A report titled ‘The Road to Inclusion – Integrating PWDs in Organizations’ by the Boston Consulting Group and Youth4Jobs states that companies hiring persons with disabilities (PWDs) witnessed an improvement in productivity by about 8-10% in the manufacturing, hospitality and BPO sectors. Additionally, attrition rates for these PWD employees were lower, which led to better bottom lines, higher customer satisfaction levels and a more positive image for the brand.
In India, integrating the PWD community into the workplace officially began with the passing of the Rights of Persons with Disability Act in 2016 which covers 21 disabilities. In the RPWD Act, 2016, the list has been expanded from 7 to 21 conditions and it now also includes cerebral palsy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, acid attack victims, hard of hearing, speech and language disability, specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, chronic neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, blood disorders such as hemophilia, thalassemia, and sickle cell anemia, and multiple disabilities.
At the same time, the National Skill Development Corporation began focusing on skill-based courses such as gardening, farming, sewing etc. and community colleges and NGOs were encouraged to do the same.
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Embracing diversity at SG GSC, India
Diversity and inclusivity begin only when we ensure equity for all employees. At Societe Generale, this is a key mantra of how we operate – disability is not just embraced, we strive to render it invisible. . To level the playing field for PWD colleagues, we use equitable processes that provides for a reasonable minimum accommodation of their specific needs across the lifecycle of their journey from recruitment to training, upskilling and ending with community involvement.
Collaborating with NGO partners to recruit talent
We have ongoing collaboration projects with several NGO partners such as VSHESH, to help us identify, and engage and interact with an increasing pool of PWD talent.
Till date, we have successfully recruited PWD colleagues who constitute 0.7% of our workforce. In addition, these have led to policy changes to ensure that the workplace is more inclusive and equitable for our PWD colleagues. With our foundations firmly in place, we are always ready to welcome more such talent into our organisation.
Nurturing employees from the bottom up
As an organisation, we strive to follow a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approach to strengthen our work force in various functional areas. The PWD community have a lot to teach us, and we aim to imbibe these learnings with the one-on-one or one-to-many reverse mentoring sessions led by PWD colleagues. Over the years, employees and stakeholders have benefitted from these sessions in various ways. We have included sensitisation programs for hiring managers and the teams to ensure inclusive behavior. Sign language modules are also available to learn on demand. Interpreters are mandated for all important meetings where we have staff with hearing and speech impairments. All these have taught us to fight our inherent biases and look at things with a fresh perspective. It has also taught us to be empathetic instead of sympathetic, something most of us get confused with
Empowering our workforce across functions
Our EDGE platform enables all employees to work closely with their seniors and create career progression plans that can make their tenures within the organisation more impactful. There is a specific focus on helping PWD staff develop meaningful career trajectories and specific sessions are held for managers and HR Business Partners to aid career conversations for PWD staff. Upskilling is an integral part of their career journeys and we have a mentorship program in place specifically catering to the professional needs of our PWD staff. This is a symbiotic relationship and a learning journey for both the mentor and the mentee. Our organisation is based on a culture of learning and our PWD colleagues have put in over 100 training hours per staff in 2021. This is 10 times of what it was in 2020 and shows how impactful tailored programs catering to the specificities of our PWD community can be.
Enabling our people to achieve work-life balance
We strive to ensure that our employees enjoy a good balance between their work and life, and we offer flexible work benefits for all. Our inclusive culture equips all employees – including PWD colleagues – to make a positive impact on how we work with our clients and stakeholders.
As with other initiatives and projects, our PWD community plays a pivotal role in our commitment to CSR initiatives too. Our INCLUSION marketplace catalogue is one such key project driven by the community. This platform offers a curated list of assistive tech and non-tech solutions that support PWD employees to facilitate further participation and inclusion in the workplace. Inputs from the community have also helped us provide disability-friendly infrastructure such as braille signage, tactile floor paving, speech to text for online meetings and enhanced accessibility, across our offices. Our Business continuity management teams have also incorporated PWD inputs into our fire drill/emergency exercises to ensure that our safety protocols are inclusive.
Integration – The way forward
Looking at best practices, the focus across the organisation has largely been on visual, hearing and other physical disabilities. At Societe Generale, we also focus on increasing the inclusion of all genders, senior citizens, and war veterans, and re-integrating them into the workforce. This diversity is crucial for growth and development in any organization, as a diverse and open environment helps foster and nurture great ideas.