BAT Vietnam focuses on diversity and inclusion

June 09, 2023 | 16:01
(0) user say
Employers and business leaders around the world have been trying to predict how diversity and inclusion (D&I) trends impact work cultures. Hamzah Fazal, head of Talent, Culture & Inclusion, BAT Vietnam talked with VIR’s Bich Ngoc about his views.

Could you please share why D&I is so important?

BAT Vietnam focuses on diversity and inclusion
Hamzah Fazal, head of Talent, Culture & Inclusion, Vietnam Cluster at BAT

D&I has evolved dramatically over the years. The world is constantly evolving, and individual identity has become critical. What this essentially means is that talents now prioritise their personal identity concurrently over their corporate identity. People now value their individual identity a lot more than they did 20 years ago, people used to adapt to the company values and identity while suppressing their own. To be relevant in this age, organisations need to create space for diverse talent with diverse identities.

From the organisational perspective, diversity is what allows us to be innovative. It brings new ideas and creativity, which would not be possible with a standard or homogeneous view. It simultaneously also allows us to understand our consumers better because consumers are diverse, they have different need and wants, different ways of thinking.

A diverse workforce helps us capture these nuances and leverage them. A diverse set of employees is also more likely and better prepared to challenge the status quo, due to the constructive debate and critical discussion that arises from different ways of seeing things.

A workforce from diverse backgrounds, with different perspectives and experiences, is crucial to attracting and retaining employees and consumers, as well as providing to suppliers and partners.

Businesses can only reapthe benefits of a diverse workforce if they create an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued, can be their authentic selves, and feel a sense of belonging.

People are looking for experiences that add value to their lives. If you are not giving them a breadth of experiences to learn from, then they are not going to see your organisation as one to join. D&I are interconnected, and businesses should simultaneously drive their efforts across both these areas, not focusing on only one of them.

Why does BAT Vietnam put such a focus on D&I?

At BAT, we believe that fostering D&I is integral to our success and is a critical component of our global strategy, transcending geographical boundaries, including Vietnam.

Our unwavering commitment to cultivating a culture where everyone, irrespective of gender, background, or ethnicity, has equal opportunities and access to the support they require, sets us apart as a leader in the corporate world. This isn’t something we just say, it’s part of the company ethos, and it permeates every single goal that the company sets out to accomplish.

Our dedication to promoting D&I is embedded in our guiding principles, shaping the very foundation of our organisation.

We recognise the importance of implementing comprehensive policies and practices that reflect our commitment to D&I, and we consistently strive to improve these to drive meaningful change within our company.

What is BAT Vietnam doing to accelerate D&I adoption?

Our leaders at all levels are committed to meeting the challenging targets of building a diverse and inclusive workplace, including 45 per cent of management positions filled by women by 2025.

We are also one of the leaders in championing a holistic diversity framework, where we strive to create an environment where people, despite their differences and personal circumstances, can feel supported.

We frequently host honest discussions and awareness sessions through special occasions, quarterly town-hall meetings, or monthly company events.

BAT focuses on diversity and inclusion

Internally, we have launched multiple policies and programmes aimed at supporting the needs of our diverse workforce, such as the employee assistant scheme and flexible working policy. Externally, we are making efforts to coach and upskill female students in STEM through our university engagements. More female students than ever before are now aware of career opportunities at BAT and are more confident to apply. So much so, that we’re already starting to see encouraging results in our gender diversity numbers.

Our senior-level management in Vietnam comprises 46 per cent women, and our overall female management stands at 42 per cent. In our bi-annual employee engagement survey, the category “Diversity and Inclusion” received favourable responses from 89 per cent of employees, compared to 76 per cent in other global fast-moving consumer goods companies.

BAT Vietnam is also proud to be a member of the Vietnam Corporate Pride Network, a network that runs local and national inclusion programmes for the LGBTQI community.

Could you please share BAT's achievements in D&I?

Globally, BAT has a goal of reaching 45 per cent female representation across every grade and every management level.

Vietnam is one of the six pilot markets where we're launching our D&I frameworks which not only focus on gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, but also on life cycle stages. The initiative aims to create a psychologically safe culture where people thrive thanks to, not despite, their personal differences and circumstances.

Other than that, we are continually communicating to our employees about D&I. With the ever-evolving nature of this topic, it is essential that our employees understand and believe in this agenda. With that in mind, we have been organising various engagement and communication events focusing on D&I, such as a panel discussion with our regional director about the different career needs for people at different life stages, or our recent Cultural Diversity Day, where we celebrated our diverse workforce and learned about each other's backgrounds. These are just two examples of a full year of events that we have planned.

Are there any innovative ways that BAT Vietnam has embedded D&I in the work culture?

We approach D&I from multiple angles. For example, advocating female talent, especially where there is still a societal bias against women in manufacturing and sales activities.

We have implemented processes and governance throughout the employee lifecycle to minimise biases and ensure people are recruited, developed, and promoted purely on merit.

It’s important for businesses to recognise that D&I isn’t achieved through a 'once-and-done' process. It needs continuous refinement and adjustment by raising awareness, mastering inclusion training, and constant communication via D&I sessions with senior management.

What does BAT Vietnam's D&I strategy for the future look like?

We are committed to having at least 45 per cent of our management roles filled by women by 2025. We relentlessly strive to create a consistently high-trust, psychologically safe workplace experience for everyone. Furthermore, we are aiding employees to better align their work into their life goals through customised career pathways with a flexible way of working.

Bringing benefits to business via diversity policies Bringing benefits to business via diversity policies

Vietnam has made great strides in protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and with gay and lesbian people able to openly disclose their sexual orientation, evidence exists that this can only benefit society – even in an economic sense.

Promoting workplace gender equality and diversity in Vietnam Promoting workplace gender equality and diversity in Vietnam

Cooperation between civil society organisations and enterprises in gender equality, diversity and inclusion is expected to promote gender advancement and create a better working environment for the bisexual, gay and transgender community in Vietnam, according to a recent workshop.

Australia advances gender equality and social inclusion Australia advances gender equality and social inclusion

Up to 100 professionals from Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport attended a five-day workshop in early November to mainstream gender equality and social inclusion across the transport sector.

Cisco Vietnam promotes diversity and inclusion in tech field Cisco Vietnam promotes diversity and inclusion in tech field

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, managing director of Cisco Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia Luong Thi Le Thuy shared her thoughts with VIR's Thanh Van about the role of women in the tech industry.

By Binh An

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional