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Inclusive Employment Best Practices

B2R Technologies (Business-To-Rural) is an Impact Sourcing service provider established in 2009. As a for-profit social enterprise it is unique in the way it operates and who it hires. In the hill state of Uttarakhand where B2R operates, 11% of population lives below the poverty line. This is due to seasonal low yield agriculture and lack of non-farm livelihood. This leaves little choice but to migrate to cities in search of opportunities with its consequent challenges. Rural women, living with the additional handicap of traditional stereotypes are often pushed into early marriages. B2R has brought professional, knowledge based work within walking distance of 350 previously un/under-employed youth in this region. Working at B2R means staff does not have to make a tradeoff between staying in their communities and career opportunity.

To achieve its mission, B2R has four centers across the region and places an emphasis on quality employment, adapted to the unique circumstances of the local community. Over thirteen years, an emphasis on employee health, happiness & professional development has resulted in an additional business benefit of high retention compared to urban/city counterparts.

● Formal full-time employment: All B2R’s team members are formally employed full-time, guaranteeing them at least government mandated minimum wages and benefits. This is a substantial security in a country where an estimated 88% of the working population earns its livelihood through an informal economy, characterized by instability, volatile earnings and no upward mobility.

● Benefits supportive of short & long term resilience: Statutory benefits provided to help deal with challenges or setbacks. Benefits include Social Security (Contributory retirement benefit (Provident Fund)), Healthcare insurance, Paid Leave, and Gratuity.

● Equal Pay for Equal Work: in line with national & international conventions, B2R provides equal opportunity and pay for women, going further to counsel individuals & families to encourage women to apply. A hiring process engineered to improve gender equity has resulted in inclusion of ~50% women in its staff across thirteen years (currently 53%). B2R women staff members are seen as valuable economic contributors by their families resulting in an upward shift in marriage age from 16- 18 to mid-20s.

● Enable predictable scheduling with flexibility: B2R focuses on signing up long-term annuity repeatable work from customers to support predictability of work schedules, and give long term employment to staff Considering unique social needs, B2R allows leaves to manage family obligations like weddings and seasonal farming The organization encourages employees to pursue further studies and plans staffing to support this without impacting client schedules. Over 25% of B2R’s staff have earned their degrees while working being allowed leaves for exams

Make work meaningful: B2R encourages staff to engage in community development initiatives, like building awareness on cleanliness, recycling & hygiene, computer training in community, blood donation & eye checkup camps, sports & games, participate in annual half-marathon (to fundraise for local schools) and support village entrepreneurial programs.

● Health & Fitness: B2R implements a start-of-day assembly which includes physical training, yoga, B2R Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Confidential 5 team activities, meditation, prayer and ending with singing the national anthem. This enables an energizing start of work-day, greater employee engagement, ability to cope with stress and better focus at work. Staff is encouraged to participate in a unique “conflict-positive” workshop to help deal with potential personal & societal conflicts emerging due to change in economic status.

● Employer-funded Training & Professional development: B2R’s instructional designers intertwine various elements of learning as a process across employee lifecycle; for first time workers, this includes behavioral & life skills, technical & process skills, information security, English skills, subject-matter & domain aspects. Tenured staff is assessed for leadership potential, and is eligible for coaching and training in skills to take on higher roles.

B2R Impact Sourcing Best Practice Examples in Action

● Employ for skills over qualifications: B2R places emphasis on a personality assessment questionnaire and interview questions that help learn extent of a candidate’s desire for change in their life and their individual capacity to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. They ask candidates to describe life situations, and how they chose to respond to them along with rationale for doing so. During discussions, interviewers also give practical exercises using an object (like a coin) to understand candidate’s observation skills. This approach avoids specific experience requirements in favor of allowing candidates to illustrate their willingness and ability to learn, key skills for successful B2R staff. B2R also includes an expert from local non-profit such as CHIRAG on their hiring panels to ensure they understand and evaluate a candidate’s responses with the local context in mind.

● Partner with local experts: B2R highlights partnering with local experts as a key contributor in their success to bring quality employment to rural communities. Each of their centers has an anchor local partner to build trust and understand norms. In rural Uttarakhand they work with CHIRAG, a local non-profit with more than 30 years of experience in the region with a particular focus on education & livelihoods. The partnership helps B2R to develop a pipeline of high potential candidates, ensure they interview and evaluate candidates fairly, integrate women positively, and identify the most important skills development needs for the population. As a result, there is open dialogue with community leaders and team members’ families to ensure societal benefits. A concrete example is a change towards later years for marriage and child bearing as a result of empowerment. As they set up a center in Mexico too, B2R chose to partner with a university, which had low to mid-income youth as their target group. The university faculty helped customize the approach for that geography thereby ensuring greater success in attracting the talent pool.

● Define your target talent pool and identify channels to reach them: B2R Technologies has been working with communities in Uttarakhand, India, to counsel individuals & families to encourage women to apply. Without any quotas, a hiring process engineered for improved gender equity, has resulted across thirteen years in consistent inclusion of ~53% women in its staff. B2R women staff are seen as valuable economic contributors by their families, resulting in a shift of marriage age from 16-18 to mid-20s. This has helped in women taking on roles beyond traditional stereotypes in their homes and community. An unintended consequence has been positive perception of B2R as a safe working environment for women, traditionally biased towards men.

● Identify roles that require in-demand skills which can be trained up on the job: Instructional designers at B2R are experienced in “componentizing” customer’s deliverables and, defragment them into constituent tasks to design process training. Relevant “upstream-downstream” information context is added to training to ensure content on task is intertwined with context and impact of not doing the job right. This enables the first time worker into real-life work delivery quickly & effectively, and also helps the company deliver complex services in Publishing & Image Processing, Finance & Accounting, Legal Process, Web research & Data management. For example, for a Reproductive Health Counseling Helpline Program managed by B2R for a global non-profit, pre-process training included coverage on anatomy & basic healthcare training was carefully designed, as also counseling of B2R’s tele-counselors to sensitively handle diverse kinds of callers. In another example, delivering contract abstraction & objective coding, a Legal Process Outsourcing job earlier delivered by lawyers was broken down with a detailed “playbook” to train undergraduates to deliver same job successfully to same benchmarks of accuracy & turnaround time.

● Offer life skills training andsupport: Staff at B2R receives process, technical & soft skills training to help them learn to deliver to client business requirements. In addition, staff is encouraged to go through a unique “conflict-positive” workshop designed to help surface & deal with potential personal & societal B2R Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Confidential 7 conflicts emerging due to various reasons, for example, the change in economic status. The workshop represents a deep inside-out process, which helps participants recognize and work towards negotiation and resolution of their conflicts.

● Train early on corporate norms andexpectations: Training for first time impact workers at B2R follows a rigorous instructional design, and includes several areas – behavioral & life skills, technical & process skills, subject-matter & domain concepts, Information security, English skills. As an example, onboarding also includes workshops on social norms & etiquette to follow at workplace & outside in community. Also, if employees are identified to send to client sites to learn a new job, the orientation program includes awareness of professional etiquette & dress codes to follow there.

● Establish a career mentorship program: As staff at B2R moves further up in their tenure, employees are assessed for leadership potential in “Development Centers” using written tests & practical assessments. This is followed by role-specific “Development Journeys” which include training & coaching in skills over an extended period of time (~six to nine months) to take on higher roles.

● Introduce peer mentorship: While learning how to deliver complex pieces of work for a customer, new staff at B2R has peer support from trained staff during the on-the-job training period. The tenured staff acts as “seed” members (to help seed a new client project in a new center location) and mentor new hires in specific areas they need to improve upon. This gives new staff an opportunity to get support from someone they can better relate to and helps them improve sooner. This also gives “seed” members an opportunity to try taking on responsibility to help improve someone else’s work, and prepares them to take on higher roles.

● Give purpose: Training of first time impact workers at B2R starts with a discussion over several days on organizational purpose & values, for individuals’ to discover, articulate and align their personal values to that of the organization. After training, participants are required to pictorially draw on charts their interpretation of key aspects absorbed, and place these near their workplace as a motivational reminder.

● Integrate training and professional development as part of employment:  B2R ensures that all employees spend time of one day in every six, on training and development (1-in-6 principle) distributed across available stretches of time. By the time an employee reaches one year of employment, they have undergone over 400 hours of paid, on-the-jobtraining.