Syukri Ab Rahim, Head of Digital Grid at Siemens Thailand shares his take on diversity and inclusion and why he thinks it’s an essential part of any successful workplace of tomorrow.
During my nine years with Siemens, I have moved quite a bit between our offices across Asia. I am currently a permanent member of the Thailand team, but I regularly spent time working from Cambodia and Myanmar – prior to COVID 19. With some jobs, this kind of back and forth might be hard to adjust to, but I have been lucky that the transition between cultures and countries is always smooth at Siemens. The moves have been made easy for me by the readiness of each local organisation to accept outsiders.
To me, diversity and inclusion is not a specific program – it’s an inherent culture that makes everyone feel welcome and valued, no matter where they are from or what their experience is. It creates trust in the workplace, motivates employees and promotes different ways of thinking that lead to higher employee satisfaction, staff retention and productivity. Siemens has a very diverse and inclusive environment in general. I have always felt comfortable wherever I’ve gone.
Why diversity and inclusion is such an important cultural mindset
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace has wide-ranging benefits. Employee performance and productivity improves. Staff are also noted to be happier in inclusive environments, which means they are more likely to stay with the company. This includes ‘outliers’ – people who are outstandingly talented, but may find it difficult to fit in at some workplaces.
A diverse team allows a multilateral approach to opportunities and conflict. In a diverse, inclusive workplace, new ideas are accepted and creative thinking is encouraged. Working in homogenous teams can lead to tunnel vision and settling into a status quo. Conversely, diverse teams are able to look at things from different angles – which is the seed of innovation.
In tech teams, like at Siemens, each professional brings a wealth of experience and knowledge. When everyone is made to feel equally responsible for targets, they become more motivated to share their ideas and knowledge, which increases organisational competency and competitiveness.
How I encourage a diverse and inclusive culture
As a leader, I create an inclusive culture by encouraging discussion. I aim to make everyone feel comfortable throwing their opinion into the mix. In some Asian cultures, seniority is a big thing, so people can be hesitant to challenge their manager, but I make sure my team knows it is OK and that these are just my ideas and suggestions.
I think an open dialogue is very important. Sometimes of course, as a leader I have to make a clear decision that is not debatable, but most of the time, I encourage discussion around the things we are working on.
Experiencing the power of Siemens diversity
Being an engineering company, the majority of the people here come with some engineering background, whether it is electrical or mechanical. However, they come from many different schools, from all over the world. Different schools and countries bring in different cultures and approaches, which builds up the diverse thought process. There is more leeway for discussions and productive debates. It also promotes inclusive behaviour. People often make sure they speak a common language that everybody understands, even in informal situations, like lunch or a casual chat. I always appreciate this when I am in a country away from home.
Something that has been helped a lot by this diverse mindset has been the acceptance of my leadership, even when I am managing people close to double my age. This is a good example of how diversity and inclusion at Siemens extends to all areas, not just culture and language: we see it in terms of age, experience and education too. The focus is always on the idea and the execution, rather than the person.
Succeeding as a business of the future relies on diversity and inclusion
As both international business and virtual teams become the norm, diversity skills are becoming more and more important. We need to be able to work seamlessly with colleagues across countries and cultures. As international EPCs enter local markets, embracing diversity and inclusion gears us up to cover markets with diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds.
Siemens encourages a continuous dialogue with employees to make sure we are doing everything we can to cultivate an environment that is good for everyone. We have regular global employee surveys, as well as local management engagements that look at how diversity and inclusion can be improved even further.
Head to our careers page for opportunities to join our welcoming team at Siemens.