligence to most interviewers.”

SAP has adapted interview techniques to suit candidates with autism and has established a support system for new hires. The results speak for themselves: SAP had already onboarded people with autism in such roles as programmers, testers and data quality specialists. With plans to have 1% of their workforce filled by individuals on autism spectrum, SAP is committed to inclusion in an outside-the-box way.

“When you have someone who sees the world differently, talking about products or program deployments outside of the normal scope helps companies gain a competitive advantage,” said Louden. “At the same time, companies encourage employees to embrace other perspectives and developmental abilities, which creates a more collaborative work atmosphere, benefiting employee, fellow employees and the entire organization.”

Visit www.theoriesofmindradio.com and listen to “Theories of Mind” Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Business News Radio 1110 KTEK-AM, a Wall Street Journal Radio Network in Houston, to find out more about the mental health challenges in the news today and how differences shape our lives.

Photo: Autism awareness expert, radio host, author and speaker Paul Louden.

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