Overcoming the Employment Gap - Training, Teaching, and Empowerment
This article has been written in collaboration with Broomees
Among the many challenges that COVID-19 has brought forth, one is the employment gap that it has created in the informal sector due to lack of knowledge about the safety protocols among the workers. It is important to bridge this gap by providing them with training on basic hygiene and safety measures so that the spread of the coronavirus can be prevented. While a lot of us have the option of working from homes, a lot of workers do not have so. Going to different houses for working makes them more susceptible to the virus and we must ensure that they are educated about the steps that they can take to reduce the risk of catching the infection. To understand this better, we interviewed the Co-Founders of Broomees, a Delhi-based virtual platform that trains workers and provides many at-home services like domestic help, driver, gardener etc. From management styles to overcoming the employment gap to taking care of mental health, this article covers all the aspects one needs to keep in mind while working with daily-wage earners.
1) To begin with, please describe the management style of Broomees.
Our management style is very simple and close to our heart – we scout people who deserve good working conditions, find clients who need an unparalleled service, and connect them with each other. Our aim is to upskill our workforce. If the person looking for work is skilled or semi-skilled, we provide them with basic COVID-19 & hygiene training. On the other hand, if the person is not skilled, we train them from scratch and ensure that they are ready to service the client’s request just like any other trained helper. We, as founders, do not discriminate on any basis and believe in empowering everyone who’s looking for opportunities.
2) Under this situation when most of the workers have gone back to their homes and the ones in Delhi and finding it difficult to sustain, are you trying to contact the workers to help attain employment opportunities? If yes, then how? We agree that a lot of workers have gone back to their villages but at the same time, there is an equal number of workers who have stayed back in NCR to be able to provide for their families back in their home-towns. While their families went back as soon as trains and buses started plying, they stayed strong and took a leap of faith. Our intent is to give them what they deserve. We distribute pamphlets, stick posters, run online ads and of course rely on word-of-mouth. We have more than 50 workers calling us daily and we are putting in our sincere efforts to get them all employed.
3) Can you tell us about your training program? What measures are you taking to educate and ensure the safety of both your clients and workers?
There is basic etiquette training and pandemic training where helpers are taught how to conduct themselves and follow the precautions needed to stay safe in this pandemic. When they are going to serve the customers, they wear masks and use sanitizers.
Additionally, Broomees checks for all COVID-19 symptoms and also maintains a tracker. We train in very small batches of 10 helpers at a time and maintain social distancing at all times. We usually speak to helpers over the phone and get their Aadhar and police verification done through phone calls. The equipment is sanitized after frequent intervals. We also use gloves at all times to reduce the risk of transmission.
4) What steps have you included in your training program to deal with the employment gap created due to the lockdown lasting over three months?
To be honest, this gap of three months has actually made all helpers good at multi-tasking and they have all come out as very enterprising individuals! As mentioned earlier, the ones who are already trained find it relatively easy to get back into their arenas. The ones who’re not – well, they show a great amount of perseverance and we support them in every way we can when it comes to upskilling. Another factor working really well for us is that most people have started looking for permanent house-helps and not part-timers because nobody wants to take the risk of outside contact daily. This, again, is in line with our helpers’ expectations and they get job offers very rapidly. The ones who are not as skilled manage to get part-time work and one time jobs as well.
5) What are your key expectations from the workers you will employ now?
Our only expectation from our workers is that they work with us sincerely to get their sector organized at a time when it’s probably the least expected. We want them to learn new skills, adapt to the changes created by pandemic, value education and most of all – shift from hard work to smart work. We have seen gardeners become dog-walkers and car-cleaners become delivery professionals too! These are all incredible success stories which we are very proud of.
6) Does your training program take into consideration the mental health of your workers?
Yes, it does. Our volunteers have been taught to be extremely soft-spoken and gentle in the way they treat the helpers. We ensure that we get in touch with them once in a while on a call to ensure that they are doing okay. If you feel that things are going okay with them, or in case any worker wants to talk to us personally, we call them to our office or home and try to understand their situation. We understand that sometimes venting out your problems and having someone listen to them can make the person feel better and thus we always try to lend an empathetic ear. We also try our best to make our customers understand how important it is, especially now, to support the workers not just financially but emotionally, by having a little more patience and empathy than they probably had before. We feel that a little kindness goes a long way.
7) Finally, is there any suggestion for training programs you would like to give to other service providers like yours?
Every training institute has its own way of functioning. However, one thing that must remain constant for every company is to respect the people they’re working with. We all should keep in mind is that just like we are helping the workers, the workers are helping us too.
We must try to upskill them so that they get what they deserve while remembering that they have reached here by overcoming all the odds in their way. They’ve always kept our preferences over theirs; now it’s time for us to do the same.
Extending this topic further, I would like to suggest some measures that the employers can take to help the workers during the pandemic:
Provide them with proper protective equipment.
Give them paid leaves every once in a while so that they can take care of their family members.
Give them travel allowance to travel by autos or rickshaws or buy bicycles or bikes for them so that they do not have to use public transport and can limit their point of contact with strangers.
While ordering groceries for your home, order some for them as well. There is a chance that one or more of their family members might have been rendered unemployed due to the pandemic. Ensure that they have a basic supply of food.
Teach them how to take precautions at home as well. This will ensure their and their family’s safety as well as that of your family.
Remember that these workers have helped us overcome so many challenges in our lives and are working hard to give a basic standard of living to their family. They’ve made you a part of their extended family by being there for you; now it’s time for you to make them a part of yours.
By Shraddha Khurana Graphics by - Team Broomees