Jabbar Sardar leads global wellbeing, culture, D&I and leadership strategy across BBC Studios. But for Sandar culture and inclusion come ahead of strategy every time.
Speaking at an IBC2023 Changemaker Programme conference session, the Global HR Director, BBC Studios insisted that culture and inclusiveness is a key part of the BBC’s success as a content producer, making programmes as diverse as Strictly Come Dancing to David Attenborough natural history programmes.
“My job is to say what difference can I make today to unleash that creativity from the 3,500 staff and 2,500 freelancers who make up BBC Studios’ workforce,” said Sardar.
Putting staff first is an important principle with Sardar behind a number of initiatives to improve the wellbeing of staff, including a package for people returning to work after an absence. “In the first 12 weeks we make sure they will have support and a mentor and anything else they need. I don’t want anybody feeling that they are not being supported.”
Post pandemic the ecosystem of in work and outside work is blurring, said Sardar. “We have hybrid working and there’s no prescriptive ‘you must be in the office 3 days a week.’ You come in when you need to come in.”
Sardar said his approach of modelling the right behaviours, such as respect, from the top can be seen in the way he manages his emails. “If we want to be an open and inclusive organisation the leadership has to model the right behaviour. So everyone who emails me will get a response from me on the same day.”
“That’s because I think it’s incumbent on me to provide feedback, guide people and be part of a listening organisation.”
We ensure we have the right intent, the right values and behaviours, but when it’s not working we aim to get it right next time.”
Sardar pointed to The Pledge, an initiative instituted by Ralph Lee, head of BBC Studios Productions, which allows the production teams to call out inappropriate behaviour on productions.
“We also do lots of exit interviews and in the last four years we have had 30,000 responses. We have used AI to interpret what it really means. The AI model really helped us get to what those 30,000 comments were saying.”