Last month, more than 200 people came together in Austin, Texas, for a terrific cause: enabling and onboarding people with autism into the workplace. SAP and Dell worked together to create a two-day hackathon event, where people with diverse business and technology backgrounds came together to develop apps to support the movement around the Autism at Work program.
“SAP and Dell are acting on their commitment to expand neurodiversity in the workplace,” stated Jose Velasco, Autism at Work ambassador at SAP Americas. “Teams worked to address some of the most perplexing issues those on the autism spectrum face in the workplace — from on-boarding to interviewing to job retention.”
Facing Many Challenges
“One of the biggest challenges we face is awareness. We wanted to create an event that utilizes software and innovation to create pathways to onboarding and retaining people with autism spectrum disorder,” Velasco said. “But getting the word out is just as important. We now have over 200 new advocates for this cause. They will be able to transform the workplace and amplify the impact and messages around these challenges.”
There are also the job-related challenges that the hackathon contest wanted to address.
“People on the autism spectrum can run into additional challenges outside of finding and retaining a job,” Velasco explained. “For example, many people with autism spectrum disorder would not apply for a job that didn’t fit their skillset at close to 100 percent. They may have trouble interpreting ‘gray areas’ where a person may match some qualifications for the job but not others.”
Other challenges may be in the interviewing process, with the applicant not being able to maintain eye contact, having a weak handshake, or appearing uninterested. And there are potentially issues with anxiety once they start a new job. Velasco explained, “We brought in consultants from Dell and SAP, some of which are members of the Autism at Work program within their companies. This allowed us to hear their personal stories and learn firsthand what is needed and what works.”
Bringing Needed Skills and Ideas to the Workplace
Many people are not aware of the benefits people with autism can bring to their work environment. These can include remarkable focus and persistence, an aptitude for recognizing patterns, attention to detail, a gifted memory, honesty, and transparency. These are all traits that are needed in workplaces.
And the Winners Are…
There were two winning teams: Metamorphosis and Dell Digital Incubators. The winning idea focused on the early part of the interview process, around sourcing and screening.
“They wanted to improve the matching of skills to the available jobs,” shared Velasco. “The level of detail was incredible! They actually coded an application based on skills that would even offer words of encouragement to applicants.”
That’s something we could all use!