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Inclusivity in corporate culture: Enable the differently-abled

The corporate culture across the globe, regardless of whether there are formal procedures in place, is currently bending towards being inclusive. Inclusivity spans across the spectrum, covering everything from gender to race to ability. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of companies employing persons with disabilities (PwDs) across various roles and functions depending on the employee’s capabilities. This increase, however, is gradual and the ratio of abled to differently-abled employees in an organisation remains skewed towards the former set. The list of companies who have hired PwDs consciously and strategically is long — Accenture, Mphasis, Capgemini, State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Big Basket, Rediff, Amazon, Redbus, Make My Trip, Café Coffee Day, Costa Coffee, KFC, Lemon Tree, ITC, Taj, Titan, Tesco, Britannia, Shell, DOW Chemicals, Big Bazaar, Reliance Retail and Tata Tele Services. While this is clearly a good start, hiring PwD employees as a hygiene practice, however, might spell a long road ahead.
Mentoring and training
With hard to curb attrition rates and short-term solutions being nothing more than cosmetic, companies have to eventually look at a sustainable, rethought hiring strategy that not only makes business sense but is inclusive at the same time. Nishchae Suri, head of people and change advisory, partner KPMG India, points out that the change, however small, has come from companies realising that they are hiring differently-abled people, and not disabled people.
Employability and inclusivity
Almost a decade ago, a pilot initiative of hiring a batch of 10 hearing impaired candidates in Bengaluru was carried out by CCD. Today, the company has recruited and trained over 152 PwDs. It created a special induction programme for the speech and hearing impaired. This programme is designed to aid the use of PwDs’ strong sense of smell, vision and taste effectively. For CCD, once the candidate is chosen, she is given a two-week coffee training, followed by a practical and theoretical test. Venu Madhav, CEO, Café Coffee Day, notes that hiring PwDs builds confidence of a company in its retention rate. “What sets apart PwDs is that they value the position that they have been given and do not take things for granted,” he observes. “They are keen to keep their jobs, rise above and work to their full potential.” There is no major additional investment for the brand except for having a sign language interpreter to help communicate and train PwDs. This level of inclusivity commands respect for diversities from other employees within the company and that a greater sensitivity at the work place can only add to the overall productivity of the organisation, he adds.
Now consider KFC’s project for the hearing and speech impaired, which was initiated in 2008. The brand currently has over 170 specially-abled employees across 20 stores in India. It flagged off this project in India first and other international teams have since then followed suit. It invested in creating the KFC Academy (formerly known as Yum! Academy) to develop the right skill sets which increase employability not just with KFC, but also across the retail sector. The idea was to go upstream and make the hearing and speech impaired youth employable. A fully sponsored programme for about 11 weeks (60 hours, covered in five-six weeks) teaches the deaf youth English and critical skills (English communication, realistic job preview, food safety, industry familiarisation, life skills and grooming) for employment in the retail and hospitality sector.

Source: Financial Express


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