By: Bernard Matryis, Chief of Human Resources in VFS Global
2020 has been an eye-opener of sorts for individuals, businesses and communities at large, disrupting entire systems of functioning and/or creating new ways of adapting to everyday situations. From a D&I lens, the world has witnessed how working women have faced the pressures of managing their careers alongside a curtailed or non-existent support system for months on end. That has certainly highlighted and led to a renewed appreciation for these multi-tasking abilities.
While profitability is usually prioritised during such challenging times, this time, we are seeing a shift in this trend as more and more organisations are focused on operating a sustainable business that add value for all stakeholders.
The pandemic has proven how collaboration and innovation have made it possible to overcome challenges. As we navigate the future to operate profitable enterprises through innovative operational practices, I feel there will be equal focus on being a good corporate citizen and collaborating with the communities by being a true progress partner.
Diverse and Inclusive Companies Drive Innovative Results
For truly sustainable business practices, Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) plays an important role, especially in organisations like ours which are heavily dependent on human resources. With a workforce comprised of more than 135 nationalities, D&I has always been a priority for us at VFS Global and will continue to remain so.
That said, I feel D&I should not be limited to the recruitment strategy alone. At VFS Global, we believe in fostering an inclusive workplace where diversity reflects in our day-to-day business processes and operations including learning & development, employee engagement, decision making and product innovation.
Organisations need to have clearly defined diversity-related goals or KPIs at every level, and processes to monitor staff demographics and trends. It is also important to ensure equal opportunities are provided to employees irrespective of their gender or ethnicity, while maintaining a meritocratic approach.
Our Code of Conduct and ‘Equal Opportunities Policy’ clearly defines VFS Global’s commitment to ensuring equal opportunities at the workplace, and reiterates the importance of being empathetic towards one another irrespective of one’s race, religion, belief, nationality, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability, and on maintaining respect at the workplace in all the interactions with our co-workers.
Collaborating with local communities or leveraging government programmes is another way to build solid partnerships with your stakeholders, which will provide a competitive advantage.
In Saudi Arabia, VFS Global encourages Saudi student interns to opt for careers in our organisation helping the Saudi government’s Saudization initiative, which aims to increase employment of Saudi nationals in the private sector. In 2019, we had over 60 qualified Saudi national interns who were provided training to improve their skills and competencies.
Rethinking our D&I Approach
While D&I policies are now a basic requirement at many organisation, it is important to create synergies between policy and practice, and create a culture of true inclusivity in day-to-day interactions of an organisations. In this effort, commitment from the leadership is critical for driving and advancement of diversity and inclusion, whilst making sure everyone in the organisation contributes and adds value to the agenda.
Organisations can overcome diversity-related challenges when business leaders take it upon themselves to establish a culture that will provide opportunities for every individual to contribute.
To ensure effective last-mile delivery of these messages, it is important to have a robust communication strategy so that the D&I agenda is driven effectively within the organisation. It is the responsibility of all employees, irrespective of the role or level, to promote an inclusive culture. This can be achieved by effective communication and training initiatives to educate employees and build awareness and knowledge on diversity and inclusion.
Diversity networks play an important role in shaping the D&I practices within an organisation. They are a great way to drive employee engagement and create an opportunity for employees to discuss matters surrounding D&I within the workplace.
For VFS Global, our very demographic make-up is a reminder that diversity of thought is the essence of a healthy, entrepreneurial organisation, and our diverse culture is an important driver of our success.
As part of our 2021 D&I Strategy, we will soon be launching our own Women’s Network – the first diversity network of VFS Global. The Network will offer a platform for our women colleagues to build connections and network, and also provide resources to support their career growth and personal development.
Organisations need to pay particular attention to biases related to protected characteristics like gender, age, disability, race or religion. Several countries have established laws that protect employees from discrimination at workplace based on some of these characteristics. A strong communication campaign around these topics can help create awareness as well.
These robust D&I measures – a true synergy of policy and practice – can go a long way in building an inclusive workplace culture.