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Managing Better Relationship With Our Helpers: Lessons From A Business Accelerator Program

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Last month Helper4U.Ingot selected for the “Business Accelerator Program For Women-Led Small & Growing Businesses in Mumbai by Technoserve & Blackstone Charitable Trust”. Besides mentoring by business leaders, the program entails a 2-month workshop with fellow women entrepreneurs at SP Jain College Mumbai. I looked forward to the program hoping that it will give insights into some pertinent issues related to my Job Seekers. And the first session itself led the way to the clearing of the Helpers.

Our biggest challenge so far has been to get people from slums to work for us. We had thought it would be a cakewalk to reach people in slums: people living in slums would lap up the opportunity to work among people they stay with. But, we soon found that people across age, gender or financial strata wanted to work in “a nice office”.

Everyone aspired to get out of the slum, even if it came at the cost of earning lesser. Then what they could earn with us. One of my data collection agents, for example, let us work in a call center, at a 25% lesser salary than she was getting with us. Ms. Veena Mankar, our mentor, said she had faced exactly the same challenge. And for her, the way to deal with it was not just giving more money, but also offering some non-salary based human connect.

Her microfinance company, for example, offers all-expense-paid vacation for her employees. Her partner often takes care of the school admission of the children of her employees.

This led to the emphasis on the fact that for this segment respect as a human is important retention. Since they have no apparent control over the money, the education they have. They greatly value what they can control: the respect they get. So, as a domestic employer if you too want to have a long-lasting relationship with your helpers, just treat them with respect, as a fellow equal human.

The second lesson of the day was how lack of education & consequently exposure impacts how they do their job.

We have often had employers tell us that house helpers do not turn up on the promised time for an interview. Take full days off even when there is a death or marriage of someone in the neighborhood. The discussion during the session clarified that this is not because they don’t value their jobs. But because they have simply never been exposed to or counseled about the consequences of their actions.

All that is needed is to show them the calculation of what they will miss for each extra day off. How they can accumulate and use paid leaves, and a simple explanation about the impression they leave on an employer if they don’t turn up at the promised time. We have tried this for the last ten days, with encouraging results.

This is a big learning for us at Helper4U. We are now looking to find some way of educating the Job Seekers about the seemingly unimportant soft skills. This could be in the form of counseling at the time of registration. Later through the use of SMS, or short interactions in their colonies. We might even conduct very short Home to Employer programs for them, like the Campus to Corporate programs. That is so popular among the educated youth.

Please do drop me an mail on if you have any suggestions on improving the employer-employee relationship in the domestic segment.

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