Working Towards Including Differently-abled Employees into the Workplace

When we speak about inclusion of all kind of talent into the workforce, there is a big chunk of the pool that we are missing out on – the differently abled individuals. As per statistics, approximately 2.13% of India's population is differently abled in some way. Most of them have been marginalized and kept out of the workforce, hence indicating the perception that they might not perform at par with the others.

Hence, the challenge that HR faces is two-fold. One is to bring about an understanding and awareness within the current employee population pertaining to this segment, and the second is to work in a committed manner to incorporate talent from this set of individuals into the workforce.

To be able to do these two things effectively, you as an HR practitioner would need to be able to keep these elements in mind.

1. Background Research and Preparation

Your broad plan should be designed to address both the above areas, simultaneously and regularly. Hence what kind of communication plan is needed, how does the organization need to change even in terms of infrastructure , sensitization trainings and the trainers who can conduct the same, overall investment required, regulations and policy related to the same and so on are important aspects to cover. The critical element will be to focus on the attitude of the co-workers. Some people are indifferent, some uncomfortable and some patronizing when interacting with differently abled people. The idea that they need to be treated as equal professionals and given the same opportunities has to be developed within the organization’s culture. Any negative or biased remarks, should have a defined corrective action and grievance redressal process.

2. Purpose For Hiring Differently Abled Employees

As shared in my first column on this area, diversity is a business imperative and not a CSR initiative. Hence there have to be clear business reasons for an organization hire differently abled individuals. Have you thought through what could be your business reasons? This is a highly motivated and untapped talent pool, which have a great desire to perform and prove their worth. Hence they are more likely to continue to remain loyal to the organization for the opportunities it provides. Also, while India has not undertaken such a study, some countries undertake studies which share which particular roles differently abled individuals will excel in. Hence if identification of this kind can be done, it helps to have the right fitment for a role. Also, as you may be aware, tax incentives can be claimed for changes that an organization makes to include such employees. As per the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities adopted in 2006, the government provides incentives, awards and tax exemptions to private sector employers for ensuring that at least 5% of their workforce is composed of people with disabilities.

3. Finding Out Where To Source This Talent From:

It is important for HR to work with external agencies to ensure that it can reach out proactively for this talent. HR needs to be able to collect information from portals, associations and other organizations about how to connect with this talent pool.

These are just some of the steps which can help you initiate the process of inclusion. There are many more interventions and steps that will be needed to sustain and track the success of this.

Organizations such as Wipro, which won the Award for its Disability inclusion policy recently are doing this very successfully. Titan Industries has made a committed plan which has led to it becoming inclusive of employees with physical and mental challenges. IBM has a "Human Ability and Accessibility Center" in India, with the intention of modifying and using technology to make the workplace more manageable for differently-abled employees not just for IBM but for other companies as well. But this is just the beginning of the process. There is a huge level of work to be done by the corporate sector in this sphere and HR needs to be the facilitator as well as the leader in this inclusion process.

The article was first published in Business Manager – HR Magazine’s January 2014 edition. Republished with Permission.


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