Vinod T. Varghese, Human Resources Director, Alstom India & South Asia
Vinod T Varghese is a seasoned HR professional with over two decades of experience in managing employee relations and incorporating best practices for personnel & performance management. Through his long-standing career, he has ensured successful integration of HR processes in organizations undergoing mergers, with a special focus on overall development. He has also conducted several training & coaching sessions for effective team management.
He has been serving as the Human Resource Director for Alstom India & South Asia since April 2017. In his current role, he is responsible for formulating and executing strategic HR initiatives across the region. Under his guidance, the team has transitioned the hiring and onboarding processes to virtual platforms, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alstom in this week celebrated “We are All Differently Abled” (WADA) week to honor its differently-abled employees. In a recent interaction with Urban Transport News, Mr. Varghese talks about the WADA week and its importance in Alstom's culture.
First, thank you and congratulations for the initiative to celebrate the talent of differently-abled people employed by Alstom Transport in various engineering and non-engineering divisions. Kindly tell our readers more about the purpose of celebrating “We are All Differently Abled” (WADA) week?
The WADA Week within Alstom is dedicated to the inclusion of differently-abled employees. It takes place in November every year, coinciding with the “European Disability Week” (in France: “Semaine pour l’emploi des personnes handicappées”). Every year, during this week, we organise events at the Site/Country level to raise awareness on the topic. Unfortunately, this year, due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns, we are unable to conduct the events physically. However, we celebrate our differently-abled employees on an ongoing basis and have taken certain measures like providing them with virtual training, which includes training them on task-specific software’s, involving them in team-building activities through TEAMS, etc.
The first step to building an inclusive team starts with openly talking about our differences, and we aim to do exactly that throughout the week. The week helps remove any stigma attached to the differently-abled, embrace our differences and celebrate them. Furthermore, in the past, we ensured that some of them are involved in games like cricket and team get-togethers to ensure they feel comfortable even outside the gamut of work. WADA Week gives us the opportunity to share internal Best Practices on inclusion thanks to the Best Practice challenge organized by D&I Network.
This year, since we could not celebrate the WADA week with all our employees, we have worked towards offering “Happiness Kits” which include hygiene kits, ration kits, sanitary kits and laptops for children, youth & elders who are mentally, physically and intellectually challenged. The activity was driven by the engagement on Alstom India’s social media posts on WADA week. For every engagement, the company donated one kit to organizations such as NIMHANS, Samarthanam, Grace Reform Trust, Manav Charity, Association for People with Disability, Suraksha Sandhya, Gerizum Integrated Home & School for the Handicapped, Giftable, Home of Hope, Jyoti Seva and Alambah, that provide to differently-abled kids.
At present, how many people with differently-abled employed by Alstom Transport in India? How are they contributing to the growth of the company?
At present we have 5 employees who are differently-abled, working across various departments such as like Digital Mobility, Systems & Infrastructure, International Finance Support, Installation & Project Engineering and the feedback on them is very good.
Last year, we have successfully hired a deserving candidate through the ‘We Are Your Voice’ Hiring program, that focused on offering employment opportunities to the specially-abled. Alstom believes that one’s differences should never be attributed as their inability to perform well or be a hindrance to their career.
Through the active hiring of deserving candidates of disabilities, we hope to remove such stereotypes and help bring out newer talent. The first step to building an inclusive team starts with openly talking about our differences, and we aim to do exactly that throughout the week. The week helps remove any stigma attached to the differently-abled, embrace our differences and celebrate them.
How Alstom is managing differently-abled manpower at different sites in this pandemic situation?
Evidently, the pandemic has adversely affected all our lives. When Unlock 1.0 was implemented, we devised and implemented various plans and precautions to resume work while ensuring employee safety. Thanks to our agile and flexible team, Alstom is emerging out of the pandemic positively and is continuing to make on-time deliveries. While some of our departments managed work from home, our on-site workforce was equipped with the necessary equipment to curb the spread of the virus. Like many of our employees, the specially-abled had the perk of working from the comforts of their homes, further making work easier for them to handle.
Have Alstom deployed any differently-abled person at the highest level of responsibility?
Not yet but we believe that with the right mentoring and exposure, our employees will be able to take over higher levels of responsibilities soon.
Anything else you want to share with us?
We believe WADA Week presents the efforts made by Alstom to foster a work environment that can make people of all physical, cognitive or socioemotional abilities feel welcomed, engaged and productive. It helps us highlight and further think of innovative ways to be addressed by the company to recruit and successfully integrate employees with different abilities to work across all functions and in all geographies. We encourage all our employees, across levels to raise awareness on the topic and create an environment that helps foster a successful, inclusive workplace.