January 24th, 2013
07:10 AM GMT
Share this on:

Editor’s Note: Members of the Young Global Leaders forum at the World Economic Forum in Davos share some of their ideas for innovative ways to boost the economy and unleash intellectual capital.

(CNN) – I met a very inspiring person couple of years back and he told me three things that have been a great lesson for me:

  1. The hiring process of organizations are more fine-tuned to reject rather than select people, as most often they are focused on identifying the weakness of people – what they can’t do rather than look at what they can.
  2. Everyone is good at something – we need to find a way to match people’s strength to organization needs.
  3. When you give something to someone who least expects it, they give back to you much more.

That helps explain why my we decided to hire individuals in the autism spectrum at SAP Labs India.

Autism is a highly variable neurodevelopment disorder and many are impacted by it. It is said that Autism impacts one in every 88 persons. Individuals with autism have limited or little language and social skills. Very few of them get employment or get absorbed into mainstream, as most of the autistic individuals lack communication skills and cannot be team players, two absolutely essential skills needed to land a job.

They however have a very good memory and the ability to focus on repetitive tasks for a long time without drudgery.  Since we have a large workforce working on software testing, which involves remembering complex steps and performing repeated activities, we thought why not look at hiring autistics to perform this role. Beginning in a small way, we hired four autistics and trained them to take up software testing. Each individual was assigned a buddy. The buddies apart from being experienced testers were individuals who were passionate about doing something different. The biggest criterion for being a buddy was compassion. The buddies slowly became their partners not just at work, but much beyond that.

In six months, we found that these special individuals were not just able to remember complex testing sequences, but also execute without any errors.  Apart from the very tangible business outcome, these special individuals had the ability to spread happiness amongst the rest of the team. Their loyalty and commitment to the company was never once at doubt and they were very motivated.  Also, the feedback we got from their families was that their attitude and behavior changed rapidly and they became more independent and confident.

In an emerging country like India, this journey doesn't start and end with employability; the efforts have to begin much earlier with basic education, employability centric training, mentoring and coaching. We have made a start by initiating education modules with intense use of technology – which helps us scale and standardize tremendously. And, one day our hope is that 100,000 autistic individuals get gainfully employed in the organized sector in India.

The person who inspired me was the Danish entrepreneur Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne. Together we have taken the mission to create a million jobs for autistics across the globe!

My ask to each one of you, is the next time you see a special person, look at what they are good at and not their weakness. Everyone deserves a chance, and ONLY we can create it.

-V.R. Ferose, Senior Vice-President, Globalization Services, SAP Labs, India

Filed under: Davos

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Vicki

    I like point you are trying to make, but referring to people on the spectrum as 'autistics' is somewhat offensive. They are people first and shouldn't be identified soley by their disability, which is just one aspect of who they are.

    January 25, 2013 at 2:01 am |
  2. Kavita Sharma

    Yes, Ferose, this initiative of SAP labs, Bangalore, India has brought in many many hopes to the parents and families. You are also right in saying that we need to work on basic education and then employability centric training. Autism Spectrum Disorders need to be recognized as a disability in India, this will help them exercise their rights of education and participation. I hope that we take strong move in this direction too.
    I agree with Vicki, that we need to address the affected individuals as "Individuals with Autism", never mind, lets work together. HOPE WITH ACTION. By initiating this you have proved to be a young leader. Congratulations.

    January 25, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  3. passagetogreen@mail.com

    This is what it is all about...making our disabilities work for us. Who knows we may find out they aren't as disabling as we once thought. A great big thumbs up from http://www.passagetogreen.com

    January 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  4. Vani Rajendra

    Thanks Ferose for the greatest initiative beyond imagination of employing the individuals with autism. You are a trend setter for other corporates by thinking differently and big. It is easy to hire people who are able. But to hire someone who is abled differently and tap their potential productively makes you and your team at SAP stand out in the crowd. As you rightly mentioned it s the employment and the day these individuals spend with their team at work enhances their self esteem and confidence which is true even for so called neuro typicals too.
    I strongly endorse your and Kavita's views on need for basic education as it is the good foundation which makes up for a strong and architectural building. We need to have many passionate educators and parents to work with them from grassroot level.
    This initiative has opened doors for a bright future for the individuals as all along nobody ever dreamt they are capable of taking up any employment in any organisation @ par with other well qualified personnel.
    Three cheers to you Ferose and your passionate team at SAP!!!

    January 28, 2013 at 3:19 am |
  5. Carlo Azapinto

    Employer and managerial control within an organization rests at many levels and has important implications for staff and productivity alike, with control forming the fundamental link between desired outcomes and actual processes. Employers must balance interests such as decreasing wage constraints with a maximization of labour productivity in order to achieve a profitable and productive employment relationship.'*

    Kind regards

    May 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  6. Terri Zuckerman

    Its commendable what the company is doing, but I cringe when they call the employees "autistics".

    December 29, 2013 at 4:12 am |

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About Business 360

CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP