Driving internal engagement and innovation through diversity and inclusion

March 26, 2024 | 17:06
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Businesses are striving to promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace as well as in wider society. Realising this requires a consistent approach, specific strategy, and long-term commitment. So, what should businesses pay attention to and what role does a culture of diversity and inclusion play in the growth of an organisation?

Diversity and inclusion are core values that ensure each individual is culturally and socially accepted and integrated into the workplace despite their differences in background, education, perspective, and many more factors.

A diverse and inclusive workplace can draw from a bigger talent pool and can help increase employee engagement and trust, promote innovation and creativity.

According to a 2021 Forbes article, companies with a diverse workforce are 35 per cent more likely to experience greater financial returns than their respective non-diverse counterparts, and as Harvard Business Review put it, "The most-diverse enterprises are also the most innovative."

Each business and organisation will have different strategies for building and promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion. A shared pattern is that those strategies are people-centred, respecting the differences of each individual.

One strategy is to integrate diversity and inclusion into business goals and success measurement.

Driving internal engagement and innovation through diversity and inclusion

At BAT Vietnam, 'Truly Inclusive' is one of six values, the compass for all business activities and people’s behaviours. The company embraces and celebrates differences through a diverse workforce, removing prejudices and biases, and evokes a sense of belonging. BAT’s people are curious and have the right to say what they think, and they are encouraged to debate constructively and progress together.

BAT Vietnam had achieved 45 per cent female representation in its management population, supervisor level and above, by the of 2023.

The business has also implemented training on 'Mastering Inclusion', completed by every member of its management, that covers crucial topics such as 'Embracing Inclusion', 'Authenticity at Work', 'Bias Awareness', 'Understanding Privilege', and 'Conscious Decision-making'.

A management team well-versed in inclusion and authenticity can lead by example throughout the organisation. This can positively impact team dynamics, collaboration, overall employee satisfaction, and engagement.

In addition, BAT Vietnam establishes its business strategies by fostering new ideas from employees through its annual company-wide 'Line of Sight' conference, functional workshops, or a digital platform that enables employees to share their ideas on simplification, automation, digitalisation, and process enhancement.

The company has also built a feedback culture that emphasises regular feedback loops, monthly catch-ups, skip-level meetings, and bi-annual surveys to cultivate ongoing communication, trust, and continuous improvement​.

By organising engagement events such as 'Cultural Diversity Day', 'International Women's Day', 'Wellness Day', and 'International Men's Day', the organisation aims to foster a persistent dialogue around diversity and inclusion.

Driving internal engagement and innovation through diversity and inclusion
Cultural Diversity Day at BAT Vietnam

A diversity and inclusion strategy could go beyond the norm by respecting and supporting employees’ demands on career development based on their life stages.

This would aim to create a psychologically safe culture where people thrive because of, not despite, their personal differences and circumstances. Considering employees’ personal life goals and business goals helps a business offer customised development plans and benefits.

BAT Vietnam is one of the six pilot markets in BAT Group to implement this strategy. In 2023, the company piloted and conducted 50 life stage conversations for its employees, which enabled the company to gain valuable insight into the different priorities of each employee.

Besides such internal activities, a business can promote diversity and inclusion through supporting underprivileged individuals and households.

A specific activity might be to combat the under-representation of women in business by offering training, economic development, and raising awareness of social issues to promote gender equality.

At BAT Vietnam, for instance, the 'Women’s Empowerment' initiative, in collaboration with the Women's Union of Duc Hue district, Long An province, offers 40 underrepresented women in border areas interest-free loans to improve their economic conditions. After two years, among the 40 households, there were 11 households running small business, two households working as food and beverage suppliers, and 27 households raising livestock and poultry.

In addition, the Women's Union also coordinated with Agricultural Extension Officers to organise the transfer of technology for crops and livestock to these households and cooperative groups. The Union also encouraged these 40 households not to get involved in tobacco or illicit activities.

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