It is now a little over a year and a half since India went into the first self-imposed lockdown to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. From the very beginning, we knew that the most telling impact of this health crisis would be on people and livelihoods, and that this pandemic will leave its mark on HR policies for years to come. But we also knew this could be a unique opportunity to create a work environment that not only produces positive outcomes, but also helps reset our thinking on how we use this as a springboard to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for all.
In many ways, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) is the foundation of Tata Steel’s human resource policy. The big picture for us is to achieve 25% diversity in our workforce by 2025 and this diversity target is made up of large workgroup components which include women, members of the LGBT+ community, person with disabilities and the affirmative action community.
There can be no doubt that the pandemic was perhaps one of the most difficult challenge faced by HR managers, not just in Tata Steel, but in almost all the organisations within the formal and informal sectors. In fact, it can even be called a reset button for the way things were done before the pandemic hit us all. Several studies in countries like India have also shown that women were affected more than men. So, in some sense, it was also a major challenge for those working on DE&I within the larger HR ecosystem.
In the early days of the pandemic, keeping employees and the workplace safe was a big challenge for companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, like Tata Steel. However, this was also an opportunity to use technology and leverage the ‘work from home or any location’ option to further our diversity agenda and enable us to hire more women. In that sense, the pandemic did not affect our DE&I targets. In fact, our diversity percentage has improved to about 13.8% in managerial roles.
We have studied women representation at leadership positions in detail. Along with the Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP) team, we are charting out plans to enable higher representation of women at leadership positions.
We have also set up squads under the agile way of working to onboard more women in our workforce. This year we have 40% female trainees in our Trade Apprentice batch, which is one of the best female hire percentage.
Today, as we are gradually moving towards a hybrid work environment model, we are looking to hire higher percentage of diverse workgroups and redesign our policies and processes to create a sense of belongingness and foster an inclusive culture. For us, it is a matter of great pride that we have onboarded 38 women who are undergoing a year-long training to be part of the Heavy Earth Moving Machinery (HEMM) operators’ cluster at our operations in West Bokaro and Noamundi under our flagship Women@Mines programme. We are choosing to challenge the prevalent gender stereotypes, each day, and set examples. Going forward we expect to onboard more women into our ecosystem, not just in offices but also in our factories. We are constantly exploring and expanding our diverse talent pool and setting up initiatives like Women@Mines & Women of Mettle, facilitating B-shift operations of women in our plants and by participating in diverse job fairs such as RISE by pride circle to tap the talent pool and to engage at the grass root level.
Government approval for enabling 3 shift operation in all our locations will further foster our journey of onboarding more women in operations at Tata Steel and we are actively working towards having the necessary approvals in place.
Our policies are designed to help women resume their careers after their maternity breaks. This has been enabled by the introduction of several progressive policies introduced during the pandemic such as the precautionary measures for expecting mothers, opportunity of working from home for new mothers, availability of creche policies and additional childcare leaves for mothers/LGBT+ parents with children below 5 years of age to balance work and life. Almost all women on maternity leaves have resumed work with us.
Second Career program is a platform that enables women who have taken a career break to return to the corporate world on their terms. The platform provides work avenues in the form of project-based assignments on live projects at Tata Steel to resume their corporate journey.
We have also introduced the agile working model and location agnostic roles. Under this pioneering initiative, employees in managerial roles who are required to be based out of a particular location, can now work from home for unlimited days in a year. Similarly, those in location-agnostic roles can move to a location of their choice, giving them the flexibility to work from any location in the country. This policy is helping foster a trust-based, outcome-oriented work culture, and is also providing an opportunity to onboard and engage diverse talent.
Since 2015 when our DE&I initiatives started taking shape with the launch of the diversity group called ‘MOSAIC’, a lot of effort has also gone into creating opportunities for members of the LGBT+ community, Persons with Disability (PwD), and the Affirmative Action community.
In December 2019, Tata Steel rolled out a new HR policy that enabled colleagues from the LGBT+ community to declare their partners and avail all HR benefits permissible under the Law. Under this expanded policy, LGBT+ Tata Steel employees and their partners can avail a host of benefits including health check-up, medical benefits, joint house points, adoption leave, new-born parent leave, childcare leave, honeymoon package inclusion in employee assistance programme (EAP) and so much more. Employees are given financial assistance for gender confirmation surgery along with a 30-day special leave.
Tata Steel has defined and institutionalised a process to onboard PwD employees to ensure a smooth joining experience. A PwD employee is provided with Company accommodation which meets the best accessibility standards. Additional benefits like specialised laptops, personal attendants, special infrastructural support, etc. are also provided if required.
We have done a detailed audit of our infrastructure to ensure accessibility. This includes setting up of ramps, PwD-friendly washrooms, lifts, workstations, and emergency response switches. We have studied our job positions in detail to understand and fine tune our approach to recruitment and placement of PwD employees. We have also worked towards ensuring the accessibility of our corporate website by incorporating accessibility tools.
Having drafted and shared an equal opportunity policy for the PWD employees which states our holistic approach towards their inclusion and provides a framework for grievance redressal, the policy also provides for special conveyance benefits to our PWD colleagues to support the initial phase of settling down when they join a new location.
Further, our CSR team institutionalised an initiative called SABAL with the intent to engender an increased awareness for persons with disability and work towards creating a sensitised environment that ensures equal rights and respect for the same. Starting initially in the form of a centre for capacity building of organisations working on disability, Sabal today has established itself as an ecosystem that has engaged with more than 5,000 people and more than 50 government and private organisations.
Tata Steel places a strong focus on affirmative action Programmes like Tata Scholars and focused hiring drives which have helped us in onboarding diverse talent. Long term plans are under development to enhance the representation of members from the AA community.
We have strong focus on Employment, Employability and Entrepreneurship to develop a holistic approach towards empowering the AA community. We actively engage with the people from the community and focus on upskilling, vendor development, CSR activities and community connect through initiatives like Samvaad – a platform for exchanging ideas and thoughts on tribalism in India.
Samvaad, since 2014, has emerged as an ecosystem that brings together tribes of India and the world for constructive dialogue. It enables key elements of tribal identity to thrive, be celebrated and fed into the dialogue, and fosters a youth peer group which drives positive change. It has brought together more than 30,000 women, men and children from 157 tribes across 25 states and five Union Territories of India and 17 countries.
Through our various initiatives like project Samriddhi, Jyoti fellowship and Moodie fellowship, we were able to touch 3800+ lives through the tribal cultural society.
Long term goals like creating a 25% diverse workforce by 2025 bring in a lot of focus and commitment to ensure that we create an enabling environment that is sensitive and inclusive. This is particularly important for a large and historically workforce-friendly organisation like Tata Steel that has a global footprint today. What we do to expand our DE&I agenda will not only make us a better employer, but also create a benchmark for the rest of the industry, and the world at large.