Believe it. Live it! Focusing on our employees’ welfare by Tanweer Rahimun

It all started 20 years ago, with an advertisement in the newspaper for a temporary position.

Today, it’s rare to find a person around BMMI who has not interacted with or learned a valuable lesson from Tanweer Rahimun…or at least tasted her legendary ‘karak’ tea.

Tanweer, lovingly called ‘Tan’ by her colleagues, joined BMMI in 1997 for what was meant to be a temporary role. Since then, her hard work, dedication and positive attitude have made her a dynamic force at BMMI. Over the past 20 years, she has worked across various divisions of the business, dealing with people across our operations. From her first position as a temporary Executive Secretary, she has risen up the ranks to be BMMI’s Welfare Manager in the Human Resources department.

The Corporate Communications team recently sat down to learn more about Tanweer’s journey and what lessons she learned throughout the last two decades.

With the many different positions you’ve held at BMMI, it seems that you jumped at every opportunity to take on challenges.

Oh yes, I never shy away from a challenge. I was also motivated by my managers who pushed me to take risks and go into unknown territory to help grow my career. I mean, initially my background was in nursing, so that was all new to me at the time anyhow!

Wait…did you say your background was in nursing?

Yes! When I first left Mauritius, it was because I wanted to be a nurse. I was a nursing student in the UK and worked part time for a year. When I went back to Mauritius, I had an opportunity to come to Bahrain, and I took it. Although that’s where my nursing career ended, when I go to a hospital now it still feels like I’m at home…I love the smell of disinfectant and the hustle and bustle.

Do you ever look back and wish you did things differently?

Not at all. I am happy with who and where I am. My nursing experience taught me skills that I still use today. I learned how to not get side-tracked and how not to panic in any situation. I learned a lot about multitasking because you have to work long hours and you always have to be aware. I use this precision in my work now too.

Also, my work has always been about people, fore and foremost. Whether it’s nursing or HR, which has become my life’s passion. As a nurse, you learn a lot about dealing with people’s psychology. You have to know the right way to talk to people, how to be nice and how to be presentable. You have to be welcoming to patients and their relatives. All of these skills have helped me tremendously when working with employees.  Also, I was recently able to help save a stranger’s life on the street with emergency CPR and resuscitation – so those are skills I feel blessed to have!

So, as a Welfare Manager, it’s still all about people for you?

Absolutely. We focus on employee relations. We really want to make people feel happy and engaged. We think about how we can encourage loyalty to the company. For me, loyalty starts with happiness. I can give you excellent facilities or tools, but if you don’t have a good environment…if people aren’t good to each to each other, you’ll eventually leave. A fancy office is great, but if you’re not happy, what will make you stay? Our focus should always be on trying to create this environment of happiness and to nurture it.

So you’ve been here for 20 years, what helped nurture your loyalty and dedication?

You know it’s important to feel your work is getting recognised. If you don’t get that push, and if you don’t feel that there are doors opening for you and that you are able to grow, it is hard to remain in the same place for so long. Managers have to recognise this and always help develop their employees.

But there is also something that I’ve always told myself throughout my career. You need to be adventurous, challenge yourself, dive in and take on more responsibilities. Don’t be hesitant and say ‘I might not get anything out of this’ or ‘or I am not up to this’. Yes, it will be difficult and it will be different, but do not allow that to become an obstacle.  You always need to try to see how you can find a gain-gain situation out of whatever challenge comes your way – I mean life is not always a bed of roses! It really is all about gaining as much experience as you can.

Have you felt like all your diverse experiences are what got you where you are today? 

Yes, I do. I began working in a humble position and I took every challenge on board. I believe that opportunity and income will increase the harder you work and the more you are willing to put yourself out there. You know, good managers see how hardworking you are and they will realise you deserve to be compensated for it. Yes, some managers are more in tune with this than others, but I feel that most will appreciate their employees’ efforts. Sometimes you need to remind them, but if you don’t push yourself, how can you expect to really reach anywhere?

As a manager yourself, how do you try to spread the message of happiness and recognition to other employees?

For me, I try to be a role model. I believe that if you live a certain value, people will be drawn to you like a magnet and your employees will try to emulate you. I see this with my own team. They are very genuine and they help people with a smile. If I, as just one person, was able to infect them with this attitude, how many people will they be able to influence themselves? If you treat others genuinely and honestly, if you’re transparent and you try your best to help and spread knowledge, well it is more likely that they will respond in a similar way! I honestly also believe that being humble and having humility will really drive you forward.

How is that?

Humbleness and humility are two very dear values to me. I still think fondly of those early days in my career when I was making a small income. I truly learned a lot and I recognise how those times helped me get a foothold to be able to keep climbing the ladder. I mean, we aren’t all born with a silver spoon, we all have to start somewhere. We all have our own difficulties and hassles in life, one way or the other, and we can’t compare ourselves to others.

My mother used to tell me that what you earn in your right hand, you need to spend the same amount or less with your left hand. You might be in the position of your dream now, but what happens if that changes unexpectedly? It can be easy to forget where you started off or how you’ve struggled in the beginning of your career. Sometimes people act as if they suddenly reached where they are and they forget what it was they used to be doing. It’s like they forget about empathy and respect. Those are two crucial components of our culture here at BMMI. To truly be a part of the team, you have to feel for others, support each other and always treat people with respect and genuine gratitude.

With twenty years at BMMI under your belt, what is your vision for the future of yourself and your team?

There has been a lot of change in BMMI across the years. We moved from local to international, from smaller to large, and much more diversified. When it comes to the HR team, I believe we are much better now than we ever were. We are more connected and more involved. We are not just playing an administrative role, we are true business partners. This helps us understand the businesses’ and employees’ needs much better than we did before.

BMMI’s true values lies in its people and talent – we are nothing without them. We need to make sure we give them the right opportunities to grow and to recruit and retain the right people. We need to continue on focusing on maintaining and improving on this great corporate culture of ours, because in the end, that is what will make people stay. For me personally, I want to leave a mark. I want to be remembered for many years to come and know that I have truly made a difference.

What does leaving a mark look like to you? 

Well, when I retire one day and I see people outside work, I would love to know they are continuing doing and praising initiatives that I have had a part in starting.  Even simple things, such as the HR breakfast that we have every Thursday and that is open to all employees. I’ve also made lifetime friends working here.  I’ve helped train and develop people, and when I leave here I want to still be a mentor to them and I want people to remember me with a smile as someone who has had a positive impact on their lives.

What do you tell yourself every day when you come into work in order to make this vision a reality?

I tell myself to always do my best and to be there for everyone as a major source of support. I remind myself that I am a colleague and friend to my team, and not just their manager. I step in and help when I can – there is no task that is beneath me getting involved in, especially if it will help someone out. Another part of that is keeping my eyes open and my ears to the ground. People talk, and you should listen and never shut them out, no matter what. Perhaps you can recognise an opportunity for someone to flourish further in another department, role or division. Help them out and you will be empowering them to succeed to their best ability.

Again, I always remind myself to be humble. I always think aloud with my team and I constantly ask them for feedback, both about my own way of dealing with things and also how we can improve as a team. I’ve never been ashamed or scared of asking questions or asking for help. And I try to encourage people around me to take the same approach. We aren’t all born knowing everything, we are constantly learning. There is no shame in that, in fact, as a learning organisation it should be a way of life.

One more thing, always ask people if they are happy and how you can help make them happier. Happy employees make for a successful business and a thriving team – in the end, that’s what matters most.