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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Leading with Purpose: DIMO’s People-Centric Strategy

Dilrukshi Kurukulasuriya Executive Director and CHRO of DIMO

How DIMO wrote the book on workplace excellence and employee experiences with diversity, equality and inclusivity.

Executive Director and CHRO of DIMO Dilrukshi Kurukulasuriya elaborates on the group’s people strategy that emphasizes aligning actions with purpose, building capabilities, fostering staff engagement, and upholding transparency and trust. In this interview, Dilrukshi explains how, historically, DIMO faced gender imbalances, especially in male-dominated sectors. However, since
2012, the group deliberately introduced measures to improve inclusion and equality, such as recruiting female engineers and training all-female mechanic batches. Partnering with IFC’s She Works
programme was pivotal in refining their diversity approach, including creating gender-sensitive workplaces and gender-specific development programmes.

As DIMO works towards filling 40% of decision-making roles with women aligning with its sustainability agenda for 2030, the company already observes improved workplace behaviour and decreased harassment. In its global expansion, DIMO remains committed to upholding its core values and maintaining a world-class workforce. Looking ahead, DIMO prioritizes building a resilient workforce, emphasizing the role of leadership in fostering this resilience and ensuring employees thrive in their careers.

What are the core components of DIMO’s People Strategy that consistently secures esteemed recognitions such as Great Place to Work in Sri Lanka?

We actively align our actions with our purpose, building capabilities and fostering staff engagement. Transparency is paramount to us; it is the foundation for mutual trust with our employees. Our business ethos is deeply rooted in our values and code of conduct, driving an unwavering commitment to ethical operations. Our team takes immense pride in our business practices and our sustainability initiatives.

To ensure everyone is on the same page, we consistently communicate our goals and how each employee can play a role in achieving them, and thoughtfully crafted tools like our performance management system and events like employee council meetings, resource group sessions, and DIMO Day help align our staff to our overarching vision.

With “Make Work Enjoyable and Rewarding” as your Employee Value Proposition, how has DIMO tangibly embodied this principle, and what initiatives or practices have had the most profound impact on your workforce?

At DIMO, we aspire for our employees to see their role as more than just a job. We aim for DIMO to be a sanctuary where they feel safe, share laughter, celebrate small victories with colleagues, showcase their talents and grow fruitful, satisfying careers. Our commitment is to foster an inclusive environment where employees can flourish, thereby enhancing not only their lives but also those of their families. We’re dedicated to refining their skills and encouraging them to reach their fullest potential.

Our recognition of hard work and talent doesn’t stop at words. Our employees benefit from diverse rewards, ranging from local and international training programmes to counselling, coaching, and direct exposure to top management. They also get opportunities to immerse themselves in impactful projects and pursue their passions. Moreover, we believe in rewarding our employees equitably and justly.

However, achieving this vision requires strong leaders at every level. Our line managers are pivotal in upholding and conveying our value proposition, which is why investing in their training and development is of utmost importance to us.

How has DIMO’s diversity strategy evolved over the years and what were the significant turning points that pushed the company to refine or change its approach? Can you share some specific diversity initiatives that DIMO has introduced?

For many years, DIMO noted a significant disparity in the gender balance within its ranks, particularly given our engagement in sectors traditionally viewed as male-dominated, such as engineering, auto sales, and infrastructure projects. These fields are often perceived as rugged and masculine. However, as early as 2012, we took deliberate steps to shift these perceptions and foster a more inclusive environment.

We began by launching initiatives aimed at altering the perception of certain jobs and industries. Among our efforts, we actively sought to recruit more female engineers for project work. In a pioneering move, we also recruited an all-female cohort of students, training them as auto mechanics. These young women, many from modest backgrounds, were subsequently employed in various roles, from workshops to reception areas in auto-related sectors. Our goal was not merely to offer employment but to empower these individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to uplift their lives.

Our association with the IFC-led “She Works” programme was a game-changer, providing us with a more structured and goal-oriented approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). As one of the 16 champions committed to fostering Gender Smart Workplaces, we founded an “Employee Resource Group”. This platform allowed women and their allies to convene, addressing gender-specific concerns and promoting a gender-sensitive organizational culture. Additionally, we rolled out unconscious bias training for all managerial levels, starting from our board of directors, emphasizing the importance of a respectful workplace. We also set up a dedicated hotline, overseen by an independent ombudsman, for reporting harassment.

Under the auspices of the “She Works” programme, we zeroed in on elevating women to leadership roles and increasing their representation in unconventional job roles. Both aims were met with considerable success. Another highlight was our tailored programme designed specifically for high-potential women, offering coaching and empowerment to nurture them into successful leaders. While this was an addition to our gender-neutral development schemes, we recognized the distinct challenges faced by women, differed significantly from their male counterparts.
At DIMO, we believe in championing equity by understanding and addressing the unique barriers faced by each gender.

In terms of both business performance and workplace culture, how has DIMO measured the tangible impacts of its diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Our objectives in terms of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) are crystal clear. We aim to have women occupy at least 40% of decision-making roles. As we actively work towards realizing these DE&I objectives, we’ve already observed a positive shift in organizational behaviour and understanding.

Colleagues have grown more aware that not everyone stands on an equal footing, recognizing that individual needs and challenges vary. In this evolving environment, we’ve noted a decrease in harassment and a more inclusive atmosphere. While such behavioural changes may be intangible and harder to quantify now, we’re optimistic that as we make further progress in our DE&I journey, we’ll be better positioned to gauge their positive impact on both our corporate culture and business performance.

With DIMO’s diversification strategy driving global expansion, how do you ensure that your human capital remains at a world-class level?

Regardless of whether our workforce operates locally or globally, they are unified by our core values, leadership standards, and code of conduct. We’ve trained our managers to use these guiding principles to foster cohesion and integration, no matter where they are. Our recruitment strategy is rigorous and far-reaching, designed to attract the best talent from all corners of the world. Our strong Employee Value Proposition, coupled with the recognition of being a “Great Place To Work” for over 11 years, solidifies our reputation as a preferred employer and further enhances our brand’s appeal.

How do you envision the company’s future strategies in enhancing the resilience of your people?

Ensuring that we have a resilient workforce – one that is astute, robust, and agile in the face of challenges – is crucial. A workforce with a growth mindset, fuelled by positivity, is essential for navigating the unpredictable terrains of the business world. Collaborative efforts, combined with passion and team engagement, can significantly propel a team forward, aiding them in overcoming obstacles and crafting effective solutions.

While the concept of a resilient workforce is admirable, bringing it to fruition is no simple task. At DIMO, we prioritize transparency, forging a deep sense of trust between managers and their teams. This trust fosters robust relationships, allowing teams to confidently take calculated risks and collaboratively devise solutions to potential challenges.

Leadership plays an instrumental role in shaping this resilience. When leaders embody a can-do attitude, exemplifying the very essence of resilience and positivity, their teams are more inclined to rally behind them, believing in and championing the shared cause. This is why, at DIMO, while we are invested in nurturing resilience across our workforce, we place special emphasis on cultivating resilient leaders. We’re of the firm conviction that such leaders can inspire and instil similar attributes in their teams.

Ultimately, by prioritizing the development of a resilient workforce, we aim to not only navigate business challenges but also to fuel the dreams and aspirations of our employees, offering them unparalleled career trajectories on a global scale.