Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.
Germany-based software company SAP AG SAP.XE +0.69% has been actively seeking people with autism for jobs, not because of charitable outreach but because it believes features of autism may make some individuals better at certain jobs than those without autism.
It's a worthy initiative, according to disability experts, since 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.
Piloted in Germany, India and Ireland, the program is also launching in four North American offices, according to an announcement Thursday.
SAP aims to have up to 1% of its workforce—about 650 people—be employees with autism by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.
SAP isn't the only company to have such a program. In the U.S., mortgage lender Freddie Mac FMCC -1.80% has offered career-track internships since 2012, including in IT, finance and research.
The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.
"Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive," according to the lender's policy.
To be sure, as with any group, people with autism have a range of interests and abilities. SAP is working with a Danish autism-focused training and consultancy firm, Specialisterne, which carefully screens and interviews the candidates to find the appropriate matches before sending them to SAP to evaluate.