We heard this week that SAP, the enterprise software company, is introducing an initiative to recruit more employees with autism. It recognises that they can bring great benefits to the business – commenting that ‘innovation often comes ‘from the edges’’ – and is looking to hire individuals with autism to work as software testers and developers.
It’s clear that this programme is still in its early stages, and there’s no doubt that it raises some interesting questions. But the fact that SAP is recognising the importance of a diverse workforce is important. And it got me thinking about the complex nature of diversity.
We know that diversity is a topic that is constantly in the headlines. Today, many businesses are really striving to create a diverse workforce, and are appreciating the benefits it can bring rather than simply trying to ‘tick all the right boxes’ when it comes to recruitment to avoid any legal implications. And many organisations think that they’ve managed to get it right. But is it ever possible to achieve real diversity?
If you think about your colleagues, there’s a good chance that they’re all very different. You may work alongside both men and women of different ages and from different cultures but, when it comes down to it, how different are you all really?
There’s a real danger of companies focusing too much on what their employees look like from the outside, and forgetting about what’s underneath. Yes, it’s important for individuals to fit in with the culture of your team, but it’s also important to ensure that employees are different inside, with varied backgrounds and experiences. Only then will you be able to bring fresh ideas into the business and be able to compete in a difficult market.
So, what do you think? Is your company diverse? Maybe it is, but as my colleague pointed out, you never hear of anyone employing the homeless! And maybe, to achieve real diversity it would come down to much more than the factors we recognise at present.