BY MYGWORK, IMAGE BY MYGWORK
Mich Van Den Borre has been with AB InBev for nearly 15 years. Based in Belgium, she started at the company as a business relationship manager working with Supply Chain and Commercial functions operations. She spoke to Alim Kheraj from myGwork to discuss how they have engrained inclusion in everything they do.
Currently, Mich is People Transformation and Rewards Director for Europe. “It combines multiple roles”, Mich explains. “One of them is being the Transformation Director for ‘People’ in Europe. ‘People’ is what other companies might call the HR department, but by choice and design AB InBev refers to it as ‘People’ because we don’t look at HR as a transactional department to hire and redeploy fire people. Rather, we see people as our biggest and most valuable asset, and focus on how we can attract, retain and develop the best people for the company”.
The other aspect of her role, Mich says, is to assess the company’s processes, “be that from a way of working perspective, from a technology perspective and equally from an organisational perspective”. She is also questioning “How can we constantly improve the way of working so that we create a better way of working for the employees? And can we become more efficient optimised so that we can spend more time on coaching new leaders and work on employee experience and diversity and inclusion?”.
The third aspect as rewards lead means she’s responsible for the design, implementation, and ongoing evaluation of the organization’s compensation and benefits programs, including base pay, incentive pay, health and welfare benefits, and retirement benefits.
Working all this out is a big role, although one that Mich relishes. It’s a very interactive role, one that means she’s constantly in contact with people around Europe, where AB InBev has various supplier relationships and shared service centres.
During her time at AB InBev, Mich has lived all over the place. While she started at the company in the tech space, she quickly moved to the shared services centre side of the business, which at the time involved interacting with centres that the company had in Prague and Budapest.
One thing that Mich learned quickly was that in the drinks industry, change was inevitable and constant. That’s how the transformation role came about, as AB InBev wanted to “institutionalise a transformation role where we can have a clear vision of what we might be doing in the next few years. It was my responsibility to define the vision, the strategy and then make sure that we keep on implementing things because, like I say, change is the only constant”.
Part of this change even involved travel and moving to India, where AB InBev decided to open a global shared service centre. “AB InBev is really a company where a lot of opportunities arise and you can really go to different roles that can sometimes be out of your comfort zone”, Mich says. “It’s just a case of creating that opportunity or seeing an opportunity and grabbing it”.
This attitude, as well as AB InBev’s people focused working environment, meant that Mich never felt like she had to hide her sexuality at work. She says she came out when she was 30, and for a few years didn’t express her sexuality at work in an overt way. Now, however, she feels comfortable to bring her authentic self to work.
“In our working culture, we value meritocracy,” she says. “You are not at all judged or evaluated based on which boxes you tick in terms of gender, sexuality or race, but rather your performance at work. If you do your job well, you can be whoever you are and you can bring your authentic self to work. We don’t care, but in a positive sense, you know? A person is a person. You can be who you are and we will assess, reward, evaluate people based on what they deliver and that’s really so strongly embedded in the culture”.
Embedded in the culture is also a sense of inclusion, which is evidenced in the company’s policies. “When we design policy, we do reflect on different underrepresented groups”, Mich explains. “How can we write the policy? How can we provide the benefits to ensure that everybody is included? I also think we then really do try to create the environment that the employee can come and talk to us to say okay this is my situation and then we will look for a solution for the employee. I think we accommodate in the policy for 99% what you can think of and if there is this 1%, we’ll cater to that”.
Mich has first-hand experience with this. As a foster parent, her situation wasn’t set out explicitly in AB InBev’s parental leave policies. “But whatever support that I needed was provided”, she says. “And I think that, for me, is kind of the perfect way to handle it. You prepare and if for whatever reason you have overlooked something within the policy, especially with the constant evolution that there is among people’s identities, you listen to people and then you try to find a 1-on-1 a solution for them”.
For Mich, it’s important that people are feel to have conversations about their identities openly and that they can be outspoken about their needs. When it comes to sharing her own sexuality, she says that previous interviews she’s given have resulted in people saying how helpful they found it. As someone that came out a bit later in life, it meant a lot that she might be able to help others.
“I think that if we are more vocal about things, we can make sure that whatever period people are at in their life, whether they’re 100% certain about their sexuality or still exploring, that we give them the reassurance that it’s okay to be whoever they are”, she says.
Along with fostering an accepting and diverse working environment, Mich says that AB InBev also have a responsibility to spread that same message to the outside world, too.
“We are the biggest brewing company around the world”, she says, “so I do think we have a social responsibility to convey that message, whether it’s to our employees, our customers or someone who’s watching a football match having a Budweiser.
“Whoever you are, let it be known that we are a company that supports equality and inclusion”.
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