A refreshed approach to engagement
The following are some examples of how we currently engage with our employees.
By encouraging continuous dialogue with our employees, we gain a better understanding of their expectations. Birla Carbon conducts an employee engagement survey at management level, known as the Vibes survey, every two years. This direct feedback tool helps us develop and execute action plans in specific areas, which are tracked at a local, regional and global level.
We conducted our latest Vibes survey in FY2017, with a 98% response rate. The survey shows that we are now reaching the industry benchmark for employee engagement. We performed highly in the areas of customer centricity, in alignment and in openness to new ideas. Our people are proud to be a member of the Aditya Birla Group, which they consider a great brand to work for, and believe that their work is connected to our overall business goals. Most of our people also believe that Birla Carbon is socially and environmentally responsible.
In terms of areas for further improvement, we could still do more to attract the best talent, offer varied career opportunities and provide a vibrant, energetic and diverse workplace for young people.
The results have been distilled into action plans in each region; we will track our progress in these plans through scorecards over FY2018.
We also conduct a Team Vibes survey in alternative years to the main Vibes exercise. Team Vibes is a feedback mechanism through which those managers with five or more dependent employees can provide actionable insights into what prevents employees from performing at their best.
We held our first Team Vibes survey in FY2016, and conducted several communication sessions with the managers involved over the year to develop action plans. These plans include a focus on enabling managers to build effective team communication, providing timely and helpful feedback, and providing praise and recognition for effective team management.
Listening to many with One Voice
Learning how our employees feel is crucial to gaining an important understanding of how we are developing. In FY2017, we conducted our first survey, covering 100% of employees. Birla Carbon is the first company within the Aditya Birla Group to internally customize and manage such a survey.
The survey, which is called One Voice, differs from the Vibes survey in that the latter is of employees at a management level, who only represent 30% of the company. To ensure that One Voice would be accessible at all levels, the questions were prepared in 12 different languages and implemented across 15 plants and four regional offices. Results have been collated, key areas identified and action plans are in the process of development.
One Voice achieved outstanding participation and 96% of employees who were invited responded. The results showed that our people are willing to give extra effort to achieve our goals (94%) and most are proud to work for Birla Carbon (89%). A notable result was that most respondents (87%) believe that safety is a priority for their immediate supervisor – which counts as a real step forward for our safety culture. We also scored well in engagement and alignment. Although there were few areas of real concern, we performed less well in terms of development and work execution.
We are grateful to all employees who took part, and look forward to applying the lessons learned to our development of action plans in FY2018.
We want our employees to feel that ours is a positive working environment. Their wellbeing, and our care for it, is an integral part of our relationship with our people. We continually look for ways in which we can help them to lead healthy lifestyles.
Providing safe drinking water
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is one of the priority areas identified by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and its Action2020 business sustainability agenda. Following the steps taken by our parent company, the Aditya Birla Group, and as an industry leader, Birla Carbon signed the WBCSD Pledge for Access to Safe WASH at the Workplace (WASH Pledge) in FY2015, committing to achieve this target globally by FY2018.
Since FY2015, we have made substantial WASH progress: all our sites have full access to clean water, though four sites have yet to fully align with all WASH requirements. Three of these sites, located in India, have made significant investments in FY2017 to improve WASH in their facilities (see case study) and are close to full compliance. The fourth remaining site, Jining, is expected to be in alignment once construction is complete and the site is operational.
WASH: our progress in India
Our facilities in India have made a real effort this year again towards achieving our WASH pledge. Over $180,000 were invested in these plants for the wellbeing of our employees. For example, Renukoot constructed a system to connect all plant toilets to their existing sewage treatment plant. The treated water can then be reused in cooling towers at the plant. Patalganga focused on service providers by building a dedicated wash room for tanker drivers and cleaners, while Gummidipoondi constructed a new worker canteen and renovated the staff canteen.
Supporting diversity in the workplace
With operations in 12 countries, Birla Carbon has a diverse workforce with varied cultural backgrounds and skills. We are strongly committed to diversity and equality; all employees should be able to progress based on their merits and abilities and we aim to ensure that our leadership is representative of the local workforce. It is important to us that we hire local talent regardless of ethnicity, sexuality or social background, and that we ensure that skills are transferred equally throughout our operations. We comply with all relevant employment legislation in the countries where we operate.
The Women’s Network
The Women’s Network was created in FY2014 in the Europe and Africa region to provide our female employees with a stimulating work environment that is more conducive to career advancement.
The Women’s Network has built on its initial foundations and has implemented projects in certain areas. An example is the free childcare program, which is now offered at all our sites in the region for specific business situations. This program is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that shift workers can also take advantage of it. Childcare is provided in the event of emergency, such as illness or last-minute business trips, or during school vacations. Discrete, professional counselling is also available for those wishing to receive advice on personal issues such as debt and family relationships.
Supporting equality in Spain
Equality plans are a legal obligation in Spain for companies with more than 250 workers. Although Birla Carbon Spain only employs 63, it has its own Equality Plan inspired by best practices and adapted to local reality – 25% of the factory workforce are women, which is remarkable when compared with Spanish industry in general.
We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the plant’s presence in Spain in FY2017, with events that included an appeal to neighboring companies to build a network for gender equality. The network was launched at a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce in Santander, Cantabria, where our facility is based.
The initiative, whose launch was attended by political representatives as well as business and social partners, aims to channel information on equality in businesses present in the region. It will also establish a forum to study, devise and implement initiatives based on live case studies.
As a starting point, the network has analyzed plans that have proven successful in other companies, including the first company in Cantabria to implement an equality plan (a nuclear equipment provider) and other companies that have already been recognized as having good equality levels.
Our own Equality Plan has been in place since FY2016; in the short term, it gives employees specific training to support empowerment. We are currently working towards official recognition of our status as a Family Responsible Company and the Equality award from the local government.
“Gender equality must be integrated, not only at the management level but also in each and every professional category. It is a great opportunity for business. All companies, institutions and social groups have a long way to go in this issue, and must go hand-in-hand.”
Rosa Eva Díaz Tezanos, Vice-President, Cantabria Government