Alstom India steps up diversity efforts

At the global level, as on March 31, 2020, the Company had close to 21.4 percent women in the managerial and professional workforce

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Alstom India has increased its efforts to hire more women across the organisation and on the shopfloor. A part of its global 2025 vision was to ensure that at least 25 per cent of its workforce comprised women. At a global level, according to an HRIS survey posted on the official website, as on March 31, 2020, the Company had close to 21.4 per cent women in the workforce across managerial and professional roles.

However in India, women employees comprise 16 per cent, while on the shopfloor, they account for a little more than 13 per cent in total. In fact  Alstom India has been doing well in improving its diversity ratio in the last few years, by adding more women across roles and levels, despite the challenges.

Vinod T Varghese, HR director, India and South Asia, Alstom Transport, points out that sourcing diverse talent is difficult in the manufacturing sector. “The challenge is that there are not too many women in mechanical engineering. We have stepped up our efforts to hire more diverse talent by increasing the network of engineering colleges we go to and making a conscious effort to reach out to women looking to return to work,” says Varghese.

Alstom has continued to hire talent in this time, honouring all commitments made to candidates in the past. From April onwards, the Company — which is part of the French multinational operating worldwide in rail transport markets, and active in the areas of passenger transportation, signalling, and locomotives — has onboarded more than 300 candidates across the organisation. However, Varghese mentions that hiring has been tough in these troubled times, as the market has been slow. Good candidates are more passive and wary of changing jobs right now. In addition, outstation candidates, who were earlier more than willing to shift locations, are now not comfortable with moving due to the pandemic. Volumes of outstation candidates have dropped, because there have been a number of candidates who accepted offers but failed to turn up afterwards.

Vinod Varghese

“The challenge is that there are not too many women in mechanical engineering. We have stepped up our efforts to hire more diverse talent by increasing the network of engineering colleges we go to and making a conscious effort to reach out to women looking to return to work.”

For the rest who have joined virtually, the Company has provided them with laptops, wherever feasible. For those to whom the Company could not deliver necessary equipment, access was given to Alstom’s systems on their personal devices. The Company’s usual two-day induction programme, which was earlier held at the Bangalore Regional Centre, has now shifted online. For the employees on the shop floor, the 15-day technical and behavioural training is now being conducted online by the technical team. Managers have been assigned to the newbies as ‘buddies’. These buddies spend time guiding the new employees and helping them navigate in the initial stages.

Varghese points out that in few manufacturing sites it is very difficult to get more women in the workforce, as it requires a change in the mindset of the people. Moreover, sourcing is an issue, and therefore, efforts need to be redirected towards retention and encouraging the individuals already present.

“For the blue-collar workers or ‘associates’ as they are called at Alstom, it is more important to have role models they can look up to and approach easily, along with a support system that empowers,” he opines.

Exposure to senior women colleagues builds confidence. That way, new joinees feel more comfortable in approaching a senior staff member to handle any issue. “Our women executives and managerial staff become the role models for these young women”, adds Varghese.

Besides, there are many training programmes conducted for soft skills, English language and software. There is also a higher-education programme, wherein the Company provides financial support and encouragement to workers possessing a diploma in engineering to complete their bachelor’s in the field. “With the support system we have in our organisation, these women become role models in their own villages,” adds Varghese.

During the lockdown, there has been a significant increase in the usage of online courses by the employees through the Company’s learning platform, Alstom University. During a global learning challenge, Alstom India clocked the highest learning hours among the larger countries. In an employee survey conducted around April, the Company found that employees wanted more training in courses on crisis management, building resilience and leadership communication to name a few. For the plant employees sitting at home, there was regular focus on training pertaining to quality, product and soft skills, in addition to ways to keep them engaged.

Presently, there are roughly around 100 people in Alstom’s offices in Bangalore, while the rest continue to work from home. The Company is paying regular salaries to its employees and providing promotions as well, while deferring increments.

Out of the 5600 employees across the organisation, roughly 2000 are in the plants and close to 3300 in the corporate team. Manufacturing units have begun operating since the Unlock with an initial 5 -10 per cent of workers coming in. Currently, they are operating at around 75 per cent capacity. Employees are working in a staggered manner with two-hour gaps in between shifts, for cleaning and sanitisation. Alstom also introduced an employee-assistance programme for its employees one month ago, wherein staff can avail facilities, such as online counselling sessions on physical or mental health, as well as dietary counselling.