The rail lines traversed by Pacific National across the country are a massive network linking the nation and facilitating connections and relationships. But, within that network of shining rails and massive locomotives there’s another that is just as important, and as valuable. That’s the people network. And the man responsible for embedding a culture of diversity and inclusion across this people network is Chris Matkaris.
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community himself, Chris brings a unique perspective to his role as Head of Inclusion and Diversity. His own experiences of inclusion have inspired him to foster and expand the already amazing workplace culture at Pacific National. A culture that embraces diversity and empowers employees to bring their whole selves to work.
In two and half years at the company, Chris’s work has connected the people that make up Pacific National, from paddock and pit to port, in a way that reflects the diversity of the employees and the reach of the company.
It starts with a culture of caring
Chris firmly believes the work he is doing is far-reaching and powerful, both for the company and beyond.
“We are changing the world by adopting socially responsible practices, innovating, empowering, collaborating, and advocating for what is right for all.
“Our philosophy is ‘we care more’ and this is something that we all live and breathe at Pacific National. It’s our PNA (Pacific National’s version of DNA) and every employee at every level and role brings this to life each day.”
Chris believes this winning culture is “built on a strong sense of camaraderie and teamwork among the employees, which creates a positive and inclusive work environment.
“As I learned more about the company’s values, vision, and the impactful work they do, I felt a deep alignment with their mission and purpose, particularly the company’s commitment to DEI, and to professional development and growth opportunities for their employees.”
The programs and initiatives that are walking the talk
Chris’s enthusiasm only builds as we continue to delve deeper into what Pacific National’s commitment to DEI actually looks like. As a keen runner, he seems to get energy from constant movement — and he gets up a head of steam as he details just some of the ways Pacific National’s culture drives positive change in this space.
“There are several key factors that set this company apart from others, including its LGBTQIA+ awareness, our focus on women, with women’s networking programs, and our strong CEO and leadership team.
“We have implemented policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for LGBTQIA+ employees and provide a safe and supportive environment where all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, feel respected and included.”
He also points out that the company’s initiatives for women employees both present and future, is ensuring gender difference can never be a lazy excuse for discrimination.
“We have established women’s networking programs that provide opportunities for mentorship, professional development, and leadership training for women employees.
He refers specifically to the “PN Connect – Women’s Series” program, which is the one of the company’s flagship gender equality initiatives, which Chris says, “demonstrates our dedication to fostering gender equality and empowering women in the workplace”.
Chris’s own personal experiences on parental leave
As a young parent and identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, it was clear to Chris right from the get-go that he and Pacific National management are on the same page.
“From the beginning of my career at Pacific National,” he tells us, “I have been supported by my direct manager with regular informal and formal conversations regarding future career aspirations”.
For Chris, this support has been invaluable:
“One employee benefit that has meant a lot to me since starting with the company is the parental leave policy, which is inclusive of adoption and surrogacy situations and available to all types of families.
“This policy has provided me with peace of mind knowing that I would have time and support to bond with, and care for, my child, regardless of how I become a parent.”
Chris says he is grateful the program extends to include all family types and has even been flexible enough for him to extend it more than once.
“I greatly appreciate that the company recognizes and supports all paths to parenthood.”
He is also proud of the fact that Pacific National has a high level of in-built flexibility across the company which, he says, has ensured his parenting journey has been easier than it might have been.
“The company’s commitment to work-life balance and supporting employees in their personal and family responsibilities has allowed me to take the necessary time off to care for my child and adjust to the demands of parenthood without worrying about my job security or financial well-being.
“Without doubt, this has made a positive impact on my overall experience with the company and has helped me navigate the challenges and joys of parenthood with peace of mind and support from my employer.”
Chris tells us he was even promoted whilst he was on leave!
How empathetic and proactive leaders help the cause
Chris is keen to note that the company’s culture is not simply about identifying the more ‘prominent’ inclusion and diversity targets or just the easy low-hanging fruit and leaving it at that.
Pacific National’s executives lead from the top. The very top in fact. He says the company’s real champion of inclusion and diversity is the CEO.
“Our CEO Paul Scurrah and his leadership team are known for their strong leadership skills and vision.
They provide clear direction, set high standards, and inspire employees with purpose to achieve their best. The leadership team is inclusive and values diverse perspectives, promoting a collaborative and inclusive work culture.”
This allows each employee to be their “authentic self,” he says.
“Here, you can be assured you are heard, valued and that you are making a direct contribution to the success of our organization.
“Our culture encourages our people to be brave and share their ideas as all layers of management are open to hearing them, and learning from them.”
Clearly with such a team, Pacific National is the engine that definitely could. While everyone loves a train that runs on time. Pacific National may have gone one step further: they run trains that are of their time, perhaps a far more valuable and sustainable goal.