Earlier this month, the CSR team organised a Diversity & Inclusivity workshop for the Bahrain HR team, facilitated by our CSR partner, 3BL.
At BMMI, we know inclusivity is more than just good business or something nice to have, but simply common sense. We aim to push the envelope in order to build an even better working environment for all our employees in all our areas of operation; this is embedded in our DNA and an important component of our 2020 Group strategy.
We are focused on fostering an inclusive working environment to better leverage and celebrate our existing diversity. Naturally, the right step forward was setting up the Diversity & Inclusivity Champions' workshop, with a ‘train the trainers’ kind of approach.
What is normally a two-day workshop, was condensed to an intense eight hour session at the Westin Hotel in Bahrain. The workshop kicked off with a discussion of the business case for diversity and inclusion; followed by a clear understanding of the underlying concepts behind diversity, equal opportunity and inclusion. It continued on to explore more serious issues of unconscious biases and discussing more sensitive topics like millennials and women in the workplace, sparking some very interesting debate. In order to be inclusive we must stress here that diversity is not only about discussing certain groups like women, the differently-abled or millennials but, rather, it is about sharing some of the realities and improving our own understanding.
Interestingly, the issue of unconscious bias was an eye-opener for almost all of the participants. Before the session, the participants took part in Harvard University’s Implicit Associate Test. With an addition of an unconscious bias exercise during the workshop as well, this helped each individual to better understand their feelings and thoughts outside the realm of conscious awareness. The goal here was to better understand hidden biases that unconsciously and negatively affect our behaviour and interactions. Therefore, we can start to witness change when awareness leads to self-correcting behaviour.
It is necessary to point out that bias is not only applicable to the dimensions of race, religion, gender, age, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, disabilities and medical conditions; but also to secondary dimensions that are not necessarily obvious such digital competence or communication style.
Through a combination of several activities, real life case studies, self-awareness and role playing exercises, our employees were able to transform acquired awareness into inclusive behaviour. These activities also included a mock meeting aimed to identify micro-inequities (small acts of disrespect), a brainstorming/doodling session and even a blindfolded ‘Socratic’ dialogue.
Inclusion is the key to leveraging our strengths and individual characteristics. A diverse workforce has numerous advantages. Differences in perspectives and backgrounds fuel creativity and provide multiple angles on problem solving, allowing diversity of thought and preventing groupthink. In addition, it adds value through increased collaboration, team commitment, and a greater intent to stay. It is also crucial externally in terms of better understanding customer needs. Diverse team members can more easily understand the broader needs of wider society.
By the end of the workshop everyone gave reflections on how they imagined a more inclusive BMMI to be along with developing ‘strategies for sharing action’. Everyone agreed that it is absolutely crucial to create a more inclusive and positive environment that focuses on celebrating our differences and sharing success rather than competing. Ask yourself, ‘can I be happy for other people when they succeed?’ Take part and cheer for other people’s success and work collaboratively for the greater good of the group.
In order to streamline inclusivity within the entire group, it has to stem from the top. Managers are responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion through empowerment, reducing rigid policies, increasing flexibility, accepting individuality, emphasising the values of Winning Hearts ‘one team, one heart’, and promoting forums that focus on broader reach.
From a CSR perspective, the workshop was crucial in terms of giving us the confidence to go ahead with implementing change whether that is through policy implementation or pushing for future initiatives, such as setting up a Diversity Council or a Wellness Program directed at our African operations.
“We believe the most important outcome was starting the conversation with the key influencers when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusivity. Now, diversity and inclusivity are more than just this mystical goal in a Success Factors cloud somewhere but something the team believes they can influence,” says Yasmin Hussain, Brand, Communications and CSR manager. "Indeed, this is where we would like to see change as ‘Diversity and Inclusivity is integrated with our SMART goals after further discussion and alignment with the HR team’ she added.
The Senior Leadership Group (SLG) is also delighted that we are directing our efforts to make a difference when it comes to doing the right thing, moving forward for the better of the Group. Gordon Boyle, President & CEO, stressed on the fact that we are still far from reaching our vision. “While I am very pleased with the change in mind-set we are establishing, we still have a very long way to go in order to reach where we need to be,” he said.