Around April 2, which is World Autism Awareness Day, employees of SAP Labs in India will gain fresh insights into the mind of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In fact, every year, around this time, the company relaunches this initiative.
This is absolutely necessary, for the company follows a policy of setting aside a small percentage of jobs for people with ASD.
Currently, across its India offices, SAP Labs employs 16 of them.
“This autism awareness week, we plan to hire more autistic adults. The process will run into weeks,” says Kiran Venkataramanappa, development manager and programme lead for Autism at Work at SAP Labs.
SAP Labs has placed them in jobs involving software testing, software development, quality assurance and documentation.
“We have a special on-boarding programme to help them settle down. Each of the autistic adults gets a ‘work buddy’,” says Venkataramanappa.
P. Rajasekharan, co-founder, V-Sesh, a company that provides employment for persons with disability, says the mainstream recruitment process should not be followed while hiring those with ASD into the workforce. Right at the outset, an effort has to be made to discover their hidden talent. There are multinational companies that collaborate with non-profit partners to tap hidden talent in autistic adults. Skills that can set the autistic above neurotypical employees are: attention to detail, logical skills and the ability to remember vast amounts of data.
“We work closely with companies to find ‘job coaches’. They have to be sourced from within. These job coaches have the task of helping those with ASD understand their work and get integrated into the workforce,” says Rajasekharan, adding that job coaches should be willing to commit themselves to this work for a period ranging from one week to one month.
To help these employee settle down in their roles, companies have to invest in visual aids. “Instead of saying it, the job coaches should help the autistic see it. This way, they will be able to retain information better. A work chart for such employees are a must,” he says. Akila Vaidyanathan, director, The Amaze Charitable Trust, an organisation that offers skill programmes for the autistic, says companies can help by offering flexible work hours, besides training and mentoring. JP Morgan, Lemon Tree Hotels, Barclays, Dell and ANZ Bank are among other big companies that keep their recruitment doors open for the autistic.
* Offer flexible working hours and don’t set the rules in stone
* Initially, allow a parent to accompany the employee
* Assign a mentor to the employee
* Ensure these employees go on a team outing every month
* Train the managers to handle the tantrums these employees may throw