Bringing a 'broad spectrum' to DEI

British American Tobacco Australia focuses on boosting female representation

HRD Australia talks to Jamie Fellows, Area HR and Inclusion director at British American Tobacco Australia, an excellent awardee of the best Workplace Diversity and Inclusion program category at the Australian HR Awards 2022: “There's only one of my colleagues is a female and that just needs to get better. So we've got to do a better job of that and we've got to do that all the way through the organization.”

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Kylie: Hello and welcome to HRDTV. I'm Kylie Speer, and today I'm talking with Jamie Fellows, Area HR and Inclusion director at British American Tobacco Australia. BAT is an excellent awardee of the best Workplace Diversity and Inclusion program category at this year's Australian HR Awards 2022. Congratulations to you, Jamie, and thank you so much for joining us today. 

Jamie: Oh, thank you. Kylie It's great to be here. 

Kylie: Well, firstly, Jamie, what's the most important aspect of a successful DEI program? 

Jamie: Look for us, I think it's a number of topics. It's for starters, we really needed something that our employees would really appreciate and understand, and that meant having something that was reasonably broad spectrum. So we realized for us, diversity and inclusion means a number of different things to different people, particularly in that inclusion space. And you're trying to touch people to make this organization feel as inclusive as it possibly can. But also coupling that actually with some fairly simple, straightforward targets where we simply needed to do better. For us, that was particularly around female management, female number of employees, and simply focusing on making this a more attractive place to work for for females, whether that's our current employees or indeed making sure that we're bringing more women through the door at BAT. 

Kylie: How have employee expectations around DEI changed since the pandemic, and how do you expect them to continue to evolve in 2023? 

Jamie: I said, brilliant question, isn't it? I mean, the world is changing in front of our very eyes. Look, I think since the pandemic, we've clearly become very aware of the need to be more inclusive. From a flexibility perspective, I think it's probably sharpen the mind to realize that not all roles, not all time needs to be spent in the office. I think that's given us a huge opportunity as well actually, to to to address and review working patterns across the organization, which has actually made it easier for people to balance work and life, which I think has a particularly in this diversity and inclusion angle, is really advantageous when we're looking for people who have responsibilities outside of work. It's meant that it's been easier to blend those within and within BAT. We've really tried to codify some of that. One of the things we find is if you have a great manager, then often they find flexibility to be something that is simply a nature of being at work. On the other hand, what we've realized that it's required a huge upskilling a number of people who probably used what I would deem to assert traditional ways of working in opening up this new world. So we've introduced obviously hybrid, working within BAT, making sure that people have the opportunity to work from both home and the office. We've invested in equipment within for all of our Australian employees so they can find it easier to work from home because not everybody has a space that they can find it easy to work. And we've recently moved to no meeting days. We've moved to wellness wellness days in the month. And I dare I say we've got a flexibility and work from anywhere policy that we've put in place within BAT to really try and enforce codification of what I would call flexibility as how we work in BAT. 

Kylie: And Jamie at BAT, how have you championed DEI in the last year? 

Jamie: I'd like to think we've done that. We've done a pretty good job at this, where my role is, as you said at the very start, is is it's an area role. So I'm based here in Sydney and we've got a large number of our employees, as you expect, are across Australia. But I'm also also very privileged to look after Malaysia and Singapore, but also a number of South Pacific islands. What that's meant is we're able to expand our view of diversity across that base and within South East Asia, as we call it. We've been championing things like Chinese New Year, Diwali, but also Christmas to make a sense of cultural inclusion as much as it is gender and otherwise. And also some of the initiatives that we've been able to showcase within the South Pacific, where we've really doubled down on wellness EAP programs for for our island employees. And we've shared that knowledge and that learning across Australia to increase that sense of, I would say area pride and inclusivity being not just ratios, not just gender, but a wider sense of being part of an area and a global citizen as well. And the multitude of cultures that we have working here in in Australia and the area. 

Kylie: What plans do you have for DEI in 2023? And is there a specific area you're focusing on? 

Jamie: Yeah. Thank you, Kylie. I mean, we are continuing to focus on females. We still don't have as many female leaders, certainly on the leadership team. There's only one of my colleagues is a female and that just needs to get better. So we've got to do a better job of that and we've got to do that all the way through the organization. We tried hard this year. We've tried a number of elements, but we still need to find ways of making sure that we continue to be attractive. But I would also say that we're providing an inclusive culture that allows women to stay in the workplace as well. One of the things we wanted to do next year is a focus on mothers returning to work, but also staying in touch and making the making the maternity or parental leave period more more tactile in terms of how we how people stay in touch with the organization. Just to make it, to normalize it and make it part and parcel of being in team builds and what have you. We're also very interested in stepping into what I would call looking at different neurodiversity and making sure that we have opportunities in that space to increase our awareness and make it easier for people to to work and achieve within within BAT. And we'd like to expand as well to to support the the LGBTQ+ community  more so than we've done this year and really doing all of that, plus all of the work that we've done. We've done a lot of work in trying to get the hardwiring right. I'm very proud of what we've done in, for example, in the leave policies that we've put in place, where we've gone from perhaps a blanketly structure to one where we've identified a number of leaves that sometimes can be very challenging. And what we want it to be a very overt with that so that people didn't feel they had to have a somewhat sometimes a very emotional conversation with their manager about whether they can take special leave or holiday for such and such a case. And we've obviously obviously, what we've tried to do is, is simplify those conversations, normalize those conversations as well they should be so that nobody has to ask when they're in a situation whether it's a bereavement or other very difficult emotional stages outside of work. So they don't have to feel embarrassed or concerned in just taking leave or some time off and having those conversations with the business. And that's been a core part for us of about making this place just a better, nicer, more inclusive place to work for everybody, really. 

Kylie: And finally, Jamie, what advice do you have for employers looking to supercharge their DEI strategy? 

Jamie: I think there's a couple of things. I think there's for us, what we realized is, one, be clear with what you're trying to achieve. I think when you start on this base, the challenge with diversity and inclusion is, as I said at the very start, cutting it can be anything. And what that can mean is you can you can have the best intent, but you can really, really lose focus and do a lot of talking and not really a lot of delivery. So our first goal was to, dare I say, to target initially on gender diversity. It was the one an area we need to improve on and it gave us a core focus that allowed us to make a number of tangible steps within that space that we could all get behind and everybody understand whether we're doing well or whether there's progress, but there's clarity for everybody. I think the other piece I would say is we know diversity and inclusion is a good thing. I think there's there's no need to sell it in any more. Having a more diverse organization have a more inclusive is obviously better. But what I would say to people is enjoy it. I think what some of the great sort of stuff that HR and people space can be great. It can be challenging at times. For me, diversity and inclusion is one of those really enjoyable aspects. It's about celebrating cultures. It's about celebrating different individuals, different genders, bringing people together in a way that you're improving your culture and the business that you're in. That's great stuff to be to be involved in. And I think the events that we've had have been so enjoyable that they don't they can't help but bring people on the DE&I journey, no matter how cynical they may start, they'll never finish. And I think that would be my advice to anybody starting out in this space of focus but fun would be my advice. 

Kylie: Oh, that's brilliant advice. Thank you so much for your time today, Jamie, and congratulations once again. It was lovely speaking with you. 

Jamie: Oh, thank you for having me, Kylie. It's, really enjoyed it. 

Kylie: And thank you, of course, to our viewers for watching the latest episode of HRDTV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.