The IT-BPO company in India created a platform where people with disabilities are successfully hired and nurtured to their fullest potential in a truly inclusive environment. The company has 287 people with disabilities (about 1.5 percent of its workforce) employed in various jobs. Any new facility that Infosys creates will be built fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The initiative is carried out by the company's equal opportunity team, recruitment team, training team, training managers, and team leaders and managers. Infosys is the first Indian IT - BPO company to set up a diversity office that's sole focus is to promote diversity and inclusivity.

"By valuing and respecting differences and similarities in the workplace, we are now at a better position to win," says Raghavendra K, vice president and head of HR for Infosys BPO. "Our policy is to be an equal opportunity employer, and to foster an inclusive workplace for employees to contribute to the success of our business by encouraging and enabling them to draw fully on their potential."

Culture Change

Infosys began this culture shift in 2005 by initiating discussions with the National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People and other organizations. Then a specialist was hired to facilitate the change, including the review of policies and procedures. The equal opportunity team currently oversees this initiative.

The message in the company's recruitment advertisements has changed to include the line: "Persons with disabilities are welcome to apply." The company also organizes several special recruitment drives solely targeted at people with disabilities. Its recruitment assessment processes have been made "disability-friendly" as well (for example, for people with visual impairments, the questions are printed in large font).

Infosys has also developed a specific standard recruitment process to ensure that new employees with disabilities are welcomed into the company and receive the assistance they need to complete their job responsibilities. This includes the sensitization of team members and other employees, classes to teach sign language to other team members of hearing impaired employees, and other training. Company buses are equipped with special electronic floors so people who are unable to climb steps can still use the transportation provided by the company. Sign language interpreters are also present at company functions and training events.

In the onboarding process, all employees are encouraged to fill out a self-identification form, which not only explains the company's equal opportunity policy, but also provides a chance for people with disabilities to seek any required assistance.

A regular disability access audit has led to ramps and accessible washrooms in newly constructed buildings, an emergency preparedness plan for evacuation, and mock fire drills. During a recent fire drill, all employees, including those with disabilities, evacuated the building safely in five minutes.

Web Accessibility

Guidelines for how to make web content accessible to people with disabilities was distributed to web content designers and page authors to promote accessibility. Infosys paired with AirTel, a mobile service company in India, to connect its hearing-impaired employees to the website. Infyability, the company's first-ever website that is accessible to all employees regardless of disabilities, is a comprehensive portal where information about all disabilities is available.

"Infyability gives people with disabilities a platform to come together, but it also gives everybody else a chance to interact with these truly special people," says Raghavendra K.

Benefits

This initiative has not only had a positive impact on Infosys, but it has also affected the way people with disabilities are viewed in the community and country.

By giving people with disabilities the opportunity to make a living and support their families with a good fulltime job, the organization has helped them gain respect and dignity in the community. Employees in Infosys also have become more sensitive to the needs of others. This initiative also has set a recruitment trend that is slowly being adopted by other Indian companies, and has increased awareness and the rights of people with disabilities in the community.

"One of the greatest positive impacts was an increase in the confidence level of people with disabilities," says Dependra Mathur, assistant vice president and director of HR for Infosys BPO. "Also, they were bestowed more admiration and respect among their family members and in their immediate social circle. There has also been a great degree of acceptance among their peers, co-workers, and supervisors."

By tapping this group of talented individuals, Infosys has sent a strong message about inclusion and diversity to employees in its workplace. The company also has seen a more stable, loyal, and productive workforce as a result of this initiative.

"The myth that implementation of a practice of this kind would affect the productivity, training costs, recruitment expenses, and workplace culture adversely was shattered," says Mathur.