It is imperative to maintain a diverse workplace today. It brings in different perspectives and makes an organisation highly desirable for job aspirants. Amazon India employs a host of processes to make sure its workforce is all inclusive. Swati Rustagi, director – human resources, Amazon India operations, reveals that the organisation’s commitment to equality stems across all communities of talent, including focused efforts around women, LGBTQ, military veterans and the differently abled, amongst others. “We strongly believe that every individual brings a unique perspective to the workplace and adds immense value to our network. Over the last few years, Amazon India has launched multiple initiatives to bring diversity, equity and inclusion into the workforce,” Rustagi adds.
All-women delivery stations
Amazon India’s operations network includes initiatives, such as the launch of Women Delivery Stations in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. “We have taken the lead to engage with women, create unique job opportunities in the logistics space with our delivery service partners in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, who run two all-women delivery stations. These stations are completely managed and run by women. Women deliver packages on two-wheelers, covering a radius of two to three kilometres from the delivery station,” Rustagi informs.
The VCS programme is an opportunity for individuals to support our customer-service teams from the comfort of their homes. The initiative ropes in individuals who may not be able to physically attend office due to various reasons
Silent delivery stations
The Silent Delivery Station in Mumbai has been active for a while. First launched in Mumbai in January 2017, in partnership with Mirakle Couriers, a delivery Sdervice partner, today this dedicated Silent Delivery Station is managed and run completely by associates with hearing impairment. The second silent station was launched in Mumbai in June 2018. These two stations have provided opportunities for more than 30 hearing-impaired delivery associates in the city.
Furthermore, in terms of diversity at the fulfilment centres (FC), Amazon piloted an initiative designed to create opportunities for persons with hearing impairment at its FC in Hyderabad. “The pilot started with a handful of associates with hearing impairment, who were trained to pack shipments at the FC. This initiative has now rapidly expanded to more than eight cities, including Bangalore, Chennai, Indore, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad. Several NGOs, such as Youth4Jobs and V-Shesh provide valuable support and resources to Amazon,” Rustagi informs.
Creating meaningful opportunities for our transgender community is also part of the D&I agenda. Amazon India’s operations team has created opportunities for transgenders in the operations network, including the fulfilment centres, sort centres and delivery centres. Similar opportunities were initiated for military veterans across various functions of our operations network as well as fulfillment, sort and delivery centres in the country.
Flexible career opportunities
In a bid to create growth avenues for individuals from diverse backgrounds, Amazon India scaled flexible career opportunities through the virtual customer service (VCS) programme, which was first set up in 2017. “The VCS programme is an opportunity for individuals to support our customer-service teams from the comfort of their homes. The initiative enables us to tap into additional talent pipelines, while ensuring greater diversity by roping in individuals who may not be able to physically attend office due to various reasons. The launch of this innovation also complements our other initiatives to bring more women into the workplace and help transform their lives. In line with this, we launched an all-women VCS site in Bengaluru last year, to extend flexible career opportunities for women across the city,” Rustagi informs.
Citing an example of how VCS has helped women, Rustagi spoke about Priya Merlin from Bengaluru. “With a health complication in her family and the lack of flexible opportunities, Priya moved away from the workforce for almost nine years. Missing the work, Priya jumped on hearing of the idea of joining Amazon’s VCS team. The gap in her experience didn’t stop her and her dedication to work enabled her to upscale quickly,” reveals Rustagi.
With hybrid workspaces now becoming the new normal, Swati Rustagi believes such workspaces are fundamentally about three things. “They are about physical workspace, they are about mental workspace, and thirdly, about what is acceptable to society. Whether we like it or not, there is always going to be government legislation which either allows or does not allow hybrid workspaces. India has taken some wholehearted steps on the gig economy. Working with regulators to identify how we can keep creating these new economies of workplaces, will help continue the evolution. The physical workspace will continue. I don’t think it is ever going to go away, because some things will just have to be done physically,” she adds.
Rustagi feels it will be interesting to realise that even if someone has chosen one or the other, there will be a continuum, as there are some tasks that are best done when one is alone. However, there is also some work that is best done when one is together — and that co-creation or ability to discuss and debate new ideas cannot go away. Hence, the organisation will have to keep innovating and see how all of this can be combined. “In our VCS women cohort, one of the things we talk about is how one creates mentoring circles —so creating those opportunities to discuss and co-create becomes very critical for that workspace to thrive,” Rustagi opines.