Dulsco – It started on the docks

Dulsco's chairman, Abdul Aziz Mohammad Khan Abdulla

Dulsco, the Dubai-based provider of human resources and waste management services, is the largest and oldest local company in the Top Companies to Work for in the United Arab Emirates, and it has succeeded not only to make the Great Places To Work (GPTW) list for the second year running but also improved its standing in the list from 2011. 

Acting behind the scenes as a quasi-invisible human resources back office to a wide range of enterprises, the company provides manpower support to industries that are essential for the UAE’s economic performance, such as transport and logistics and also in sectors that are core to the international attractiveness of the Emirates, such as event organizers and hospitality operators. Its staff profiles range from drivers and machinery operators to clerical workers and recruitment consultants. In the area of waste management, the company provides general and specialized cleaning, collection and related services as well as low-tech and high-tech equipment. 

As a privately held company, it does not publish results and the primary testimonies to its business acumen are its record of 77 years of continuous operations and its staff size of more than 5,300, approximately two thirds of which are part of the Human Resources division. The company has a joint-venture operation for manpower and waste management services in Qatar and dispatches roving staff to safety-tested locations and sites on specific projects and vessels beyond the borders of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Homegrown and without the human capital development processes and resources that a multinational firm or foreign corporate parents can deliver to their UAE units, Dulsco invested itself in the GPTW process from its internal resources.

At the core of any business is the human being. Due to the nature of the company’s activity with many physically demanding work roles and occupations, caring for its employees means for Dulsco to care for the safety and wellbeing of a mainly expatriate, male workforce.  

Incentive to care

“If you don’t invest in your employee, the employee will not care about his work. When, however, you plan a career for him and take care of safety and provide him with help and all that comes with it, you are transparent to him. When everything is clear in this way, he will be motivated to work for such a company,” Dulsco Chairman Abdul Aziz Mohammad Khan Abdulla tells Executive. 

As he conveys the Dulsco story, it becomes evident that the tradition of caring goes back to the company’s formation with stevedoring services. It was years before port facilities were created, and so ships would load and unload at an anchorage. It was also a long time until insurance companies would start offering their services. From those early days on, the company made it a policy that a worker who was injured or unable to work will get paid until he is healthy and able to work again.  

“So when the ports were built and insurance was introduced, we were way ahead of the other companies in providing safety and benefits as part of the corporate work policies,” Abdul Aziz says. 

People before profits

The practice was applied throughout the company’s growth. During the war in Iraq, there were inquiries to send crews to work at an oil loading terminal outside of the war zone with the promise of substantial premiums added to the normal wages, but Dulsco insisted firstly on the security of its employees and did not outsource the workforce. According to Abdul Aziz, “It is not just about money. It is safety first; this is what we believe in and we value human life more than money.” 

In its appraisal, the GPTWI 2012 Culture Audit commends Dulsco for its commitment to communications and active listening to employees. The report highlights the company’s facilities for two-way and down-up communication between employees and management, which include an open-door and ‘open office’ model, plus suggestion boxes in every location and department. 

Other Dulsco assets in being a great place to work for its employees include quality housing, sports facilities and a clinic as well as soft assets like celebratory and entertainment events that are tailored to the hearts of the employee base. “Don’t forget that these people are deprived of being with their families for two years and so you need to create the ‘home-style’ atmosphere, have functions and entertainment,” Abdul Aziz explains and sums the Dulsco culture up in saying, “We run this business as a family business.”

Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years.

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