Unlocking diversity: An urgent imperative in multifaceted Asia

ADM's Somnuek Ngamtrakulchol highlights the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) in Asia’s richly diverse workforce.
By: | June 25, 2024

When it comes to diversity, few regions in the world can rival Asia. A mosaic of hundreds of ethnic groups and sub-cultures, the region is home to a population of 4.7 billion people who speak more than 2,300 languages.

For HR leaders with remits in this dynamic region, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) is not simply a good-to-have; it is an imperative for the entire organisation.

At ADM, our business spans the entire food and agriculture value chain, from the origination of crops to the processing and creation of value-added ingredients. Our teams engage with a diverse range of partners at every step of the journey, from field to product. This underscores the importance of fostering a workplace environment that embraces individuals with unique perspectives, enriching our ability to innovate and adapt in an ever-evolving landscape.

While discussing the importance of DEI&B is easy, bringing it to life can be challenging. We believe even small actions can make a big difference in debunking long-standing stereotypes.

Last year, we put this belief into practice by hosting female students at our Biopolis research hub in Singapore. In collaboration with Inspiring Girls Singapore, a non-profit dedicated to empowering young girls, we provided students with the opportunity to interact with female members from our Creation, Design and Development team, delving into their careers and engaging in flavour creation activities. Above all, they departed with a clearer understanding that exciting careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are accessible to individuals of all genders.

Many organisations typically engage with talents at the tertiary level with the intent of hiring them. However, we believe it is also important to consider how we, as professionals, can provide exposure and mentorship during their earlier, formative years.

“Although gender tends to dominate DEI&B discussions and is pivotal for fostering an inclusive workplace, it is only one lens – we must also consider the other aspects of what makes a workplace diverse.” – Somnuek Ngamtrakulchol, HR Director, Asia-Pacific, ADM

Although gender tends to dominate DEI&B discussions and is pivotal for fostering an inclusive workplace, it is only one lens – we must also consider the other aspects of what makes a workplace diverse.

Working effectively as a team requires that we invest in understanding the region’s diverse cultural practices and sensitives. This is one of the reasons why we decided to incorporate opportunities for regional rotation into our Asia-Pacific finance and commercial trainee programmes.

As part of our structured programme, many of our trainees are given the opportunity to spend time working from a different office in the region, allowing them to immerse themselves in different cultures and ways of working. Supported by mentors in each market, these periods of immersion are immensely helpful in pushing them out of their comfort zones and expanding their cultural horizons.

In our commitment to empowering young professionals to reach their full potential at ADM, we plan to introduce the Young Professionals Network in Asia-Pacific, building on successful rollouts in other regions. Participants can connect with like-minded peers and leaders across markets through this dynamic and inclusive community, providing them with valuable insights and new cultural perspectives.

A final observation is that building a diverse workforce is easier when you begin with a diverse set of building blocks. That is why diversity is a key consideration for us when it comes to early career hiring.

In recent years, our engagement efforts in Vietnam have expanded to cover multiple leading universities and extended beyond traditional campus visits. We have organised facility tours, hosted entrepreneurial and research competitions, and provided scholarships to underprivileged students. Through these initiatives, we aim to nurture talent and support the next generation of leaders in the region’s food and agriculture sectors.

As we navigate the intricate tapestry of Asia’s diversity, it is important to remember that the journey towards true inclusion and belonging begins with taking that initial step. Whether it is challenging stereotypes or fostering cross-cultural understanding, each action we take contributes to a workplace where every voice is heard, and every individual thrives.

About the author: Somnuek Ngamtrakulchol is HR Director, Asia-Pacific, for ADM.

For more news and analysis on the latest HR and workforce trends in Asia, subscribe to HRM Asia and be part of the region’s largest HR community!