We kicked off our first episode of the new HR Trends with Game-Changers series on SAP Radio titled Finding Talent in Unexpected Places: Differently-Abled with a panel of savvy thought leaders. The hour-long roundtable discussion on the topic of differently-abled people and autism in the workforce featured Joe Gerstandt, a diversity and inclusion consultant; Karen Russell, the assistant director of special services of the Fremont Unified School District, Fremont, CA; David Hofferberth, founder and a managing director at Service Performance Insight; and Faheem Ahmed, vice president of Strategic Initiatives at SAP. You can listen to the program on demand here.
The panelists shared their astute insights on the importance of diversity and inclusion in today’s business climate and the value differently-abled people can add to companies, both large and small. Joe Gerstandt said, “We talk about inclusion as if it were an attitude or a state of mind, but it is an activist thing. If you do not intentionally and deliberately invite and include difference in the groups and processes you are a part of, you will always unintentionally be exclusive.”
David Hofferberth echoed Joe’s sentiments: “The 21st century professional services workforce demands the diversity required to innovate and execute. By tapping into a highly unique talent pool we can create and deliver solutions to problems we don’t know even exist today.”
Karen Russell has witnessed first hand the effectiveness and success of special education programs for autistic children. She noted “While autism spectrum disorders are a life-long condition, early intervention helps and students with autism graduate to lead successful independent lives as adults.”
David Hofferberth, the father of a teenage autistic son, agreed. He and the other panelists expressed a desire for companies to help autistic people who are entering the workforce. Faheem Ahmed added, “Companies need similar early intervention programs for autistic students when they enter the workforce after their education.”
In the final segment of the program, the panel was asked by producer / host, Bonnie D Graham, to gaze ahead five years into a figurative crystal ball and predict the impact they see differently-abled people will have on the workforce. While Joe Gerstandt believes that diversity and inclusion in general will continue to be far off most companies’ radars five years from now, he contended that some of the best practices and policies around diversity and inclusion, including recruiting and employing differently-abled worker, are already in place in start-up companies. By recruiting the differently-abled, through programs like SAP’s recently announced Autism at Work program, companies can greatly increase their talent pool and opportunities for innovation, competitiveness, and enhancing their bottom line.
HR Trends with Game-Changers broadcasts live Tuesdays at 12:00 p.m. EDT for the next 12 weeks. We invite you to tune in live or listen on-demand at your convenience and tweet your comments at #SAPRadio.