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Creating an inclusive work environment in Pakistan


Ali Zaid, Area Sales Manager, is building an inclusive ‘eco-system’ and reaching people from the most neglected community in Pakistan

Ali Zaid Area Sales Manager in Sialkot in north-east Punjab

Every year, we recognise pioneering individuals within the company who have brought our values to life and truly embody what it means to be part of Unilever. Our 2019 Heroes with Impact have gone above and beyond their day-to-day jobs. Their stories paint a picture of passion, purpose and drive.

Around 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability, according to the World Health Organization. The extent of disability in Pakistan is not fully documented, but job prospects – especially in remote rural areas where attitudes are conservative – are limited.

Ali Zaid, Area Sales Manager in Sialkot in north-east Punjab, recognised these barriers to employment and decided to do something about it.

“When we started this journey, we wanted to create an inclusive environment for the community that is the most neglected within Pakistan – people with any sort of disability,” he says. “I realised that these people have an outstanding passion to grow and to work.”

Ali believed that the right resources were out there in the disability community: it was a question of identifying them, upskilling if necessary and matching them to the right roles.

He approached two NGOs with experience in this area: Milestone, which helps people with disabilities to achieve self-determination and independence, and ConnectHear, which works with deaf and mute people.

Ali talked to his distributors to find those willing to take part in the initiative and help create an inclusive environment. And he involved local universities with expertise in this field to identify skilled talent. The result was a network – or eco-system – of participants, determined to make inclusion a reality.

Ali worked with his HR team and the NGO partners to map roles in the Customer Development function that were available and suitable for the prospective recruits. Jobs suited to different types of disability were identified.

As Ali explains: “We wanted to give confidence that you [the recruit] will be coming into our organisation and we will be giving you the right task as per your potential.”

Alongside training for the new staff, awareness-raising activities were launched among existing employees to show them how to interact sensitively with their new colleagues.

“We initiated a town hall where we engaged all our Unilever employees and gave them direction on how to deal with people with disabilities in a respectful manner,” says Ali. An access audit was also carried out at a distribution site to ensure that disabled facilities were put in place, and the findings of the audit were shared, so that other distribution locations can benefit.

Ali himself worked tirelessly on making the transition a success. The families of the new employees with disabilities were encouraged to provide moral support, and – pushing the concept further – he introduced the idea of inclusivity to retailers in remote rural areas.

Customer Development set a goal of having 5% of its sales force made up of people with disabilities by the end of 2020. Results so far are impressive, with over 50 people recruited and retained.

This kind of progress is not limited to Ali’s own territory. He has created a model that can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere. His concept of the ‘right resources, right roles and right environment’ has inspired other area sales managers to follow suit.

Outside Unilever, the Ayurvedic health product company, Dabur and multinational PepsiCo, together with one of the country’s largest multi-company distributors, are implementing the programme.

For Ali, it is all about social justice. “Equality is something which enables us to give fair opportunities to everyone,” he says. “I am very proud of the initiative, but it’s not my effort only – it is the organisation who have encouraged me and have guided me.”

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