Indian company solves skill shortage by focusing on disabled workers

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Skill shortages and high turnover can be an issue in any industry but, in India, where engagement levels are at just 8%, it’s a problem facing a wide range of companies. So if you had a job that required significant training, but you were faced with a significant dropout and turnover rate, what  would you do?

For Gitanjali Gems the answer came in focusing on disabled youth, who now make up more than 10% of their staff. Not only does this give them a larger talent pool to work with – just 0.1% of people with disabilities have full time employment – but the company also found that their training costs were quickly offset by the improved productivity and decreased turnover.

"Since the gems and jewelry manufacturing process offers scope for employment of persons with disabilities, we have responsibility to the society at large and are proud to commit in helping," company chairman Mehul Choksi said after winning an employer award in 2009.

The move started as part of the company’s CSR program, but it quickly became apparent there were other benefits. The increased loyalty and higher performance of these youth has made sourcing, training and hiring disabled youth no longer just a CSR initiative but an integral part of Gitanjali Gem's talent management strategy. They now intend to increase the percentage of disabled employees to 20% over the next two years.

The disabled employees track about seven productive hours a day, compared to 5.5 hours from the able-bodied workers, senior vice president of operations Deepan Shah said.“This 1.5 hour loss per employee per day increases our cost by more than 10%.”
The motivation and will power of disabled youth are also high; they are eager to prove that their disability is not a deterrent to performance, he said. “Most months, the productivity award is won by a disabled employee even though they are only about 12% of our employees."

The attrition rate for these workers  was also considerably lower - just 1% compared to up to 15% for other workers, Shah added.

As Canada’s skills shortage worsens employers will need to expand their talent pools as much as possible, which will hopefully mean more disabled individuals find work.

Statistics indicate that fewer than 20% of disabled workers in Canada are employed, but 80% would like to work. While some employers are put off by the prospect of significant accommodations, the majority of  accommodations are one-off changes costing less than $500.

Forum question: Could increasing opportunities for disabled Canadians answer the country’s skills shortage, and simultaneously offer companies higher retention and productivity rates?

 

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