Retention, who’s responsibility is it anyway?


Refund Policy

I’ve been meaning to write this article for a very long time and rather reluctantly I have to confess. I had convinced myself not to share my view on this particular topic especially with the existing employers in the market as well as my clients who I have –so far- been keeping a pleasant relationship with.  I feared the repercussion and potentially getting on the ‘bad side’ of some of the Managers out there.  (Hey, don’t judge me I’ve got bills to pay too).

My client reading this article while on a vacation
My client reading this article while on a vacation

However I feel that it is time to share a point of view I’ve held for so long as a consultant and   a Headhunter working with both employers and job seekers.  I’m secretly encouraged by the fact that most employers and their managers will probably not be reading this article as they savor their vacations out of the country at this time of the year.

The problem with ‘guarantees’ is nothing is guaranteed

Having run my own recruitment firm for so many years now, I found that one of the least-enjoyable parts of the whole process of engaging a client and helping them fill their vacancies is the part where our proposed Terms and Conditions are subject to endless negotiations, scrutiny and emails going back and forth till one party compromises –and usually it’s the recruitment agency- for the sake of getting the ‘ball rolling’ and some work done.  This is all fair and understandable.  However, what continues to dumbfound me till this day is when managers insist on what has become known as the ‘guarantee clause’.  For those of you who are not familiar with the jargon; the guarantee clause is where a recruitment agency commits to the employer that should the employee who has been placed by the agency decide to quit on his own discretion during the first three to four months of his or her employment, then the agency is obliged to find a ‘free’ candidate to replace the one who left.  It get’s even more complicated when an agent is not successful in finding a suitable candidate to replace –or the employer doesn’t seem to like any other candidate you present.  You are then forced subsequently to refund the money you were paid initially for your time and effort.

To add to that, I’ve also observed lately that some employers have become rather creative when negotiating the guarantee clause with some suggesting conditions such as a prolonged ‘6-month guarantee period’ instead of the standard three or four months. With one employer –who will remain anonymous here- even suggesting a couple of years back for the fee to be split in half; where 50 percent is paid in the beginning and the other part at the end of the 6 month just to make sure that the “employee stays in the company”.  I have even come across a client who proposed boldly to “try the employee and pay the agency after they are satisfied at the end of the probation period”.

My 'un-amused look' when a client negotiates the 'guarantee clause'
My ‘un-amused look’ when a client negotiates the ‘guarantee clause’

The truth is this type of clause has become a standard practice in the market and it seems employment agencies prefer to keep quiet and accept it, alas, grudgingly.  The ‘guarantee clause’ recruiters have to commit to has never really made sense to me quite frankly.

What employers assume, and what really happens

The problem I have with this long-standing practice is  that it first assumes naively that an employee joining a new company will naturally stay just because he or she was completely sold during the interview stage about the career prospects in the new company.  This ignores the fact that employees are exposed to numerous elements or incidents during a working day that qualify in their eyes as reasons to make their blood boil, eyes roll up and call it quits.  We’ve all heard them and these reasons can be anything from “it’s been 3 weeks now and I don’t even have an email address, desk or a parking spot”, or “I don’t like how my supervisor speaks to me”, or the very popular “I am so shocked the company is so unorganized and does not have any system in place”.  I personally recall I was on the verge of quitting my job once because my insecure boss wanted to know everything from who I was speaking to over the phone to “why am I having my second cup of coffee already”.  Clearly recruitment agents are oblivious to these incidents most of the time.

3 I.T. Problems: One of the reasons cited by many employees for wanting to quit their jobs which Headhunters like me have no hand in
3 I.T. Problems: One of the reasons cited by many employees for wanting to quit their jobs which Headhunters like me have no hand in

Who’s responsibility is it?

Another problem I have with the guarantee clause is that it is a symptom of a more serious problem which most employers are yet to grasp, that the fact of the matter is; employee retention and engagement is most of the time an employer’s responsibility and not necessarily the recruitment agency who introduced the employee or the employee himself for that matter.  I get the gist of this type of attitude in particular when I’m discussing the topic of employment of young nationals with employers or in public forums and even in the media.  Everyone seems to be trying to figure out why are young local employees difficult to retain? What influences them? How can we influence their parents? And so forth.  The truth is, employers have to own up to their responsibility of ensuring that talent integrates smoothly in their companies, is engaged effectively and is empowered to lead a fulfilling career.  Something a recruitment agent can do little about from a distant office somewhere.

Rethinking Emiratisation Part 2: Innovation meets Emiratisation 


In part 1 of my post titled ‘Rethinking Emiratisation’, I called for the review and rethinking of not only the long-standing concept of ‘Emiratisation’ but also the approach towards it.

The Shift: “If you don’t give us a chance, we will create our own chances”

The Shift: “If you don’t give us a chance, we will create our own chances”


“If you don’t give us a chance, we will create our own chances”.  These words echoed across a hall filled with almost 300 people at a summit I attended recently.  The summit was appropriately called the ‘Visions 2 Reality’ summit.  It was a summit where senior executives of organisations as well as experts sat to discuss and debate current and new ideas in areas ranging from leadership, talent, strategy to organisational development.  I had been selected to moderate a discussion during the day on a topic titled ‘Development of Young Local Talent’.  Our session was followed by a couple of interesting sessions by experts in various topics.

However, what impressed most of the audience was a segment that featured a group of young Emirati girls from various local universities such as Zayed University and the Dubai Women’s College.  As the young girls climbed onto the stage we really had very little idea of what to expect from the segment.

Listening to one of my guest panelists speak during my session
Listening to one of my guest panelists speak during my session

The thirty minute segment began with the girls standing on stage and one by one deliver powerful and emotional speeches in topics addressing deep philosophical insights such as the speech that carried the title ‘My Role Model’ to a narration of the story of the latePresident of the UAE ‘Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan’ from a different angle.  The audience was at awe.  It was truly a masterclass in public speaking, and in my view dwarfed the earlier sessions including mine.  I could hear whispers from the tables around me asking if “the girls were just students, or professional public speakers”. “Were they educated in local schools and universities”, and other curious questions. 

Towards the end of their segment and amid a thunderous applause from an impressed audience, a young lady from the group left the audience with a distinct and clear message and it was aimed at all the employers sitting in the summit–particularly the private sector- as well as the skeptics; She announced with a confident voice “This is a message to the private sector; if you don’t give us a chance, we will create our own chances. So stand with us and not against us”.

One of the young speakers who captivated the audience with her speech
One of the young speakers who captivated the audience with her speech

I’m not sure if the audience took the message to heart or read much in to it.  From where I stood, the message couldn’t have been articulated in a better way. It was reflective of a growing frustration of the barriers imposed by community and many corporate and public institutions to anything out of the norm, an annoyance from the perceptions held against a misunderstood generation and a growing discontent with the stifling limitations of what I consider two sworn enemies of mine; the ‘status quo’ and the acceptance of mediocrity.  I truly hope there are more young people out there who live by the attitude the young lady voiced on that day.  We should no longer wait for opportunities to be created for us, doing so will only set us up for a life of regret and untapped potential.  Young people who step out of their comfort zones and go against the grain to create their own chances are the ones that earnestly deserve the title ‘brave new generation’.


Abdulmuttalib (Talib) Hashim



The often ignored formula for success for businesses in the UAE

Video: The often ignored formula for success for businesses in the UAE



I would like to take this opportunity to announce the strategic partnership between our firm TBH Consultancy with Dubai based firm MBD which is led by ‘culture expert’ Amal Loring.  (Click on the following link to read more about this strategic partnership:

A New Nationalisation Roadmap for the Middle East


A New Nationalisation Roadmap for the Middle East
Abdulmuttalib (Talib) Al Hashimi offers us his thoughts about a possible new nationalisation roadmap for the region. Against a backdrop of the depressing events that have plagued the Middle East in recent years in particular, a small yet significant victory went unnoticed in the mainstream media and provided cause for celebration and pride to the people living in a small desert country in the Gulf known as the UAE.This small victory came in the form of an announcement made by the world’s largest online professional network and recruitment platform, LinkedIn, that, according to its 2013 ranking of the world’s ‘talent magnets’, the UAE had topped its list with a net talent gain of 1.3%. The survey which measures the net international movement of talent among its members included countries like the UK, Spain, France, the US, Italy and Ireland. According to the survey, these countries are increasingly becoming ‘talent exporters.’

To comprehend the significance of this news you will have to understand that the ‘Arab brain drain’ issue has been a problem in the Arab world for decades. A study by Dr Ayman Al Zahri – an expert on migration studies at the Egyptian Society for Migration Studies – estimated that the number of Arabs who had migrated to the so called ‘developed’ countries had reached 35 million. This flight of human capital had begun by the end of the First World War. In 2010 the United Nations and the Arab League estimated the number of Arab experts and specialists was about one million with a very low rate of return to the region.

Personal Memories

For me, as well as other Arabs from my generation, the news was more personal. It brought back memories of the many passionate classroom lectures that were delivered on the topic of ‘Arab brain drain’ by school teachers who had lived through the regional conflicts. Often we were asked to write essays or discuss an article on the topic. In fact, I even remember a painting I drew during an art class portraying a group of Arab scientists getting off a plane that had landed in an Arab country. I wonder now that had the art teacher and the rest of the students in that class suspected that the piece of ‘art work’ was possibly a prophecy sketched by an unlikely twelve year old would they have laughed at me as hard as they did on that day?

There is no doubt that by reversing the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon the UAE – as well as some of the GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia which was also a gainer in the list – has crossed a significant historical milestone. Notwithstanding this accomplishment and without wishing to be seen as the one to ‘rain on the parade,’ the region has another more pressing need that, in my opinion, is more important than its ability to attract international talent. This urgent need is the employment, development and empowerment of these countries’ local talent, otherwise loosely known as ‘nationalisation.’

A Lost Generation?

Nationalisation will not only continue to grow as a regional imperative in the Gulf but also across the wider Arab world; particularly after the events that followed what has become known as the ‘Arab Spring.’ You will recall that the Arab Spring was sparked by a young and frustrated unemployed Tunisian that subsequently inspired a regional-wide youth revolt. The Middle East currently has among the highest unemployment rates of any region in the world for people between the ages of 15 and 24; one out of four young people in the labor market are unemployed. These countries have now begun to look at how they can empower their own local population to regain stability and prosperity.

For the talent either returning to this region or arriving for the first time, the landscape has changed significantly in the last twenty years or so. The Gulf countries are experiencing a youth bulge with up to one-third of its population are under the age of 25. Illiteracy, which was a key problem that had plagued the region, has now been significantly diminished with countries such as the UAE reducing its illiteracy rate from 75.1 % in 1971 to below 1% while Saudi Arabia has now achieved 96% literacy rate. More nationals are pursuing higher education with 100,000 university students graduating from Saudi Arabia every year, while the UAE is seeing a year on year increase in number of graduates with at least 100,000 graduates are expected to enter the workforce in the next 10 years.

While these statistics alone look impressive, the ailment the GCC countries are facing has been in the form of a nagging unemployment problem that refuses to go away in spite of an encouraging increase in job creation in particular in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. According to a Booz & Co report published in 2011 and entitled ‘Youth in GCC Countries, Meeting the Challenge,’ the unemployment rate in Bahrain touched 31% in 2001. This was followed by Saudi Arabia at 29.9% in 2009, Kuwait at 18.4% and, in the UAE, that figure is estimated to be around 15%. The inevitable question that comes to mind in view of this is; now that we have managed to reverse the ‘brain drain’ phenomenon to ‘brain gain’ and continue to attract global talent to our cities, how do we also ensure that the local talent is competitive and empowered enough so that they play a role in the social and economic development in the region?

A Sustainable and Cohesive Strategy

I have always believed and preached that more than government legislation, employers, and in particular the ever growing private sector in the Gulf, play a vital role in addressing this question. This starts with companies accepting that it is imperative that they not only understand the national and societal priorities in the region but are also aligned to these priorities. What needs to happen next is a shift from a monotonous numbers approach where the sole purpose is employing numbers or achieving quotas to a more sustainable and cohesive strategy.

The key ingredients for this are what I refer to as the ‘Nationalisation Roadmap.’ This roadmap encourages employers to ask themselves critical questions such as; “how are we engaging national youth talent today?”, “how creative and robust is our recruitment process?”, “how can we foster smooth integration of local and international culture in our workplace?” and “how are we instilling leadership skills across all levels?”

To achieve this, the region desperately needs HR leaders who are not only creative and strategic, but also have the ability to connect the dots and see what is in stake here. Perhaps the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid put it best in his article addressing the ranking announced by LinkedIn when he stated that: “Part of the tragedy playing out in Middle Eastern countries beset by conflict and instability is that if only their most talented sons and daughters could apply their skills at home, they would become part of the solution: agents of peace through development.”

 Article written for and published by International HR specialists Digby-Morgan in July 2014