In the last two years, Cognizant has managed to sensitise over 10,000 of its associates to LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and “more are participating in these sensitisation sessions as we speak,” reveals Nita Nambiar, AVP-HR and India diversity & inclusion lead, Cognizant, exclusively to HRKatha.
The Company has been quite devoted to and passionate about creating a workplace that offers an environment where all under-represented sections of the society can feel equal.
Cognizant refrains from revealing exactly how many people will be hired or have already been recruited from the LGBTQ+ community. However, Nambiar does clarify that the Company does not believe in singling out or keeping track of those from the LGBTQ+ community, or reducing them to numbers. Instead, the focus is on the organisation’s diversity and inclusivity (D&I) goals in terms of “creating a culture, where people from all sections and backgrounds can thrive together and grow”.
Active participation by leadership: In the last two years, many employees at Cognizant have voluntarily come forward to participate in the sensitisation drives and programmes, aimed at educating employees about different genders and orientations. “Many of the senior leaders have helped and encouraged others to participate,” says Nambiar.
Employee resource group: Additionally, Cognizant also has an employee resource group called ‘Embrace’ which promotes initiatives to make Cognizant an all-inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ associates.
Due to the pandemic, all sensitisation sessions were organised virtually with trainers educating existing employees about the basic gender differentiation, why it is important to have a diverse workforce and inclusion of people from LGBTQ+ background, and what sort of terminologies should be used while addressing people from such backgrounds.
Preparatory workshops: In fact, in teams where people from LGBTQ+ background are about to join, the team members are sensitised and prepared via intensive workshops where they are given detailed guidance on sensitivity in communication — what to say and what not to.
“We do not believe in singling out or keeping track of those from the LGBTQ+ community, or reducing them to numbers. Instead, the focus is on the organisation’s diversity and inclusivity (D&I) goals in terms of creating a culture, where people from all sections and backgrounds can thrive together and grow”
Nita Nambiar, AVP-HR and India diversity & inclusion lead, Cognizant
Sensitisation of student community: Cognizant’s support is not restricted to its own employees alone, but is extended to the student community too. The Company has helped sensitise more than 7000 students from the campuses of top B-schools to the nature and needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Cognizant plans to cover students from various technology institutions as well as part of this sensitisation drive.
“The institutions themselves came forward to express their interest and thoughts on sensitising their students,” says Nambiar.
Hiring from LGBTQ+ community: For hiring people from the LGBTQ+ background, the Company has two major sources for attracting talent. One is an association with a D&I consultancy partner, which organises job fairs to attract talent from LGBTQ+ background. “We receive man applications from such events and job fairs,” admits Nambiar.
Another source of LGBTQ+ talent is the Company’s outreach arm, which is connected to NGOs and other institutions and facilitates easy access to talent from this community.
Nambiar clarifies that no special treatment is given to these candidates during the hiring process. “Since we also need to maintain a culture of meritocracy, the hiring process remains the same for everyone. The LGBTQ+ candidates are also evaluated on their competencies and skills for the job like any other candidate,” shares Nambiar.
However, ‘Embrace’ the affinity group at Cognizant, stays in touch with these employees during the onboarding process, just so that the candidates do not feel excluded.
Nambiar admits that there is no perfect yardstick to measure the impact of the sensitisation sessions, but the Company’s employee-engagement survey shows that it scores quite high on its D&I initiatives. Cognizant’s Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) Report of 2021 also confirms the same.
Cognizant’s efforts at inclusivity are not limited to the LGBTQ+ clan alone. The Company is focussing strongly on creating an inclusive workplace for women as well. As per the Company’s 2021 ESG report, in India, 39 per cent of its 2,40,000-strong workforce comprises women. Now, Cognizant — which is amongst the largest private employers in the country — wishes to take this figure up to 50 per cent.