Engaged employees deliver value to our stakeholders and to our business; for this reason, it is vital that our employees align with our vision and culture. In view of our geographical footprint, we employ people from diverse cultures and backgrounds and our employee engagement strategy reflects this.
Birla Carbon aspires to create a positive working environment for its employees. Caring for their wellbeing is an integral part of our relationship with our workforce, and we provide opportunities to support them to lead healthy lifestyles.
Sharing what we do
Engaging our employees involves making them aware of their role within Birla Carbon’s sustainability journey. The more we learn about our colleagues in different positions and departments around the world, the greater sense of ‘One Birla Carbon’ we can foster.
It was with this spirit that the ‘Food4Thought’ gathering was developed. ‘Food4Thought’ was originally inspired by a trip taken by Marietta-based chemist Robert Batchelor, to our North Bend facility in Louisiana. During this trip, Batchelor realized that he was not entirely aware of the everyday processes involved in the Specialty Black plant. On his return, he facilitated/organized ‘Food4Thought’ sessions, which took the form of lunchtime discussions in an open environment. These sessions have grown in popularity and provide representatives from different areas with a platform to describe what they do in greater detail. Topics covered so far have ranged from HS&E to Technical Services, to market segment development and even our involvement in the ASTM Committee. Each quarter, a different group or set of ideas is highlighted, demonstrating the diversity of the company’s work.
“The original goal was fourfold: to create a platform to spread knowledge about the great work being done in different segments of the business; give speakers more confidence; grow in effective communication styles; and encourage those in the audience to ask questions in an informal environment.”
Robert Batchelor, Chemist, Marietta
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.
Clean water for employees
Following the signing of the WASH Pledge, Birla Carbon conducted preliminary self-assessments in FY2015 to identify the gaps between WBCSD expectations and the reality at our sites. In FY2016, we formed multi-disciplinary teams at each site to analyze and identify the capital investment required to bridge these gaps. The multi-disciplinary teams are composed of a representative from Human Resources; a representative from Health, Safety and Environment; and a representative from the Ancillary Department, selected due to their knowledge of the site in question
At the end of FY2016, we conducted a second self-assessment to determine how much progress had been made. While sites that performed well had performed better this year, overall there was improvement across our entire operations. We look forward to reporting on our progress in FY2017.
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 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 of 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.
Award-winning initiatives in Italy
The Women’s Network focuses on making real improvements to the professional and personal lives of Birla Carbon’s female employees. These improvements can take the form of advice and practical assistance. One such example is the childcare initiative, promoted by the local Women’s Network in collaboration with Human Resources at our operations in Trecate, Italy. Through this initiative, employees on a business trip can have babysitting, care for the elderly, or housekeeping services provided externally by an agreed company, with these expenses covered by Birla Carbon.
The service has been received enthusiastically and in FY2016 Birla Carbon won recognition for these efforts. The local chamber of commerce gave us the Singular Female Company award for companies that distinguish themselves for initiatives that help women with their work-life balance. As part of the award, which was covered in the local media, members of the Women’s Network will be able to attend training courses focused on self-empowerment.
By encouraging continuous dialogue with our employees, we gain a better understanding of their expectations. Birla Carbon conducts an employee engagement survey, 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.
The FY2015 Vibes survey, which had a 97% response rate, generally revealed that employees like Birla Carbon’s ability to adapt to changing marketplace needs, and that employees feel that their work is connected with overall business objectives. Over 80% felt engaged, were satisfied with their workplace and recommend it as a good place to work. Although the survey produced positive results in general, an area of concern was Birla Carbon’s ability to find creative approaches to attracting and retaining millennials.
Since the survey’s completion, results have been reviewed at a regional level, with the drafting of action plans to address areas of improvement specific to each region. In some cases, teams were set up to drive the implementation of these action plans, consisting of Human Resources personnel and subject matter experts. These teams meet on an ad hoc basis and provide regular status updates to the wider company.
In FY2016, Birla Carbon implemented action plans in the following areas:
The Vibes survey will be conducted once more in FY2017, after which the action plans will be revised based on results.
The Team Vibes survey was implemented across Birla Carbon for the first time in FY2016. It 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. The purpose of the survey is to help managers in their development in order to help bring issues to light.
The survey consists of 37 questions on the following topics:
The Team Vibes results were compared across the company and also with the wide Aditya Birla Group. The survey, saw 94% participation in its first edition. Communication sessions were held with the managers that participated and their teams to discuss the results and develop plans, which will be announced in FY2017.
Clean Water and Sanitation
We support the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and its WASH pledge to give all employees access to clean drinking water by 2018.
We are committed to providing safe access to drinking water for all employees by 2018