A case study in making workplaces more inclusive

As managing director of SAP Labs Ireland, Liam Ryan, looked out at the crowds gathered at Inspirefest 2018, he shared a grim statistic: “Approximately 80pc of people who are on the autism spectrum [in Ireland] are unemployed.”

He continued: “That is having an enormous cost on inclusion, on social welfare, on health services … but most especially, it is having an impact, I believe, on the mental health and wellbeing of people with autism.”

Ryan took the stage during the Thursday (21 June) session shortly after current head of Specialisterne Ireland, Peter Brabazon. Specialisterne is an organisation that works to pair people on the autism spectrum with meaningful work that plays to their natural strengths while helping them circumvent some of the obstacles to them becoming gainfully employed.

SAP’s relationship with Specialisterne, Ryan explained, began in 2012 when the managing director of SAP India, Ferose V R, discovered that his two-and-a-half-year-old son had autism. He wanted to ensure that his son would have access to quality education and employment, and this inspired him to carry out a pilot with Specialisterne, only to be delighted with the results.

He set up a meeting with Irish representatives from SAP and Specialisterne, who both immediately warmed to the idea of the partnership. “SAP truly believes that diversity is a really important aspect in driving business,” Ryan explained, adding that the programme also appealed to SAP from a recruitment prospective, offering a potential solution to talent pipeline issues generally felt by companies in the tech sphere.

What has emerged is an excellent exercise in fostering workplace diversity and a mutually enriching experience. The employees SAP has brought on through this scheme are not only skilled, but hugely loyal to the firm, with Ryan noting that SAP observed “huge retention” with these candidates as well as a “huge desire to be very successful in their roles”. Globally, SAP aims to have 650 people with autism on its pay roll.

“When organisations collaborate with others with different abilities, you get completely different results. You get different skillsets, you get different points of view … it leads certainly to more purpose-driven work.”

If you want to find out more details, check out Ryan’s talk in full above.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

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