Unveiling the Foundations of Sustained HR Success: An Insightful Conversation with Mr. Saad Jashim9 min read

In a recent insightful conversation with Mr. Saad Jashim, the Area Head of Talent, Culture & Inclusion for APMEA Central at BAT, Markedium delved into the practices and philosophies propelling BAT Bangladesh to the forefront of HR excellence in Bangladesh.

Mr. Jashim’s narrative sheds light on the strategic depth that has earned the company the prestigious ‘Top Employer’ title for five consecutive years, emphasizing a legacy of innovation, leadership, and commitment to diversity and sustainability.

Through his perspectives, we explore how BAT Bangladesh transcends traditional HR metrics to cultivate a dynamic, inclusive, and forward-thinking workplace environment. His discussion ranges from the intricate approaches to talent development and the embrace of Sustainability principles to addressing the generational nuances within the workforce and the broader societal impact of BAT Bangladesh’s operational ethos.

The following is a refined version of the interview transcript.

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Saad Jashim, Area Head of Talent, Culture & Inclusion
APMEA Central, British American Tobacco

Markedium: Firstly, congratulations to you and BAT Bangladesh on receiving the ‘Top Employer’ recognition. It is commendable that BAT Bangladesh has consistently been awarded the ‘Top Employer’ title for the fifth time, underscoring your outstanding commitment to people management.

Can you share an overview of the strategy that has driven this consistent success in HR excellence?

Mr. Saad Jashim: Thank you! Let me start by offering a bit of context on the award first. This prestigious recognition is being awarded by the Top Employers Institute, a Europe-based organization that has been conducting assessments since the early 1990s. Over the years, they have evaluated hundreds of organizations worldwide.

A pivotal aspect of this assessment is its stringent, uniform criteria applied globally. This ensures that achieving Top Employer status requires adhering to universally high standards, regardless of the organization’s location.

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This is one of the key reasons why we, as BAT Bangladesh opt for this certification to demonstrate our commitment to excellence, equating our practices in Bangladesh with the highest international standards.

While the concept of evaluating employers through this lens might be relatively new in Bangladesh, BAT Bangladesh’s prominence and influence have been robust in Bangladesh since the 1980s, back then known as BTC and the name changed to BAT Bangladesh in 1998.

So, the consecutive recognitions aren’t merely a product of recent efforts, but rather a continuation of our strong employer brand- a legacy, that has been developed over more than a century built on a foundation of sustained excellence in attracting and nurturing talent, a characteristic that transcends generations.

Markedium: Now, can you tell us a little bit more about how “Top Employers Institute” evaluates an organization?

Mr. Saad Jashim: The evaluation process is quite thorough, involving an assessment across six categories before determining the award recipient. Those are:


Our Top Employer submission is supported by tangible evidence, showcasing our commitment to excellence with scores above 95% in recent years. It portrays the organization genuinely practices what it preaches. This achievement also reflects our effective implementation of best practices, earning us a high ranking by the Top Employers Institute.

Markedium: Thanks for your insights. So, we can say,  it’s more of a holistic approach to the employee journey beyond just financial rewards. Could we explore more on the topic in terms of BAT Bangladesh?

Mr. Saad Jashim: It’s true that while monetary incentives initially attract employees, the lasting impact on retention and satisfaction often comes down to the quality of leadership and management they experience.

As the HR head at BAT Bangladesh, I’ve witnessed how impactful leadership and management are in retaining and motivating employees beyond just the financial incentives. Our brand attracts talent, but the quality of our leadership truly defines their experience.

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Two things are unique to BAT Bangladesh – we provide a career that no one else does, and we have one of the most fast-paced career growth in the country. Our approach to talent development is distinctly forward-thinking. Unlike many companies where line managers might hoard talent for their own team’s benefit, at BAT Bangladesh, we prioritize promoting and advancing our best performers. This culture of growth and advancement ensures that high performers are continually motivated and supported to take on new challenges.

Also, our global presence allows significant international exposure, placing over 50 employees from Bangladesh in strategic roles worldwide. This approach, coupled with a commitment to high performance and continuous improvement, makes BAT Bangladesh a premier destination for those seeking to advance their careers on a global stage, underlining our pursuit of excellence.

Markedium: Building on your previous point, you noted a major industry challenge: hoarding talent for individual benefits rather than focusing on talent development. You also noted that BAT Bangladesh has effectively navigated past this hurdle. We want to know- How?

Mr. Saad Jashim: Certainly, achieving this culture of growth and development within BAT Bangladesh is no mere coincidence; it’s a meticulously crafted strategy. The commitment to prioritizing people decisions on par with business discussions is a key differentiator for us.

Unlike many organizations that might not allocate significant time to people management, we dedicate considerable effort to evaluating our employees’ progress, potential, and preferences alongside our financial and operational metrics. This dual focus is emblematic of our belief that personnel are as critical to our success as our business operations.

Our leadership team, distinctively named to emphasize leadership over mere management, meets monthly to equally deliberate on people and business matters. This commitment includes a biannual talent review process where we assess the development needs, strengths, and career trajectories of our employees.

Decisions are made from the perspective of what benefits the talent, ensuring that business needs do not overshadow individual growth opportunities.

In short, we view our workforce not as a mere cost center but as invaluable human capital, a perspective that sets us apart and underscores our focused approach to people management. This philosophy is integral to our operational excellence and competitive advantage, reaffirming our commitment to nurturing talent and cultivating a supportive, growth-oriented culture.

Markedium: Considering the worldwide focus on cultivating a diverse workplace culture and your role as the HR head of one of the foremost companies in Bangladesh, we would to gain your perspective on this matter!

Mr. Saad Jashim: British American Tobacco (BAT), with its inception in 1901 as a joint venture aimed at global operations outside Europe and America, underscores the company’s foundational commitment to diversity. So, our global roots are very diverse.

BAT’s foundation has been on the principles of diversity. It’s in our DNA. At BAT, there is a place for everybody; it doesn’t matter where you are from or born. In Bangladesh, we’ve been pioneers in gender diversity, surpassing national standards for maternity leave (along with the facility of a daycare center for our employees) and aiming for a 37 percent gender balance in management by 2025, currently at around 30 percent.

We’ve historically supported female leadership and are actively bridging the generational gap among employees, fostering a culture of empowerment and independence.

Markedium: As Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, there’s significant interest in their distinct expectations and needs. How do you view these evolving workplace demands in light of the generational mix within your team?

Mr. Saad Jashim: The generational differences in my team, which range from those born in 2000 to myself in 1983, often reflect broader, universal ambitions rather than age-specific desires. In my view, the emphasis shouldn’t be on generational categories but rather on understanding and addressing the individual needs and aspirations of each employee.

I believe this approach helps create an inclusive environment where personal and professional growth is prioritized over stereotypes, acknowledging that aspirations evolve with societal changes rather than generational divides.

Markedium: As we are heading toward the end of our interview, could you briefly discuss BAT Bangladesh’s recruitment process and the philosophies behind it?

Mr. Saad Jashim: At the heart of our philosophy is the aspiration to cultivate a high-performance culture within our organization. For those considering a career at BAT Bangladesh, it’s crucial to understand that we operate at a brisk pace, prioritizing excellence and substantial achievements with corresponding career advancements.

With approximately 10,000 applicants annually for positions in the country, BAT Bangladesh stands as a sought-after employer.

A key aspect of our approach is the commitment to developing talent. Fresh graduates, who form the majority of our hires in Bangladesh, do not have to be an expert in something to join our team. We will provide the necessary training aiming to transform them into professionals capable of meeting our high standards, but they must have the acumen to learn in a fast competitive environment.

Our recruitment process begins with application screening, followed by preliminary interviews to gauge leadership potential rather than functional skills. Subsequent stages include an assessment center that simulates real-world challenges to evaluate mental acumen and an interview with the department head.

The essence of a BAT Bangladesh candidate, characterized by spark, curiosity, agility, and resilience rather than CGPA, is what we seek in these initial assessments.

Markedium: Last question, how do you view the industry-academia gap in Bangladesh regarding talent acquisition, and how well is academia preparing students for the workforce today?

Mr. Saad Jashim: Regarding the talent landscape in Bangladesh, while there is a gap between academia and the corporate sector, the more pressing issue, in my opinion, is the significant talent drain we experience annually, with around 400,000 skilled individuals migrating abroad.

To counter this, we must develop future leaders and attract foreign investments. At BAT Bangladesh, our Ex-BAT alumni network, which includes prominent industry leaders, exemplifies our commitment to developing professionals who contribute broadly to various sectors, not just our own.

Collaboration between industry and academia is crucial to facilitate the seamless transition of students into skilled professionals. BAT Bangladesh exemplifies this synergy through platforms such as BOM, Agri Connect, Elevate, Supernova, XCEED, and XCELERATE. These initiatives engage with universities to foster a skilled workforce, serving as models for developing future-fit business leaders.

I believe much of this work should be done by other organizations in the country and We should collaborate to bridge the gap between academia and industry. Such collaboration promises significant benefits for strengthening Bangladesh’s workforce for the future, fostering a workforce better equipped to meet the evolving demands of tomorrow.


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