In India, out of the 121 Crore population, about 2.68 Cr persons are “disabled” which is 2.21% of the total population (Census 2011). Lemon Tree Hotels started their disability hiring program in June 2007 and realized that a huge talent pool is not being properly tapped.
R. Hari, General Manager Human Resources at Lemon Tree Hotels, shares, “We aim to give an opportunity to the deprived population, and unless you provide opportunity, you are not in a position to assess, whether it creates a business impact or not.”
Every company wants to reach excellence and thus their leading teams want to hire the best and the ability to perform jobs. Consequently, there is always need to sensitize teams to accept disability and turn it towards empowering people. When we at Lemon Tree Hotels started hiring people with disabilities, there was a clear need to create awareness among the colleagues and hiring managers to create opportunities for this deprived section of the population.
In the process of hiring candidates with disabilities, the company faced following hurdles:
- Sourcing skilled candidates: This was the first hurdle for Lemon Tree Hotels. Most of the candidates with disabilities are school or college dropouts. One of the reasons behind this grave issue is lack of conducive environment and infrastructure of educational institutes. Accessibility to good infrastructure, transportation, information is a critical issue in our country that needs to be addressed to create more job opportunities for these candidates.
- Creating jobs for intellectual disability: Intellectual disability is characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. Down syndrome, autism, slow learners, etc. fall into this category. Creating job opportunities for candidates suffering from intellectual disabilities requires more effort and patience.
- Sensitizing the workforce to embrace an inclusive culture.
Solution- The Hiring Process:
The company observed that most of the candidates are not qualified and school dropouts. They lack the basic qualifications required to perform a task. Lemon Tree partnered with non-profit organizations (NGOs). These NGOs will do the initial screening and send candidates for an interview which were held at company’s premises. The candidates will be accompanied by either an NGO person or parents or any guardian.
In any usual hiring process, the company leverages competency mapping for a job role. However, in case of hiring persons with disability, the company has to collect data about disabilities and initiate Job mapping, accordingly.
- Job Mapping-LTH collected data on various types of disabilities and the different jobs available at hotels and mapped each disability for each task. Job mapping also enabled the company to identify the infrastructure and additional set up that would be required for the candidates to perform their respective jobs.
- Trial Jobs for candidates with intellectual disability: The company employed candidates with intellectual disability on 6 months internship. During the first 3-4 months, the candidates spend 4-6 hours a day. Since these candidates are slow learners with no idea about how an organization works, the company created a “ME Book.” The book consists of series of steps that a person has to do in a day. Within 6-7 months, the candidates adopted the methods of the organization and were able to work on their own. After the internship got over, a performance review was done by the HR, Sustainability Head and Functional Manager in the presence of the parents and the NGO partner.
However, the company also observed that it is important to keep slow learners engaged so that they feel motivated to keep up their learning even if they do not make steady progress in the first six months. This coupled with regular interaction and motivation sessions with the NGO to counsel candidates to help us in mainstreaming these team members.
Apart from employing and creating a diverse workplace, Lemon Tree Hotels wanted to create an inclusive work environment. The company conducts induction program for all new joiners to sensitize them on various types of disabilities and train them to collaborate closely with the candidates with disabilities. The company has also made it mandatory for all their employees to learn the basics of sign language which is a part of their probation evaluation system.
- Customer Loyalty & Improved Employee Experience: Customers have shown fantastic support and appreciation for the company’s inclusive hiring approach and have often given us excellent feedback. Internally, the company experienced a significant improvement in employee experience. Hari shares, “Employees give us feedback that they enjoy working in this kind of environment because it offers them a sense of pride and happiness.”
- Reduced attrition: The Company also observed less attrition as a result of this hiring approach. “The candidates with the disability more than anything, offer their loyalty towards you,” said Hari
Earlier People Matters interviewed IBM on their strategy on attracting and hiring persons with disability. Know more about the organizations that are making the difference, stay tuned for the second case-study in this series.