With everything going on in our world today, building a culture of building is more important
now than ever. As we deal with uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders focus on building an inclusive and equitable culture to foster human connection and create diverse and cohesive teams.
Every week, Ebere Akadiri sits down with influential business leaders who are creating positive social change in diversity, inclusion and equity, finding out the backstory behind
their journey to the top and how they are leading the change towards a more inclusive and equitable world.
In this episode, we featured a live conversation with Bob Rog, Managing Director Benelux, The Kraft Heinz Company. Bob is passionate about diversity and belonging and shared the backstory of how self-awareness has helped him lead more inclusively and equitably.
What does it mean to be an inclusive leader?
Firstly, Bob Rog kicked off by saying that to be an inclusive leader is to accept diversity as a fact because this is not a subjective opinion, it is an objective and a fact of life. Over 30 per cent of the Netherlands is from a migration background. Secondly, Bob said that inclusive leadership involves understanding why diversity is important for business. There are many commercial reasons for this, but the place to start is a moral one; it is right to pursue a more diverse workforce and equal opportunities for all. From the business side, diverse teams are more successful. The key thing is to listen to people who are different from you.
How does Bog Rog define awareness, and why is it important in leadership and inclusion?
Self-awareness can help us embrace diversity and inclusion.
For Bob Rog, self-awareness is useful on the individual level because he learned that he is “an individual part of a system of many people”. To be self-aware is to understand your
strengths and weakness, what makes you happy, where you can help, and where you need
help. For Bob, learning is nutrition for the brain; self-awareness allows you to know what you are good at and what you need to improve and grow as a person. The way Bob looks at self-awareness, he said, is as the opposite of self-interest. According to him, it is an objective
analysis of your self, with the help of others.
Self-awareness has helped him as a leader because it has allowed him to understand how
lucky he has been in his personal and professional life. His profile ticks many boxes in terms of success statistics as a white male. By understanding how fortunate he has been in his
starting position, he developed a moral obligation to help others and have a positive impact. It is important for him to surround himself with people who have provided feedback for him to develop his way of thinking in terms of growth and inclusion.
What has Bob Rog chosen to challenge, and why does it matter?
Bob Rog stated that he has chosen to be more openly outspoken about topics he values. Heinz has been working hard to solve diversity in the organisation more openly. There is still a way to go at the managerial level.
How is Bob Rog owning the responsibility of advancing gender equality at Heinz?
Previously, the Heinz Managerial team, Benelux did not have any women, and now there are four out of nine, so there has been some progress.
Below the managerial level, Heinz’s female employees account for 52% of its workforce. Where there needs to be an improvement is on the managerial level, where few women occupy positions. It is an ongoing process – being more open to listening and creating more opportunities for women to attain managerial positions. Bob highlighted that women hesitate because if they go on maternity leave, they feel insecure about their career progression afterwards. Heinz has taken the initiative of providing a clearer exit and return-to-work plan for women, to be set in place before maternity. Heinz, in the next years, will commit to being
“a mirror of society”, starting by improving mid-manager level female representation and taking it from there. Otherwise, Heinz risks losing a significant part of its junior workforce,
which these women represent.
How is Heinz making its workforce more diverse for people of colour and ethnic minorities in Europe?
Bob addressed inclusion by distinguishing between the hiring process and the behaviour in the office and work culture. The first part of recruitment is that you need to speak to a diverse set of candidates and develop strategies to form partnerships with these groups. The hiring process needs to be as inclusive as possible; artificial intelligence is playing a role in assessing the candidates in the fairest way possible, for example. Once minority employees have been hired, Heinz has supported many initiatives, such as the global leadership accelerator for women network, to ensure that Heinz can help women in their career. Heinz also has business resource groups for underrepresented segments of the company; this has held Heinz accountable regarding diversity in the workplace. Bob Roger was keen to follow up on where the company is at later in the year.
How has Bog Roger managed self-care, and what tips can he offer?
Bob highlighted that this is still a struggle. Meeting and interacting with people creates order and energy, mentally speaking. Acknowledging foremostly that this is temporary and that it makes sense that you are not as strong mentally and physically is a good starting point.
Working on the root cause is next. Socially interact with the limited number of people you can and create a structure in your days. He also recommended treating your day as a fluid stream of activities and drawing limits on when it is time to work and when it is time to focus on health or social activities.
Bob Roger has a slogan: “You should improve your focus, reduce the noise, never complain and never explain”. Where does this slogan come from, and why does it matter?
The slogan refers to how, as a tennis player when he was younger, Bob Roger wanted a
career in this sport. Through this sport, he learned how to win matches through focus,
humility, and being in his zone. He translated this slogan into his life in general, focusing on the values and interests he deeply cares about and wants to pursue in the right way.
What skills, competencies or support contributed to Bob Rog’s leadership growth?
Bob Rog explained that what helped him was to ignore the concept of perfection as a leader.
You need to accept that you are flawed and that you could be wrong in some instances. You need to make sure self-awareness is built within yourself to build a team around you where there is an element of humility. You also need to manage your energy and endurance to lead as efficiently as possible. Be patient and trust the process, with your values guiding you.
In the COVID-19 pandemic period, as a Managing Director at Heinz, what has been the most challenging situation Bob Rog has faced?
Taking responsibility for looking after yourself physically and mentally. Learning how to manage at a distance and through screens created a degree of anxiety and nervousness. He overcame this by learning to stop worrying about how and to allow himself to be led by people observation, trust, and vision of where the team needs to go. The “how” element usually sorts itself out.
What is the biggest barrier to attracting a more diverse workforce at Heinz?
One of the barriers is the pipeline of attracting and nurturing talent. Firstly, Heinz needs to reach out and speak to have a fair representation of society. If Heinz doesn’t reach out to underrepresented demographics in its company, how are potential employees supposed to know what is out there? He welcomed participants in the conversation to reach out and contact Heinz on these issues too.