With 30 nationalities and 20 languages in the workplace, VodafoneZiggo can already justifiably describe itself as a diverse company. But Sherry Rafiq and Aziz Mohammadi, the people behind the employee network Intercultural Connected, felt there was still room for improvement.

“It would be nice if a few people turned up,” thought Sherry Rafiq, Director of Internal Communication & Engagement. Together with Aziz Mohammadi, Tribe Lead Data & Artificial Intelligence, she organised the first-ever Iftar, the meal that traditionally breaks the fasting period during Ramadan. The turnout exceeded their expectations, with more than 100 colleagues from all over the Netherlands coming to the VodafoneZiggo office in Utrecht. “There were even people who had travelled specially from Maastricht to be there.”

Be yourself
Intercultural Connected's mission is clear: Make VodafoneZiggo attractive to colleagues of different nationalities, cultural backgrounds, beliefs and ethnicities, now and in the future. So that they can grow and develop, both as people and in their work. Sherry: “We want to see more diversity in all layers of the company. So it is important that everyone feels free to be themselves, regardless of gender, orientation, sex, disability, origin or religion.”

Diversity is out there
The employee network was only set up in December 2022, but the idea had been around for some time. Sherry: “When I started work here a few years ago, Aziz and I noticed that out of 70 managers, we were the only two of non-Western origin. You do see diversity in our stores and our engineers, but apparently, it has not penetrated all layers yet.” The duo believes that can be improved. Aziz: “The diversity I see when I walk down the street from the head office is something we want to see reflected within our walls,” he says.

It could also be more inclusive on the language front. “I received emails from English-speaking colleagues who felt left out because the information they need is not always translated into English or because not everyone speaks English,” explains Sherry.


Harira soup and baklava
Aziz and Sherry organised focus groups with colleagues and drew up an events calendar of intercultural activities. The Iftar was the first. “It was a magical evening,” recalls Aziz. “The atmosphere was open and friendly. Everyone was touched by the personal stories colleagues shared over dinner about Ramadan and their faith. People who were not religious also spoke.” The turnout reflected the diversity within VodafoneZiggo: from office workers to retail staff and engineers. About a third were of Dutch origin. And the food was as diverse as the turnout: traditional Moroccan harira soup, Turkish baklava and various fish and meat dishes.

Stories connect
The next events are already in the diary, says Sherry: “In the near future, we will be holding an Africa Day. We will also be marking Yom Kippur, Diwali and Hanukkah. By doing so, we are giving colleagues the opportunity to meet and share personal stories because stories connect people.”

Start at the beginning
The network is also active at the policy level. Sherry: “Increasing diversity within the company starts with the people we hire. How do we position VodafoneZiggo as an attractive employer for diverse talent? We are talking to HR and recruitment about that.” Aziz adds: “And we are looking at the opportunities for advancement once you work here. Are those opportunities accessible to everyone, and how can we make them more so? Our ideal is to start seeing that cultural diversity reflected in all layers of the company. And that no matter what your background is, you will find role models here that you can emulate.”