Matthew Furrer is Vice President Projects for our Minerals Australia Operations, based in Brisbane. This is Matthew’s story.
“To me inclusion and diversity means we create a workplace where everyone feels respected and valued for what they bring.”
As a young professional relocating from Australia to the UK in a senior role, I had a lot of a responsibility and a team that was substantially older than me. They really struggled with the concept of youth in a leadership role.
They believed that skills could only be acquired through decades of service. Through persistence, tenacity and continuous focus on the professional business agenda over a really long time, I eventually earned their respect. All of us walked away from that experience with a richer understanding of our own biases.
To me inclusion and diversity means we create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected for what they bring; where people’s differences are celebrated for the contribution they make in creating a high performing team.
Projects, by definition, involve bringing many different teams together to find optimal solutions for BHP. We can’t do it alone. We are forever looking to bring all parts of the business that play a role in the outcome into the project thinking, for their different perspectives.
Often this diversity of thought helps us to challenge the status quo, identify risks that were otherwise understated and capture opportunity that may otherwise be lost.
I remember during the study phases of BHP’s South Flank project, some felt there were a number of significant constraints to us building a more diverse and inclusive workforce at the operation. A small group of us, including the General Manager, Project Director, and myself, refused to accept this. Instead, we sought external expertise to think about the problem differently, which has ultimately led to the incredible, high performing workforce we now have in place to operate the mine.
It took great courage to push back on the norms. I was encouraged by the support I got from my leaders to have a crack, knowing we may fall short. And even when we saw high levels of turnover early, we had the backing to persevere, learn and adapt.
This is what good leadership on inclusion and diversity looks like. Be deliberate in the habits and routines you ask of your people. Continuously ask where the diversity of thought is, celebrate great wins, and back yourself and your team.
I believe the support for inclusion and diversity at BHP is a dimension of our business that is hard for our competitors to replicate. While we’re not there yet, we have taken big steps that demonstrate we are maturing in our approach. In time, the benefits we reap as a business will become more evident every day.