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Winning Secrets: How BAT Malaysia is creating a better tomorrow for employees

Winning Secrets: How BAT Malaysia is creating a better tomorrow for employees

Among the key focal points is developing the next generation of leaders; and rewarding entrepreneurial behaviour, Adrita Datta, Director Talent, Culture & Inclusion, BAT Malaysia, shares.

With a combined history of over 100 years in Malaysia dating back to 1912, BAT (British American Tobacco) Malaysia is said to be the largest and leading tobacco company in the country.

At the Employee Excellence Awards 2023, Malaysia, the company took home took home the bronze award for 'Best Hybrid Working Model'. In this interview, Adrita Datta, Director Talent, Culture & Inclusion, BAT Malaysia (pictured above, second from right), shares how the organisation values the wellbeing of its people, from the bottom to the top, through its various workplace and individual wellbeing initiatives.

Q How do you ensure your employee experience initiatives are aligned with your business objectives?

BAT in Malaysia has a combined history of over 100 years in, going back to 1912. With more than1,200 employees of over 27 nationalities, working in four entities; BAT Malaysia, Regional Product Center, Digital Business Services shared services, and Direct Reporting Business Unit, BAT truly delivers a global impact. A truly international company, BAT Malaysia is part of the BAT Group which has a rich history of over 120 years. BAT Malaysia is a publicly listed company on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities.

The Group employs more than 50,000 employees worldwide, with more than 138 nationalities, BAT is truly an international business with a purpose of building corporate purpose of A Better Tomorrow™. Its rich history is a testament to great leadership and resilience of its people and BAT is committed to delivering A Better Tomorrow.

Our employees are at the core of our business & its success. Our culture is underpinned by our Ethos which is developed with significant input from our people & guides us in everything we do. At BAT Malaysia, we prioritise employee experience by focusing on their career growth and advancement and at the same time fostering a diverse, supportive, and inclusive environment. Our initiatives focus on holistic employee wellbeing on physical, mental, and emotional health, enabling personal and professional growth. This works in unison with flexible work arrangements that empower employees to choose between remote work and office-based work.

While we are well-equipped for hybrid working model, we also believe that staying connected with our employees in office from time to time is critical for driving an engaged and inclusive culture, whilst also hearing their voice to deliver long-term sustainable value as we align our business to also consider what is important to them.

The pandemic provided us with an opportunity to reset some of our thinking with regards to our ways of working, and to create a better ecosystem for our people with greater flexibility.

D&I (diversity & inclusion) is entrenched across our organisation and is driven by functional leads. Advocating for female leadership in the organisation is a D&I strategy that we highly value. This is clearly demonstrated in BAT Malaysia, whereby 38% of women are holding management roles and 29% of our Board members are women.

We also believe in supporting our employees throughout various stages of their life cycle and our inclusive policies encompass providing employees such as mothers-to-be and new mothers with parental leave benefits & flexible work arrangements.

Our reward and recognition programmes are linked to performance and aim to honor as well as celebrate BAT Malaysia’s high-performing and loyal employees. These include the 'Building Tomorrow' Awards, Leadership Team Award, and the Long Service Awards which serve to recognise well-deserving employees and to propel them towards growing and delivering. We have also been recognised as a leading employer, having received a multitude of awards for our best-in-class career opportunities both on a local and global scale as well as our talent development, which aims to foster the next generation of leaders through trainings, our one-stop digital learning platform, and functional learning huddles.

BAT is truly an international business; since 2022, BAT Malaysia has sent 13 of our employees working on international assignments globally.

Sustainability is at the forefront of our business as we aim to create long-term value for our stakeholders through a holistic approach and we believe in actively involving our employees in sustainability initiatives such as Beyond Benih which aims to mitigate food insecurity among vulnerable communities in Malaysia, through community-led farm garden projects in both urban and rural regions.

Q Can you provide examples of how the organization has invested in the employee experience?

BAT has a clear purpose of creating A Better Tomorrow™. We aim to progressively transform our employee experience and we believe our people are at the heart of our business.

Our focus is on driving high performance; developing the next generation of leaders; valuing the diversity of our employees; encouraging and rewarding entrepreneurial behavior; and creating an engaging culture where individuals and teams can be successful.

BAT Malaysia has a policy BAT Malaysia has introduced a flexible work arrangement and work from anywhere policy. These policies have been designed to assist in balancing the needs of the business with those of the employees in managing flexibility and flexible working arrangements. The flexible working policy allows employees remote working options for two days in a week whilst the work from anywhere policy allows employees to work from anywhere in Malaysia for up to four weeks a year.

Moreover, BAT Malaysia has developed a comprehensive wellness programme that addresses employees' well-being both virtually and physically. Our initiatives focus on physical, mental, and emotional health, enabling personal and professional growth through hybrid webinars, on-site specialist consultations, complimentary physical and mental health screening by qualified counsellors, psychologists, dietitians, and fitness coaches.

The programme also includes free access to our health app which provides direct access to a wealth of resources to support our employees' health and wellbeing. By focusing on the health of employees, the organization ensures their overall well-being and creates a supportive and healthy work environment.

 At BAT Malaysia, we believe in fostering a safe and inclusive working environment, protecting our employees’ wellbeing, and listening to their views. The way our people operate is embodied in the BAT ethos, which underpins our culture and guides how we deliver our strategy.

As more of our employees returned to our office in 2022, we continued to focus on employee engagement through quarterly and yearly town halls, functional huddles, celebrations, and corporate events. Most recently, in Q4 2022, more than 300 employees of BAT Malaysia participated in a business strategy meeting in Penang, Malaysia.

We are proud to note that our commitment to D&I has resulted in us being recognised as the first tobacco company to globally achieve both the National Equality Standard (NES) and the Global Equality Standard (GES). These recognitions are undoubtedly a testament to our future-fit D&I strategy. In our aim of creating a more female-friendly and inclusive workplace, we upgraded our amenities such as nursing and prayer rooms at sales offices, provided better-designed uniforms for female employees and menstrual support policies & practices. We also continuously review our policies and benefits to ensure they are progressively inclusive and market competitive for our employees.

We also believe in developing talent from within, supporting high-potential and well-performing managers who will lead the delivery of our strategies. BAT heavily invests in leadership programmes such as Leading Self, Leading Teams, Made@BAT, Gearing Up for Global Leadership, Women in Leadership, and EZRA Coaching programme from females, which are all strategically and effectively structured to help our employees achieve their potential and greatness. Our one-stop digital learning platform, The GRID, consists of learning content that caters to various development needs. This interactive platform operates on an on-demand learning interface and enables users to access learning contents at their convenience. We saw an average of 74% usage rate with over 270 active users. Approximately 6,500 learning hours have been spent on The GRID in 2022.

Lastly, our rewards & recognition programme has been designed to create simple, consistent, meaningful, and memorable recognition that elevates our global employee experience. We believe in rewarding well-performing employees and empowering everyone to perform their best. Teamwork is also a core part of our values, as we believe peer-to-peer cooperation encourages mutual excellence and helps us in our pursuit of innovation and high performance - by being bold, fast, empowered, diverse, and responsible.

Q What are some of the key challenges that you faced in implementing your EX initiatives, and how did you overcome them?

With every change, you can foresee certain challenges and obstacles. It might take a while to get everyone onboard with the new way of working with future fit capabilities.

We prioritised efficient communication, transparency, and openness. We made a deliberate effort to transparently explain the rationale behind the initiatives, highlighting how they would positively impact both individuals and the organization. Our goal was to secure endorsement and active participation by fostering understanding and continuous two-way feedback. Moreover, we proactively involve our employees throughout the process through quarterly townhalls and business updates as a means of sustaining the drive and enthusiasm, as well as maintaining trust and cultivating a feeling of personal investment in the proposed changes. We wholeheartedly believe in hearing the voices of our employees through surveys to deliver long-term sustainable value as we align our business to also consider what is important to them.

We also focus on driving high performance and the development of leadership capabilities to help our people realise their full potential and prepare them for the future. Our business is continuously evolving, and we believe by honing their skills, we will stay ahead of the curve and become more adaptable to change.

adrita batmalaysia

Q Do you have processes to measure the effectiveness of your EX initiatives, and what metrics do you use to evaluate success?

Measuring employee experience and engagement presents inherent challenges due to its subjective nature, but we diligently seek meaningful insights. We employ various metrics, encompassing areas such as retention rates, process improvements and overall participation and involvement measured through various KPIs (key performance indicators). Regular huddles, company townhalls and employee surveys such as our newly launched Your Voice initiative allow us to stay attuned to their evolving needs and experiences.

We also monitor metrics related to employee engagement, such as the rates of involvement and participation in engagement and growth initiatives.

At BAT Malaysia, we also closely observe performance benchmarks, including accomplishments in productivity and goal attainment. Furthermore, we collect input from our staff and diligently study how often and how well employees are acknowledged and valued. Our observations provide us with valuable knowledge about the efficacy of our efforts and empower us to persistently innovate and enrich the employee journey.

Furthermore, our commitment to achieving excellence in employee experience and engagement has been acknowledged through external, reputable awards and accolades such as Top Employer 2023 and being among top 25% amongst PLCs by Bursa Malaysia FTSE Russell ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) Ratings. These accolades further validate the positive influence our endeavors have had on our workforce.

Q Finally, what role do leaders and managers play in driving a beautiful employee experience, and how are they held accountable for the success of these initiatives?

We embrace the belief that everybody is a leader in their own passage; we not only foster leadership within the organization but also recognise the immense potential in all our employees to lead this business in future. Guided by our ethos of bold, empowered, responsible, fast, and diverse, our leaders pave the way for a dynamic and inclusive work environment and take the ownership in inculcating leadership behaviors to develop leaders for tomorrow.

Furthermore, our leaders and managers actively engage in continuous learning, acknowledging the value of collective knowledge within our diverse workforce.

We encourage a culture of mutual mentorship and collaboration, where insights are shared, and new perspectives are embraced.

Ultimately, the success of our employee experience initiatives is assessed by the positive impact they have on everyone in the company. Our leaders and managers are held accountable for ensuring that these initiatives are inclusive, meaningful, and contribute to the wellbeing and growth of every individual within the BAT family.

Lead image: Provided 

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