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Value Chain Participants Can Further Corporates’ D&I Objectives

As the debate over moonlighting rages on in corporate corridors, and conversations on employee loyalty are taking centre stage, I often wonder why corporates crave loyalty, what are they doing in return and who should form a part of this circle. Often corporates keep their focus on their full-time on-roll staff but often they forget that there is a wider circle of value chain participants like dealers, distributors, retailers, workmen, and more who are equally critical for their existence and smooth operations. Conscious inclusion of them in the scheme of priority can not just strengthen the companies’ value chain but also foster diversity & inclusion (D&I) objectives.

Businesses can’t earn employee loyalty by offering ping-pong tables, free snacks, or doling out gift coupons during festive seasons. It’s sound internal processes that make employees feel valued. It could be avenues to upskill, upgrade and curate a growth plan in tune with their aspirations. When you make workplaces a crucible for stewing ideas, incentivise performance, and protect them from burnout and show genuine care and empathy so that they might not seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Additionally, for more robust business outcomes if organisations expand the ambit and include the value chain participants, then the overall business performance will accelerate at an unprecedented rate.

Reason? The sheer delight of inclusion and recognition of their contribution adds tremendously to motivation and a sense of belongingness.

Great power is unleashed with a sense of belonging. It makes contributors become purveyors of high values, citizens of service, and selfless givers.

I can’t think of a better example than the uncommon courage the Taj Hotel team demonstrated on the fatal 26/11 night, which became a Harvard Business Review case study. Acting as human armour, they gallantly evacuated the guests even though they knew the exit routes to script their own escape.

As the Harvard Business Review evocatively writes in a piece titled, The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj: “Its guests were overwhelmed by employees’ dedication to duty, their desire to protect guests without regard to personal safety, and their quick thinking. Restaurant and banquet staff rushed people to safe locations such as kitchens and basements. Telephone operators stayed at their posts, alerting guests to lock doors and not step out. Kitchen staff formed human shields to protect guests during evacuation attempts. As many as 11 Taj Mumbai employees—a third of the hotel’s casualties—laid down their lives while helping between 1,200 and 1,500 guests escape.”

When people rise above contracts, they deserve the recognition that transcends usuals like discounts, or lucrative deals. Especially for value chain participants like dealers, distributors, retailers, workmen, and more, social security benefits are what they deserve as a starting point.

Salaried professionals sleep soundly knowing they’re taken care of. Provident Funds, Mediclaim, Gratuity, and golden-age plans are part of their compensation structures in India’s organised sectors. Even the lowest stratum of our society is ensured through schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojana (APY). But these benefits seldom ever trickle down to value chain participants. They are far from secured against unforeseen risks and geopolitical and financial uncertainties, especially after retirement.

They are the nerve centre of businesses. Managing the flow of goods right from the source of delivery to the end user, they are like warships at sea, as it’s rightly said, whose collective force is mightier than that of one member.

And courtesy of these players in the supply chain businesses enjoy more productivity and better marketing proposition. But since they are fundamentally treated as external resources, they function like isolated machines deprived of even basic social security.

The least they expect is a far-reaching welfare system that allows them a life of dignity. It’s here that corporates could create a welcoming culture by allocating a dedicated corpus for social security to their overlooked partners. Many companies have a genuine intent to better their worlds but lack a system and are unsure how to make a beginning.

A goodness platform like HUMBEE organises this workforce, verifies their identity through aadhar and channelises social security benefits to them. But more hands are needed to organise social security in this highly unorganised segment, which remains vulnerable owing to the cyclical nature of occupations, illiteracy, and ignorance. Moreover, since these workforces are associated with different brands, they’re not perceived as integral to one organisation.

A change of mindset is the need of the hour. Business leaders can demonstrate that Diversity and Inclusion practices needn’t be limited to the confines of their organisations. This new playbook – one that extends social-welfare benefits to value-chain workforces – can make corporates outwardly transparent about their responsibilities. They must pivot to create inclusive cultures where everyone belongs.

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