As the Human Resource Director at Amazon in MENA, Jonathan is committed to growing and developing diverse talent across the region and encouraging Amazon employees to power through with their capabilities. He leads a team of more than 100 HR associates in UAE, KSA, and Egypt.
A diverse workforce brings together people with varying backgrounds, ideas, and points of view that are critical to innovating for customers; while an inclusive culture empowers employees to share their unique perspectives and add value. Our founder, Jeff Bezos, once wrote in an email to company leaders: “It is not only that diversity and inclusion are good for our business. It’s more fundamental than that — it’s simply right. These are enduring values for us, and nothing will change that.” In the MENA region, managing diversity and inclusivity within organisations is vital for long-term economic as well as social progress.
It’s quite simple. The more a workplace reflects the diversity of its customers, the better equipped it is to understand and serve them. Diversity and inclusion make companies more innovative, customer-centric and therefore more profitable. As a company of builders, we have seen first-hand the positive impact that varying backgrounds, ideas, and points of view bring towards constantly inventing on behalf of our customers.
Industry research by Brookings showed that if women’s participation in MENA labour markets equalled that of men’s, regional GDP could rise by 47 per cent over the next decade, potentially yielding US$600 billion in economic impact annually. This presents a strong business case for a gender-balanced workforce. Companies must act with urgency to not only recruit women into the workforce but also create an environment where women can grow into leaders.
Women’s empowerment and integration into the workforce is a global issue with particular significance in the Middle East. Full employment of women in the region could increase household incomes by 25% , creating a positive impact on child welfare, reducing poverty and ensuring a sustainable socio-economic base. While several countries in the region have made significant strides to improve the socio-economic status of women, the representation of women in the MENA workforce is still half the global average. Tipping the scales of gender equality in the workplace requires a deliberate effort at every stage of the hiring, retention and development journey. HR policies need to focus on levelling the playing field for women and empowering them to take up leadership roles.
The workforce in MENA is a melting pot of cultures. Expats account for around 48.1% of the total population in GCC countries, bringing together different nationalities, values, perspectives, experiences, and skill sets. In order to truly reap the rewards of cultural diversity in the workplace, companies need to cultivate an awareness of and respect for the interpersonal styles, beliefs, languages and customs of the various cultures within the organisation, so that each employee feels valued and respected and brings their best to the workplace. HR leaders should actively seek to bring varied views from across age, cultures, and genders into the workforce. It is this diversity that will enable a better understanding of customer needs.
While diversity is an undeniable way to win, the game changer is inclusion. Building a culture that is welcoming and inclusive for today’s wide range of employee pools, is integral to creating a cohesive team that plays to the strengths of each member. L&D not only helps to build awareness and sensitivity toward the different perspectives and experiences of co-workers, but also primes people to initiate difficult conversations around diversity and inclusion. At Amazon MENA, we have a range of programs like inclusive leadership training, unconscious bias training and more, enabling hundreds of Amazon managers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to be trained on mitigating bias. By coaching our teams to identify, interrupt and overcome bias, we are encouraging people to be more inclusive. However, while learning and development programmes are vital, tracking progress towards inclusion is equally important to ensure long-term impact. At Amazon MENA we have developed an Inclusion Sentiment Tracker. Using a tool we call ‘Connections’, we gather feedback from every employee on a weekly basis on various metrics such as engagement, safety and leadership, and assess the inclusion sentiment within the organisation. Using this direct feedback we are able to make changes with the organisation to ensure that employees are seen, heard, and respected, and in turn show empathy towards each other, accept differences, and make work fun, engaging and productive.
About Jonathan Ballinger:
Jonathan Ballinger’s career spans across the US, UK, Ireland, France, India, Africa and the Middle East. He has a wealth of international experience in developing global leadership, change management, talent acquisition and mobility. As a people’s person, Jonathan is passionate about designing talent development programmes to foster greater customer centricity and new thinking through experiential learning approaches.
Jonathan led the global organisation restructure of The Body Shop International in the UK as its Global Organisation Change Consultant, following its takeover by L’Oréal. He held several roles within L’Oréal, traveling to Paris as International Talent Manager where he designed and launched a global opportunity programme offering young talent international work experiences; New York as Talent Recruitment Director; and the UK as Human Resources Director at L’Oréal Luxe UK & Ireland. Before joining Amazon, Jonathan was Burberry’s Global Leadership Development Director and Human Resources Director for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEA).
A UK national, Jonathan has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Bath School of Management.