Diversity Matters: Working together through the pandemic
When does a company know that it is truly diverse and inclusive? One way is when all employees – whoever they are and whatever their positions – pull together to help each other out in a crisis. Two colleagues from DHL Express Saudi Arabia: Nada Al-Tamimi, a senior HR Director who is the first female head of the department, and Matthai Varghese, a courier who has been with the company for more than 18 years, reveal how unity helped everyone thrive during an exceptionally busy time in the coronavirus pandemic, and explain why businesses do better with a balanced team.
Nada, what were your thoughts on becoming the company's first female head of HR in Saudi Arabia?
Nada: DHL Express has been in the Kingdom for almost 44 years, and there are 1408 people in the company – so I can't put into words how delighted I was. I was speechless! That said, it was a goal I had in mind when I joined as an HR Officer in 2015. In my first job interview, the then Head of HR asked me: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I told him: “In your seat.” I think it was a bold statement – something that would make an impression and be remembered after the interview. But after countless hours of hard work, commitment and dedication, I was able to achieve my goal in five years.
Matthai, what does your job entail – and what do you enjoy most about it?
Matthai: I work as a courier, so I make deliveries by van, although sometimes I make them on foot. The thing I enjoy most about my work is the opportunity to meet different people.
Do you work in a diverse environment?
Nada: I do, absolutely. My own team is a 50/50 mix of men and women. But in every part of the company there are people of different ages, religions, backgrounds, views and experiences. Also, we employ around 22 different nationalities. So I'm pleased to say that diversity is all around us. After all, Saudi Arabia is changing. It has become more diverse, particularly recently. For example, there are now government programs in place to support diversity based on gender, age and disability.
Matthai: Yes, I do. My colleagues come from a number of different countries from all around the world. They speak different languages, which I think is extremely interesting and gives me the opportunity to learn new words in different languages while I'm doing my job. Also, Saudi Arabia is home to over 10 million expats, so we get to interact with customers from all different cultures.
Is it important to you to work with a diverse group of people?
Nada: Definitely. It's an opportunity to learn new things and have new experiences. I think diversity has played a great role in my personal development over the years.
Matthai: Personally, I think it's extremely important. Every workplace should be diverse and inclusive. The word “diversity” reinforces the idea that every person is unique, while – for me – “inclusion” is about welcoming people, which makes for a better working environment.
DHL Express was so busy during the coronavirus crisis that female managers helped couriers make deliveries. What impact did that have?
Nada: Actually it wasn't just limited to female managers. Everyone in the company – males and females from different functions and different levels – helped out with deliveries and also sorting shipments whenever they had a spare hour. This had never been done before and it was extremely motivating for everyone. We were on the shop floor or out on the road every day, using our own cars, and the feedback we received from our couriers was so heart-warming. They were really grateful for everyone's support and expressed how proud they are of the company and of the team. On our side, it was interesting to experience what they go through every day.
Matthai: Everywhere you looked there was unity and respect towards one another, which gave all of us a positive charge to meet the challenges we were facing at the time. That made me feel proud. We felt appreciated and respected for what we do, and that ultimately we were in all this together.
Nada, did you personally go out to make deliveries?
Nada: Yes. I helped with customer deliveries and I also delivered items to less fortunate families during Ramadan as part of the CSR programs we have in place. There aren't any female couriers in Saudi Arabia, and I know people found it a bit strange to see me whenever I went to a house and rang the bell, because people here are not used to seeing female couriers delivering shipments. Nevertheless we received lots of compliments and positive feedback. So female couriers will become part of the team in due course, I'm confident in that.
Matthai, what can companies do to create a more diverse and inclusive environment?
Matthai: In our own company, female management has recently been reintroduced in various departments, so I think we're seeing more participation in terms of diversity. Companies should always ensure they have a balanced workforce in terms of, for example, female representation and representation of other nationalities.
Are you optimistic that the future will be more diverse?
Nada: We will face challenges in this area, like any other company and like any other country. But by employing people of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences we can drive diversity and inclusion and reap benefits from it.
Matthai: I think it will get a lot better in the near future. I look around me now and see a strong team of all different cultures with a positive vibe. I feel that everyone is supportive of building an increasingly diverse environment.
What are your tips to anyone who wants to make all people feel included?
Nada: Always have an open mind, and treat everyone with respect and kindness – because you would expect it from them. It's the tip I try to live by daily and share with everyone around me.
Matthai: Have a positive attitude. It helps make a lot of things better! And get involved with initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion as much as you can.
Nada Al Tamimi
Nada Al-Tamimi was born and raised in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh. She has worked at DHL Express Saudi Arabia for five years and is based at the company's Head Office in the Kingdom's Eastern Province, heading up the Human Resources department. She is the first female head of the department, which has 15 staff supporting some 1400 employees from 22 nationalities across the Kingdom.
Matthai Varghese was born in Pathanamthitta, in Kerala, India, and has been working at DHL Express for over 18 years. He is based at the company's Operations center at Dhahran Airport in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia.
Published: March 2021