● By Siew Ching
At Sime Darby Oils, diversity and inclusivity aren’t just concepts but actual ways of working that have successfully encouraged a culture of belonging for its workforce.
Each Christmas, Sime Darby Oils employees from 12 different refineries and various business units worldwide record videos donning Christmas hats and sharing their holiday greetings. These individual clips are compiled into a special Christmas video and then shared across the organisation. Watching colleagues from distant locations engage in these festive greetings brings immense joy and connection to employees, bridging distances and fostering a cheerful holiday spirit.
“Some of us might not celebrate Christmas but it is a Sime Darby Oils tradition that everyone joins in. Our employees truly appreciate it as they get to see what others have done, and this has brought us closer as an organisation,” shares Pn Shahrizan Aini Shamsul Khalil, Head of Human Resource and Corporate Services.
With employees from different backgrounds from all over the world, building this connection serves as a powerful approach for the company to tackle pressing topics of diversity and inclusivity, buzzwords that have gained prominence lately. But what do the two words truly signify within a global organisation like Sime Darby Oils?
Pn Shahrizan explains, “First and foremost, when you want a culture of belonging, you have to think as one organisation. At Sime Darby Oils, it means bringing a sense of identity for all our refineries and business units in 12 countries. We use the same policies, wear the common work shirt, work around the same things, use the SDO prefix in all our branding. Everything here is taken as one where we speak the same language and have the same purpose.”
Sime Darby Oils embarked on this transformative culture journey long before the pandemic exacerbated diversity and inclusion challenges in many organisations. Pn Shahrizan highlights that the company collaborated closely with a consultant to craft its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity (DEI) framework. The year-long project involved dedicated efforts from key personnel who attentively listened to feedback from various stakeholders. “We listen to what everyone had to say, from top down to bottom. From there, we incorporated the feedback into a framework based on the culture that our employees aspire for,” she says.
Currently, the organisation is in the implantation phase of this framework. One of its focal points involves revitalising Sime Darby Oils’ purpose, encapsulated in the mantra Care to Nourish, Dare to Flourish. “This is a strong statement. It tells our people to be creative, to think out of the box to push our value creation. We now have this purpose to work towards, a strategic objective that can be pushed into all our strategies. We realise this importance of purpose in a diverse organisation like ours where people need to know what we are working towards. This purpose statement is a guide for us,” says Pn Shahrizan.
Working with a Global Workforce
Due to its global operations, the Sime Darby Oils workforce comprises a distinctive blend of diverse cultures, races, and religions. Working here offers a genuine opportunity to collaborate with a global community. “Take our own managing director for example. He has people from different nationalities reporting to him directly – from Netherlands, Thailand, India,” says Pn Shahrizan.
Indeed, embracing diverse cultures is actively encouraged by the company, given its diverse workforce. A prime example is the Graduate Accelerated Programme (GAP), an international initiative where graduates from various countries work in Malaysia for a year before returning to their home country for the subsequent year. “It can be challenging for our graduates at first but when it’s time for them to go home, many are already using the word lah and eating durian! This is diversity and inclusion at its purest form!” says Pn Sharizan.
Presently, the company is at its fourth cohort for the GAP, a programme steadily gaining traction among talents worldwide. The previous GAP attracted over eight thousand applications, with only 13 selected for this prestigious opportunity, reflecting its highly competitive nature.
Pn Shahrizan also shares that employees who are part of the company’s talent succession management programme also have the chance to learn of other cultures. “We do a rotation basis for our talents whereby if you are an engineer here in Malaysia, you could move to the UK and work at our business unit there. By living in a different country, you must embrace the different culture and respect how people do things there. To me, there’s no better way to embrace diversity than living the culture,” she says.
Moving Towards a Sustainable Future
For its future DEI initiatives, Pn Shahrizan says that the company is moving towards its Culture of Care, as guided by its brand purpose. “We have a total framework on how to implement what we aspire to be at Sime Darby Oils. We have four key values, each one broken down into perhaps five key behaviours. For example, we want to be enterprising so we will bring the team together, whether you are in Asia or Europe, to come together on one platform and discuss what it takes to be enterprising in Sime Darby Oils,” she says.
Sustainability also goes hand-in-hand with its DEI journeys, shares Pn Shahrizan. “We are talking about net zero and reducing carbon footprint. One programme we have is our used cooking oil programme, where we will take in your used cooking oil and pay you some money for it. The oil is then being recycled into energy that is used for our bio diesel industry,” says Pn Shahrizan. Another example of sustainability as a core value for Sime Darby Oil is being conducted in Thailand where resin from plastic is being used to develop the company’s corporate tees.
By investing in these DEI and sustainability initiatives, Ph Shahrizan believes the organisation will reap a multitude of benefits. After all, she says, being diverse and accepting of others is what Sime Darby Oils is all about. “We are very global despite being a Malaysian company, a 100% subsidiary of Sime Darby Plantations. We believe that by bringing in diversity, we are being more productive. Different people have different ways of looking at things. By bringing this diversity into one common place, we are bringing in a lot of power, energy, and ideas into the same platform.”
Watch the full podcast here.
Photo by Natalie Pedigo on Unsplash.
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