How Tata Steel Drives DE&I in Hybrid Workplace
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 the health crisis would be on people and livelihoods that 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 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 workgroups components including women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially abled people, and the affirmative action community.
There can be no doubt that the pandemic was perhaps one of the most difficult challenges faced by HR managers, not just in Tata Steel but in almost all the organisations, within the formal and informal sectors. 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 the employees and the workplace safe was a big challenge for companies 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. Our diversity percentage has improved by 1% in the last year to about 12.6% in managerial roles.
- Today as we are gradually moving towards a hybrid work environment model, we are looking to hire a higher percentage of diverse workgroups and redesigning 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 operators’ cluster at our operations in West Bokaro and Noamundi under our flagship Women@Mines program.
- 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, participating in diverse job fairs such as RISE by pride circle to tap the talent pool and to engage at the grass-root level.
- Our policies are designed to help women to resume their careers after their maternity breaks. During the pandemic, our progressive policies like precautionary measures for expecting mothers, the opportunity of working from home for new mothers, and those availing creche policies, have enabled this. We also provide additional childcare leave 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.
- We have also introduced the agile working model and location-agnostic roles. Under this pioneering initiative, the 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 not only fostering a trust-based, outcome-oriented work culture but is also an opportunity for us 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 LGBTQIA+ community, Persons with Disability (PwD), and Affirmative Action community.
In December 2019, Tata Steel rolled out a new HR policy that enables colleagues from the LGBTQ+ 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-ups, medical benefits, joint house points, adoption leave, newborn parent leave, child care leave, honeymoon package inclusion in employee assistance program (EAP) and more.
Employees are getting financial assistance for gender reassignment surgery and 30-day special leave for the same. We assist gender confirmation and actively support any employee who chooses to transition.
Tata Steel has defined and institutionalised a process to onboard PwD employees to ensure a smooth joining experience. A PwD employee is initially provided with Company accommodation to ensure the best accessibility standards. Other 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 ramps, PwD-friendly washrooms, lifts, workstations, and emergency response switches. We have studied our job positions in detail to understand and finetune our approach to the recruitment and placement of PwD employees. We have also worked towards ensuring the accessibility of our corporate website by incorporating accessibility tools.
Tata Steel places a strong focus on affirmative action and programs like Tata Scholars and hiring drives to onboard diverse talent.
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.