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Why a major tech company is going out of its way to hire employees with autism

At a forum organized by EY and live streamed on Yahoo Finance on Thursday, an executive for SAP cited one way the software corporation works to win the so-called war on talent and stay diverse at the same time. It goes out of its way to hire employees with autism.

Through its Autism at Work program, SAP aims to have 1% of its workforce have some form of autism, which is characterized in part by difficulty engaging in social interactions.

“If you think of somebody who may be on the spectrum [of autism], they a lot of times don’t interview well, and so many times folks might not get that chance to then go to the next step,” SAP North America President Jennifer Morgan said at a panel on disruption Thursday.

The multinational enterprise software maker SAP is not the only corporation to go out of its way to hire people with autism, who in addition to their deficits also sometimes have exceptional skills in math and science. For example, last year Microsoft (MSFT) announced a pilot program to hire full-time employees with autism, in part to increase diversity at the company.

At the EY event on Thursday, SAP’s Jennifer Morgan mentioned the outreach to employees with autism after suggesting that diversity goes beyond just race or gender. Morgan also mentioned that diversity is not just an ethical choice but also good for business, and she said she’s found employees with autism to excel in technical roles at SAP, she said.

“It’s provided a huge lift and a huge benefit to us,” Morgan said, of the Autism at Work Program.

That lift is important because of what some tech leaders view as a shortage of skilled talent. In June, the Wall Street Journal reported on a survey of 3,352 tech leaders that found 65% said they were having problems recruiting talent — particularly in the area of data analytics.

“I think in our industry, there’s a war on talent. People have a lot of choices now,” Morgan said.

The company’s efforts to recruit employees with autism is one way it can attract employees whose technical skills might not have been enough to get them through a grueling interview process.

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