Frequent catch-up sessions with leaders who effectively practice the importance of DEI are critical to this journey, says Reena Talla, Vale's Regional Head of HR.
Vale is a global company that operates through a logistics infrastructure that integrates high-quality ore extraction and its transportation by rail, port, and ship to distribution centers. In Malaysia, Vale has the Teluk Rubiah Maritime Terminal (TRMT), a very important site that connects its mines in Brazil to its markets in Asia.
At the third annual edition of Employee Experience Awards - Malaysia in 2023, Vale Malaysia Minerals was successfully nominated as a finalist for 'Best Diversity and Inclusion Strategy'.
To celebrate this milestone, we catch up with Reena Talla, Regional Head of Human Resources - Asia, Middle East, and Europe, Vale Malaysia Minerals on the importance of creating avenues that encourage employees to share their honest thoughts.
Q How do you ensure your employee experience initiatives are aligned with your business objectives?
After a period of company-wide soul-searching, cultural diagnosis and research, Vale launched the company’s Purpose in 2021; to improve life and transform the future, together. The Purpose has created a compelling call-to-action that is inculcated in all of the Vale’s business and operational decisions ever since. The launch of the Purpose signalled the company’s commitment to transform to become a company of the future; one that contributes meaningfully to positive global and local causes, from the promotion of an intersectional perspective on DEI to the decarbonisation of the mining industry.
Vale’s cultural transformation inspired the company’s pivot towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today, DEI focus is a prerequisite in all business and management decisions, and forms a central consideration in Vale’s strategy as a global organisation.
Q Can you provide examples of how the organisation has invested in the employee experience?
Leveraging mediums such as the Vale’s Employee Reputation Survey, feedback forms after events are effective means to encourage employees to share their honest thoughts. Frequent catch-up sessions with Leaders who effectively communicate and practice the importance of DEI and surround teams with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree without fear of retaliation; in a psychologically safe setting will help to build a sense of ownership and commitment to the transformation.
Recently, Vale’s cultural initiatives, such as its ‘Inspiring Change, Gender Equity Summit’ and the Stand Up Against Harassment initiatives provide platforms for employees to advocate for inclusion for all, and reassert the company’s policy of exerting zero tolerance to discrimination, harassment and racism.
In Malaysia, Vale has also come up with a guideline to ensure that all internal or external events that the company is organising will feature an equitable representation of women, ethnic minorities, and non-leaders. Vale’s collaterals, branding images and visual personas are also crafted to represent the company’s diverse energy, and empower the voices and contributions of women and other traditionally underrepresented groups.
Continuous engagements are also key; and to truly understand where we are at, where culture is concerned, Vale also deploys Eco Pulse surveys from time to time, which measure indicators such as the level of cultural alignment within the teams, psychological safety, and leadership behaviors and manifestations. The result of these surveys are presented to the top management, along with recommendations on the way forward to improve gaps that have been identified.
Q What are some of the key challenges that you faced in implementing your EX initiatives, and how did you overcome them?
To continue to be on the right track of its transformation, Vale outlined five core values that its as a guide for decisions and conducts within the organisation; Act with integrity, Make it happen, Life matters most, Respect our planet and communities, and Value the people who build our company.
The HR management team also took into account the need to create a nurturing environment for all employees to manifest themselves and fulfil their potential, to deliver the Vale’s Purpose effectively in the areas of their passion and expertise. The strategy also defined the ‘Valuing the People who build our company’ from the lens of inclusion – Vale seeks to value its people accordingly; and acknowledges their unique contributions that add towards the company’s transformation.
Mining is one of the world’s oldest industries, and old stereotypes, preconceived judgments and unconscious biases still exist. To counter this, Vale focuses on education and empowerment. All employees are required to complete human rights trainings, to understand the importance of respect and intersectionality the advancing Vale’s strategic objectives as a rapidly transforming mining company. Leaders are provided with extensive gender trainings that focus on addressing issues, such as unconscious biases and age-old stereotypes.
Female leaders are also encouraged to actively participate as mentors for the younger talents in the organisation, and platforms are provided for them to share their career journey and inspire all employees in the organisation by focusing on the power of earnest, relatable storytelling.
Q Do you have processes to measure the effectiveness of your EX initiatives, and what metrics do you use to evaluate success?
Leveraging mediums such as the Vale’s Employee Reputation & Echo Pulse Survey, Onboarding & Training Feedback forms, Skip level leadership meetings and One-on-One discussions are effective means to encourage employees to share their honest thoughts. Frequent catch-up sessions with Leaders who effectively communicate and practice the importance of DEI and surround teams with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree without fear of retaliation; in a psychologically safe setting will help to build a sense of ownership and commitment to the transformation.
Since the start of Vale’s cultural transformation in 2020, Vale’s turnover rate in the APAC EME region declined significantly, by 35% since 2020 – signalling greater cohesion and employee experience overall.
The lower turnover rate allows the company to focus its resources to develop its existing talent – and optimises its hiring and recruitment expenses.
Performance metrics, utilisation of employee benefits and programmes and monitoring the absenteeism rates are also useful tools as it gauges productivity rates, employee engagement, satisfaction and other job-specific metrics to ensure that improved employee experience translates to improved performance.
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?
Leaders are trained, and expected to communicate Vale’s cultural narratives effectively internally, and promote open and transparent dialogues. They are also empowered to be the main cultural advocates in their respective teams, advancing the narratives that center on collegiality and togetherness, prioritising collective result without ignoring the unique contributions of individuals.
However, while leaders may steer internal engagements, cultural advocacy is something that can be undertaken by all employees. At Vale, non-leaders are viewed as important advocates for transformation as well, and they are encouraged to speak up and represent their teams to build their confidence and foster better psychological safety across all layers of the organisation.
A framework has also been developed to remove gender biases. In 2021, 40% of the employees recruited by the company were women, compared to 22% in 2019. Annual incentive packages have been reformed to include cultural indices, formally tying the company’s people transformation agenda with compensations. This provides an added impetus for all employees to take accountability see cultural transformation as a collective journey that everyone in the organisation owns.
Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!
All photos / Provided by Vale