New opportunities

Kochi Metro’s new transgender employees cannot wait to get on board

The Metro, which will go operational soon, will offer contracts to 23 transgenders and 780 women from a self-help group.

The Kochi Metro, which is set to start operations in June, is expected to decongest the roads of Kerala’s busiest city and financial hub to a great extent. But beyond its role as a provider of mass public trasport, it has also emerged as the country’s first government agency to offer employment to transgenders.

The Kochi Metro Rail Limited – a special-purpose vehicle created by the state government for the implementation, operation and maintenance of the Metro – will offer contracts to 23 transgenders and 780 women from a prominent self-help group before it commences full operations. Some 77 women have already started working as cleaning staff and the remaining appointments will be finalised soon. The hired personnel will be deployed for housekeeping, ticketing, customer relations and gardening and at the coach-depot canteen.

The company has signed a three-year contract with Kudumbashree Mission, a self-help group supported by the state government, to ensure jobs for women and transgenders.

Selection process

Soon after signing the deal with the Kochi Metro in February, Kudumbashree Mission launched a recruitment drive to select 780 women. It accepted applications from members and their relatives in Ernakulam district.

“We expected a maximum of 10,000 applications but were surprised to receive 42,000,” said Dilraj KR, project manager of the Ernakulam District Kudumbashree Mission who is liaising with the Kochi Metro. “As many as 39,400 candidates attended a test held in 100 schools in Ernakulam in a single day,” he added. “This was followed by an interview.”

Explaining how the organisation then finalised the candidates, he said, “We gave preference to members of families whose land has been acquired for the Metro, widows, those who have to look after mentally-ill and cancer patients, and women who are subjected to assaults during the hiring process.”

The new recruits have been assigned jobs on the basis of their educational qualifications. Graduates have been given the responsibility of being team leaders while those who have completed Class 12 have been deployed as ticket counter operators and customer care executives. Those who have studied up till Class 8 will join the housekeeping and cleaning departments.

Of the 23 transgenders who have made the cut, six will work as ticket vendors and the rest as housekeeping staff.

Women recruits of Kochi Metro at a soft-skills training programme. (Credit: Kudumbashree Mission)
Women recruits of Kochi Metro at a soft-skills training programme. (Credit: Kudumbashree Mission)

Raring to go

The women and transgender employees have already received training on honing their soft skills and dealing with workplace challenges. While the Kudumbashree Mission members attended a three-day session, a month-long training programme was organised for the transgender group at the Rajagiri School of Social Sciences in Ernakulam.

Team leader Arya Mohan has high hopes for her new job. “ I consider it an honour to be part of an important infrastructure project in Kerala,” said the 27-year-old from Angamaly in Ernakulam. “I am indebted to Kudumbashree Mission. I had struggled to find a job in my home town after completing graduation in biomedical engineering. Now I hope to build a new life.”

She added, “I will be leading a team in the housekeeping department, and the training has given me the confidence to work well.”

Mohan also said the fact that most of the employees are from a single organisation will work to their advantage, adding that the Kudumbashree Mission members are all aware of the importance of teamwork. “All the women are from Kudumbashree Mission, so we will excel as a team,” she said.

Trangender Jasmine is excited about earning a fixed income for the first time in her life. “I feel liberated,” she said. “All these years, I have been subjected to a lot of bad experiences. Society cursed the transgender community. I am happy to see that society has now agreed to our right to live.”

Jasmine, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, said the training was a memorable experience for her. “It was for the first time that I sat in a classroom that had only members of the transgender community,” she said. “No one was there to humiliate us. I improved my communication skills after attending the training. I am ready to handle the ticketing section at any of the stations.”

The women from Kudumbashree Mission said they look forward to working with their transgender colleagues. “We are aware of the rights of transgenders,” said Arya Mohan. “We will give them all our support. We will grow with Kochi Metro together.”

A report in The Hindu quoted Elias George, managing director of Kochi Metro Rail Limited, as saying: “We would like to give members of the transgender community their rightful share in different jobs at stations. There will be no discrimination between them and women workers.” He added, “The Metro agency is the first government-owned company in India to formally appoint them. I hope other firms in Kerala give them a respectable opportunity to work.”

For now, all the new employees are waiting for the Metro to start its services. The first phase of the Rs 5,181-crore project – a 13-km stretch from Aluva to Palarivattom – received a safety certificate from the commissioner for Metro rail safety on Monday. Upon completion, the Metro will cover a distance of 25 km with 22 stations.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.