BAT: where employees can learn, grow and contribute

Monday, Jan 21, 2019 13:57

BAT Vietnam received the Top Employer Award

British American Tobacco (BAT) recently received the annual Top Employers international prize from the Top Employers Institute, which recognises leading employers around the world who are striving to provide the best working environment for employees through progressive human resource practices.

The company’s general manager, Jean Jacques Walravens, and head of HR, Dao Le Duyen, speak about BAT’s strategy for developing human resources and how to become a good employer.

General Manager Jean Jacques Walravens.

General Manager Jean Jacques Walravens

Your company has received the Top Employers award for the first time. To what do you attribute this prestigious award?

This was the first time we participated in the prize and had to go through a pre-selection process.

The Top Employers Institute, which does the certification, decides on whether you can participate and then based on a survey they score your people practices like how you treat your people, develop your people, reward your people.

Based on that, they decide whether you get the certification or not.

For us, it is a recognition of the fact that we believe people are the heart of a business.

If you look at a company, it has two big assets: the first is the people working for the company, and the second is the products and brands you sell.

We operate in over 200 countries and we pride ourselves in having the right people practices.

And so for us to get this certification has been a recognition of all the work that has been done. So we are very proud of getting that.

What does the award mean to BAT Vietnam?

It is important. First of all, it's a quality label. Obviously, it is something you can put on your recruitment process, something you can use in your talent branding, and you can say to prospective candidates that you are a Top Employer. So I think it's an additional competitive advantage when you go out to the market and try to hire people.

Viet Nam is a country with highly talented people. It is a country that is doing very well and growing very well, so there is a lot of competition between companies to get the best people and obviously having the certification is only one element.

It is an important element that you can say to a candidate: here is what we do, we have been certified because we have been doing all these things, and that is why it is the right company to work for. It is also nice for the people in the company. It is a recognition and a reward for everybody working here right now because again a company is made of its people. So if a company performs well, a company has good people practices because of the people who work there.

So how does your company invest in people?

Again if you don’t have the right people, you cannot be successful. If you don’t treat your people correctly they will not stay. So we need to make sure you look after them.

We do that in many ways.

First of all, we make sure people get the right development. People always think that the first question people will ask in an interview is how much money I will make if I work here and that is not true. Most people will say ‘I want to learn new things; what can I learn here?’ I think that is one of the most important things that we do: we provide learning opportunities. So last year we spent over 5,000 hours in training, so more than 90 per cent of our managing population went through one or more trainings last year.

We invest a lot of money and time in training and development.

The company provides exceptional employee conditions, nurtures and develops talent throughout all levels of the organisation.

We do leadership sharing sessions, so we have senior managers come and talk to junior managers about their careers, why they believe they have been successful, and how they can learn from these people in becoming successful.

Another thing that people value is career development: They want to understand that this is the job you are offering, what happens after that, and where they go in the future. We spend a lot of time making people understand what the different career options are. But also which things they need to learn to get to the next job and how we help them get there.

Our global graduate programme - which is what other companies would call their management trainee programme - is a 12- to 18-month programme. They go through various levels of trainings and jobs during the period. They get evaluated during the period. They have a coach, one of the senior managers who are there to help them with their progress, and at the end of the programme they become a manager. They get an accelerated development programme. So they join straight after university and 12-18 months later they get their first management job.

With fiercer competition in emerging markets, what should Viet Nam do to develop its human resources?

I think the country is developing very quickly in adopting best human resource practices.

One of the advantages of Viet Nam is the fantastic education system.

You also have a work ethic - students work very hard here. Compared to Europe, Vietnamese students coming out of universities have an advantage over the rest of the world.

What the country can do more is to send out people abroad. Vietnamese managers and workers are going to be exposed to foreign companies and people, and having worked abroad helps.

Sending people abroad helps develop their mindset and culture. For Viet Nam to be successful in the world, that’s one thing you need to work on. There are a lot of good things about Asian culture, but it may not always help you be successful around the world and therefore just getting that perspective out.

How can students benefit from the soft skills and theoretical knowledge they acquire in universities?

You have to get the right attitude. You need to be prepared to work hard; nothing happens by accident. It does not mean you have to work long hours, it just means you have to be prepared to make the effort to learn and develop yourself. It means you have to build up your experiences.

You are far less materialistic, much more focused on experiences, you want to experience something new and learn new things, and I think that is the right attitude. I think that helps the new generation develop in their life and career.

But you cannot separate life from work.

If you're happy in your job, you're happy in your private life; if you are unhappy in your private life, you won’t be happy in your job. So what you learn in life helps you in your work and vice versa.

Head of human resources Dao Le Duyen.

Head of human resources Dao Le Duyen

Can you tell us about the working environment at BAT Viet Nam?

The working environment in BAT Vietnam can be summarised in three words: challenging, flexible and learning everyday. If you are looking for a workplace which can challenge you every day to enhance your learning experience, then BAT is the place for you to join.

Challenging yourself will make you better.

Whenever you receive a further challenge, you will learn more.

At BAT, employees have a chance to learn, grow and contribute.

We not only focus on how well employees do their work but also how they use their time.

Then they will learn how to collaborate, how to lead the different people under them and how to push and deliver results.

The way we challenge them also gives them a chance to learn. If they are able to learn a new thing, we will give them a chance to move into a new role.

Learning is always integrated with their career meaning they can move to a new role if they finish their current learning.

When employees learn and grow, they will feel they are contributing to the company.

Learn, grow and contribute are also three main factors that help us retain talented people.

What is your advice to young people who often look for another job while still working for a company?

I have only one advice: if you have something to learn from your current company, you should stay and learn.

Remember, bigger responsibility, better skills will give you a better base in the end. That is the rule.

Ask yourself what you will learn from your company and what your career purpose is before deciding to jump to another job.

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