SAP to bring in autistic workers as software testers and programmers

Following successful pilots, SAP(s 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(s ads) 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.