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Marta Bulhak, CEO, HEINEKEN

Marta Bulhak, CEO, HEINEKEN 1 - hrpsor Hrvatski poslovni savjet za održivi razvoj

Embracing I&D is not only the right thing to do for people, but also essential to be successful as a business. A diverse workforce brings diverse viewpoints and perspectives to the company. It leads to better decision-making, a deeper understanding of diverse consumers and customers, more innovation and increased performance

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of your company?

Inclusion & Diversity has been a business priority and a core element of our sustainability strategy for quite some time. As the most international brewer, we believe that by valuing, embracing and leveraging the different strengths and perspectives of our diverse workforce, we deliver high performance. As of 2018, there has been a strong focus on I&D at HEINEKEN and we have since built a global I&D community of 100+ ambassadors who are driving our global strategy in local contexts across the business. This network leads change on relevant topics for their local realities and Croatia is no exception. For example, for the past three years we have been asking HEINEKEN Hrvatska employees to answer inclusion related questions as a part of our Annual Climate Survey. The results have been very positive, showing growth in satisfaction every year. I am glad that our employees feel this way.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

We are determined to nurture the positive climate we have already established in the company, but also to raise the bar wherever and whenever possible. We will continue to focus on building a culture where people feel they belong, that they are appreciated and safe and have equal pay for equal work. Our sustainability strategy Brew a Better World encapsulates strong social components that include areas of fair and safe workplace and positive impact on communities, and of course, our commitments to raise awareness and embrace inclusion and diversity concepts. We have defined 9 inclusive practices that represent principles we use to make an inclusive environment for everyone. They are:  make it safe for others; be transparent; find common ground with others; communicate inclusively; seek multiple points of view; give and receive feedback; develop self-awareness; provide equal opportunities; shape and deliver with the team.

Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organization so far?

There are quite a few of them. For instance, we have appointed our local I&D ambassador who ensures implementation of positive I&D practices. Also, every team meeting starts with a check-in question to find out how people feel and help them resolve a potential problem right away. We have introduced a dedicated lunch breaks for colleagues working remotely to ensure they can prepare and have a meal with their family without any disturbance from work tasks. There are also specialized I&D workshops and on-line trainings focused on our 9 inclusive practices, which are mandatory for our leadership team. The topic is also strongly championed through our Fridays for Change internal communication project.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by the industry sector in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Embracing I&D is not only the right thing to do for people, but also essential to be successful as a business. A diverse workforce brings diverse viewpoints and perspectives to the company. It leads to better decision-making, a deeper understanding of diverse consumers and customers, more innovation and increased performance. But diversity can only thrive with a truly inclusive culture where people from all backgrounds feel included and therefore can contribute. In other words, inclusivity is the key to maintaining, as well as creating diversity in the workplace. Traditionally, women or man were assigned to certain functional roles, and it is about providing the equal opportunities. We should look past stereotypes and challenge our biases when selecting candidates. As long as our perception is focused on limitations, rather than possibilities, we are not exploring the entire talent pool, and therefore, missing out on potentially fantastic employees. I am aware that this is not an easy task, since we have all grown in certain cultures, which have formed our believes and values. However, if we challenge ourselves in the right way, we might get some great colleagues on board.

What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?

By insisting on making the workplace more inclusive, we are giving our employees the opportunity to openly share and speak their truth without fear of negative consequences. We are aware that psychological safety is a strong driver for high performance as it allows people to take risks, like admitting failures and asking for help. People who feel psychologically safe tend to be more innovative, learn from their mistakes and are motivated to improve their team or company. We’re also proud of attained gender balance across our management and on other levels or roles. At the moment, women make up 50% of our Management Team, including myself as a Managing Director of HEINEKEN Hrvatska.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

On the global level HEINEKEN company is raising the bar and turning diversity challenges into exact I&D targets. On the global level, we are aiming for gender balance across senior management and our commitment is to have 30% women in such roles by 2025 and 40% by 2030. We also want to embrace cultural diversity, notably in our leadership in all countries where we operate. More precisely, by 2023 at least 65% of country leadership teams will be made up of regional nationals and 35% nationals from outside this region. Our third goal is to have 100% of our managers trained in inclusive leadership by 2023. I am tremendously proud that many of these targets have already been met here in HEINEKEN Hrvatska and we will continue to do our best one this path forward.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

In my experience, if you want to create a truly inclusive and diverse environment, first you need to lead by example. I try to give my colleagues clarity, carefully listen, motivate them to openly ask for and give an honest feedback. Also, numbers do not lie. Various study results show that organizations with inclusive cultures are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and three times more likely to be high performing. And we need these numbers in our yard. Finally, passion for quality, enjoyment of life and respect for people and the planet lay in the DNA of our company. Therefore, inclusion and diversity fit perfectly in our HEINEKEN culture. And my colleagues stand behind it.

Any plans for the upcoming #EUDiversityMonth this May?

As a matter of fact, we do have them. This year we launched an internal project called ‘Fridays for Change’ which is focused on sustainability topics, including environmental protection, safety and wellbeing but I&D too. With this project we want to challenge and inspire our colleagues, raise awareness about relevant issues, and ultimately catalyse a positive change of behaviour, both in the personal and professional domain. Every Friday we post inspiring and engaging content throughout our internal communication channels and during four Fridays of May they will be fully dedicated to inclusion and diversity segment and practices.



This interview was produced with the financial support of the European Union (project Workplace Inclusion Champion WIC). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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