Sparkling results from disabled employees!

Blue diamond
(image courtesy of

I read with fascination this article in the Harvard Business Review, and although it is about a company in India rather than the UK, the principles are transferable. For the full story please refer to the article, but here are the main points.

Gitanjali Gems is one of the largest and fastest-growing diamond and jewellery businesses in the world. Gitanjali Group is a $1 billion company with a presence in US, UK, Belgium, China, Japan and India.  It pioneered the concept of branded diamonds in India, and has multiple brands for different markets and price segments.

Gitanjali Gems set up a new diamond-cutting, polishing and jewellery-making business in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in southern India. There were some HR challenges to be faced. There were no people available who were trained in the required skills, the costs of training new people were very high, and due to the intense concentration required for this work, the drop-out rate was high, making production costs spiral.

Where to find employees who, once trained, would stay loyal to the company? As a CSR initiative the company embarked on a programme to employ disabled young people living in rural communities.  The company soon discovered they had gained a workforce of loyal employees, with less attrition and higher productivity compared to other firms. Today, 280 of their 2500 workforce are disabled young people.

The increased loyalty and higher performance of these young people has made sourcing, training and hiring disabled people no longer just a CSR intiative but an integral part of Gitanjali Gem’s talent management strategy. As they expand to hiring 5,000 people in the next two years, the plan is to ensure at least 1,000 of them are disabled, according to Deepan Shah, their Sr. VP of Operations.

In 2009 they won a best employer award for hiring disabled people, but the real rewards came from the increased productivity and performance, decreased attrition (1% compared to 10 – 15% from other groups), a great PR boost and a much more compassionate workplace.

It is hoped that this model can be replicated in other companies across India, giving hope to some of the 20 million disabled people who live there.

See here for the full story.


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