Inclusion at Workplace

Prajwal Halery is a hospitality professional and heads the Human Resources department in a prestigious hotel group in the UAE. He has been in this industry for close to 20 years, and has seen complete transformation in the styles of working and incorporating employees in the organization.

When asked what prompted him to support the People of Determination community and how were they, as an organization, incorporating them at their workplace, Prajwal responded that being a father of a teenager with special needs, this cause has always been close to his heart. He dreams of a safe workplace for his son, and he felt, perhaps, he could contribute by getting involved in the process himself. The organization he works for supports multiple CSR activities and one such activity that he conducted a few years ago was his involvement in a People of Determination center in Dubai. When he visited this place, he was completely overwhelmed to see the number of students who needed assistance to get a job. Prajwal realized that he could make a big difference by assisting in inducting these students into his company. This prompted him to initiate work in this direction and support these students and their parents who were in a dilemma, as they didn’t really know what the future had in store for their children.

On being asked how easy or difficult it was for him to have the People of Determination candidates onboard, Prajwal shares that they did not have anyone from this community working in their company. He brought up this topic on supporting their employment with the management team. It was a discussion of a few days to see if they were equipped with the special requirements to manage a Person of Determination. They understood they didn’t have any formal training or awareness of the needs to support them in the right way. In the hospitality industry, one always goes an extra mile to satisfy their guests, and this was going to be the turning point and they would have to go that extra mile as employers to support this initiative. Therefore, it was not very difficult to get the assent of everyone, because they understood that this would be a great opportunity for them to learn and start a sort of a revolution in the hospitality industry.

They decided to hire their first candidate to work at the “Heart of the house” (which means working at the back areas of the hotel and not facing guests). The hiring process was crucial and needed a lot of thought. They started by interviewing the candidate and the parents to understand the skills he possessed, previous work experience (if any) and the processes they needed to implement to set up the right working atmosphere for him.

When asked if the appointment of a Person of Determination was short or long term, Prajwal said they had a few considerations. If the POD did not have prior work experience, he recommends short term employment, generally 6 months. This is to make sure that both the employer and the employee fit in.  Once both parties are comfortable, the employment contract could be extended. He has followed this practice so far, and it seems to have worked well.

It is challenging to change the work environment for an individual, so we asked Prajwal how did they bridge the gap between the employees and the recruited Person of determination. Prajwal replied that when he hired the first POD, he decided to create a flyer to inform all employees in the company about the new “Special” employee. He also sent out a few video links for employees to understand the diagnosis and the requirements.  Prior to the new joiner starting work, the Management team met all employees in the department that the Person of Determination would work, to explain the way to communicate, on expectations, and on ensuring one person would be a “Buddy” to the POD. Once the POD started working, the HR department monitored the progress and the comfort to ensure it was working in the right manner.

Prajwal very fondly shares that he takes pride that they hired the first person in 2019, and over time they have successfully hired four more. These PoDs have a range of disabilities and have been allocated to different departments in the hotel. Prajwal is confident that hospitality is the right place to support this employment. He feels that if every hotel agrees to hire one person to start with, they can cross a big milestone in supporting PODs and their parents who are always exploring to find a secure future for their children. He has observed over time that the PODs are very happy to work, and they show great dedication in their daily duties.

We asked him to share a success story with us. Prajwal mentioned that there are a few success stories, and he recalls one of them. Prajwal says he received a CV and contacted the family. He came to know that this person had lived in Dubai from a very young age, but had to leave a few years ago as he was not able to get a visa to stay in the U.A.E. His sister mentioned that he was in his home country and was not engaged in any activity, which made him sad.  She wanted him to come to Dubai and stay with her. There were so many emotions behind this. It impacted Prajwal immensely and he decided to assist them. He immediately set up an online interview, spoke to the candidate and realized that he could fit into their hotel.  An employment contract for 6 months was prepared, and the candidate was flown in.  He was assigned to a department, and he began his journey with them. It took some time for him to settle in and for the team to understand his capabilities. Prajwal felt a sense of fulfillment, when he saw a beautiful smile on the boy’s face every morning. He is dedicated and very happy at work. His family is very happy that he has been given this opportunity. Prajwal emotionally says that it completes the puzzle or the circle!

Nisha Tandon

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