Kickstarting its initiative of hiring 28 differently-abled people (deaf and dumb) in its Hyderabad stores last year, Metro Cash & Carry India has upheld its commitment to making the workplace diverse. Since last year, the Company has been able to provide employment to around 100 differently-abled people with hearing and speech impairment.
The B2B wholesale company claims that it has hired 89 in the south and west regions and 21 in the north and east regions.
The Company has tied up with local NGOs, such as Talking Hands, Disability Rights Promotion International, Youth4jobs and Enable India, to help them reach out to the deaf and dumb community and train them for the jobs.
As per Udaiy Khanna, director and head of HR, Metro Cash & Carry India, the Company requires these people to possess very basic skills. The candidates should have passed the tenth or 12th grade and should also possess cognitive skills and knowledge of basic maths.
There is a translator assisting the hiring managers and providing them information about the background of the candidates during the interview process.
Selected candidates are put through a training process and then gradually inducted into the workforce.
“The process of hiring differently-abled people is not very different from that of regular candidates. These people want to be treated equally and valued just as any other employee in the Company,” shares Khanna.
The Company uses a special team of hiring managers and recruiters, who are sensitised and trained to conduct the recruitment process for differently-abled candidates.
The candidates are first assigned to the replenishment sections of the stores. The Company has also hired them in the roles of cashiers and to receive goods using digital bar code machines.
Some of them interact with the customers and even help them find the right product.
“They carry badge that say ‘I use sign language’ for the understanding of the customers. The customers also are able to talk to them and get along,” mentions Khanna. If the customers find any difficulty in understanding what they are saying, other team members intervene to help them.
Initially, when the project was started, some of the candidates quit quite early as they did not like the job. To keep this trend in check, the Company now uses the first week to give the candidates a tour of the store and make them understand what exactly they are required to do, before putting them on a proper training programme.
Talking about the training that they provide to these candidates, Khanna says that for the first week a translator or a volunteer joins the process. After that, the differently-abled candidates are put under the normal induction and training process with other candidates.
The Company has refrained from teaching sign language to other employees at the stores, as they do not feel the need for the same. The other team members in the store hardly ever face any difficulty in communicating with these people.
“We have witnessed instances of team members at stores making the effort to learn sign language directly from the differently-abled employees themselves,” reveals Khanna.
To sensitise the other employees at work, the store managers, HR teams and NGO volunteers conduct workshops at the stores.
Khanna disclosed that there did come a phase when the attrition level amongst these hires had gone up. “Yes, they started leaving us. But I can very proudly say that after leaving, 90 per cent of them have started their own retail businesses or have joined their family business,” shares Khanna with pride.
The Company wants to give employment opportunities to some other sections of the differently abled as well, but the infrastructure of the stores does not allow them to do the same just yet.
“There is an infrastructure and logistic challenge. If we are able to overcome that in our new stores, which will come up in the next few years, ideally, we would like offer opportunities to other differently abled and diverse sections of the society,” explains Khanna.
Some of the hearing and speech impaired employees have also won awards of excellence for their performance at work.