What Can Businesses In the UAE Do To Grow Successful During Challenging Times?


I was honored to have my article published by newly launched magazine Business Dubai.  In the article I shed light on what inspired setting up my consultancy as well as a few advice for businesses looking to set up and grow sustainably in the region. With no further a due, here is the article:

Call me a dreamer or even an idealist, but I continue to hold the same hidden aspiration I held as a young boy who grew up to witness the city of Dubai transcending from a small desert city by the creek to a flourishing business metropolis that attracts more than 190 nationalities.

That aspiration has been to help people transcend beyond the limitations that they have been restricted to whether it is due to their background, skills, status quo, or economic.

I imagined a time where we enable homegrown ‘self-made success stories’ that can play a positive role globally and not only locally.

I yearned for a time where people and institutions in the region become exporters of knowledge and expertise rather than consumers.

And most importantly, a time when we can finally have faith in the talent and expertise born out of the region and entrust in them to tackle some of our most pressing challenges.

This hidden personal ambition had a hand in inspiring our company’s mission statement: “Helping people and business in the UAE grow successful”.  Don’t be misled however by the simplicity of the statement.  A lot of thought and personal experience had led to my choice of our driving statement.

When I set up TBH Consultancy in December of 2014 crude oil prices had fallen sharply to the $60 level in the fourth quarter from peaks of $112 per barrel.  I recall reading at the time that job creation was one of the lowest in recent years.  Business confidence had taken a hit, and there were clear concerns from people about the future.  A scenario similar to what we are witnessing globally and regionally today.

Most of the people and organizations I spoke to whether they were based in the UAE or thinking of setting up in the country were eager to find answers to three burning questions;

There was the question on the topic of ‘talent’ which was: “Where and how can we identify best talent and enable them to grow and subsequently grow our company “?

On the topic of ‘business sustainability’ they asked: “How do we align with the market needs in the UAE and tap in to the opportunities it has to offer”?

And on the topic of ‘human resource’ most leaders wondered: “What are the best practices we can adopt to make our human resource practices sustainable and competitive”?

These three areas would determine the services and solutions TBH Consultancy would strive to provide to its clients. (you would have noticed by now that the name of our firm is made up of the first letters of each area).

And hence our philosophy has since been that for a business to be successful and sustainable in this market, leaders will need to look at identifying and enabling best talent, find ways to align with local needs and ways to tap in to existing opportunities, and finally be able to always adopt best practices in human resources.

What do I think about challenging times?

I am a big believer that just like economic upturns, downturns present opportunities as well.  I learnt this lesson when I was running my recruitment firm during the financial crisis in 2009.

This is the thinking I try to convey to the clients I speak to through the various services we offer.  We have taken to ourselves to support in the 3 areas I mentioned earlier.  We help employers run their talent acquisition campaigns, we show them how them how to develop and communicate their employer brand, we work with them to develop innovative ways to develop a talent pipeline of employees and even young entrepreneurs if they want.  We also deliver private workshops for businesses eager to understand everything from the general market landscape, the opportunities offered by government and the local business culture.

We have also recently partnered with global HR consultancy Aon to help companies adopt best practices for their human resource challenges and specifically challenges they face in Emiratisation.

The current economy will have it’s winners and losers.  I personally believe that the winners are the ones to proactively address their Talent, Business opportunities and Human Resource practices (their T. B. H).

Six Reasons Why GCC Employers Are Losing Their Best Employees


Entrepreneur magazine

My latest article which was published in the August’s edition of Entrepreneur Middle East magazine looked at what could possibly be the real reasons why good employees leave their employers in the GCC (Hint: It’s right under most employers’ noses, and NOT just the state of the economy).

Click here to read the article

This was my first article published on Entrepreneur Middle East magazine, one of very few magazines I enjoy reading and I can say has a lot of useful content and advice.  Hopefully, you will see more of my articles published by them in the future.

Enjoy the read, and do share with me your views on the points I mention in the article as the key reasons employers are losing good people.

Rethinking your Emiratisation: How creativity, ideation and involving other team members can do wonders for your Emiratisation process

IBM Creativity Lab

This week I was part of a design thinking workshop which was organized by IBM In their Client Center in Dubai Design District. The workshop was designed to identify the various challenges IBM faces with its Emiratisation process and brainstorm ideas that will address its ability to attract, engage, retain and develop local talent. This would be done through a creative process.

I was quite excited to be part of this workshop, mainly because IBM’s approach to develop its Emiratisation strategy is in its core aligned to the philosophy my team and I have been advocating to employers we speak to, although how we implement the process is somewhat different .  During the process, we encourage companies to allow the strategy to grow from within the organisation organically by initiating an internal conversation facilitated by a neutral and unbiased party. This is done by allowing participants (your team) to do the talking, address the challenges, point out opportunities and get them on board the whole Emiratisation journey you are embarking on. As a bonus you empower them by allowing them to suggest ideas.

As facilitators, our role is to direct all these conversations and ideas through our own framework.  Once we have collected and put all the pieces together, we finally share with the employer what was discussed and eventually propose the most suitable solutions which can address the gaps we have identified during the process. (It’s a little bit like playing the role of a Maestro to a symphony).

So why should you consider this approach rather than leaving the headache of Emiratisation with the HR department to solve?
I can do a whole presentation explaining why; but here are my top 4 reasons why you should consider adopting a similar exercise the next time you are looking to develop or revise your Emiratisation strategy:

  1. It’s Inclusive: From experience we know that the issues confronting your Emiratisation process do not lie with HR alone. This way you get to hear from the people really feeling the pain, and empower them to suggest ideas
  2. It fosters Creativity: We encourage participants to use their imagination and creativity to build scenarios and think of possible ideas
  3. Managing Change: Applying Emiratisation as a process or looking to grow its culture in your organisation can be confronted with resistance internally. The Creativity Lab can be used as one of the strategies to manage change and get buy-in.
  4. Communication: We always encourage clients to use the Creativity Lab proceedings and its outcomes to communicate to internal and external stakeholders the company’s commitment to Emiratisation. This can potentially feed into the company’s reputation as an ’employer of choice’.

If your organisation is keen to understand some of the opportunities it can tap in to to address the challenges its emiratisation process faces, drop me a line and lets grab a cup of coffee.

Is Employee’s Mental Health the Employer’s Responsibility?

Stressed Employee
This was a poll I ran on Twitter this week: As a Headhunter who often gets to speak with distressed or frustrated employees looking for change, it’s quite common to spot the tell-tale signs of stress. 
MentalHealth Survey
I find that most of the cases are due to 2 reasons:
1) lack of engagement in the workplace
2) Personal problems at home.
The problem is compounded when the affected is a local, as most often they are embarrassed to speak about the mental health issues they suffer due to fear of stigma.
A recent study led by the WHO showed that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
So, here is my question:  Is it the employer’s responsibility to take care of the employees’ mental health or not? Should this responsibility somehow extend to terminated or retired employees as well? 

Time is Ticking: “UAE will change labor laws in order to increase Emiratis in the private sector” – Minister says

Time is ticking
Time is ticking for both employers and policymakers when it comes to Emiratisation

The Minister of Human Resource & Emiratisation speaking in front of the FNC said that the labor laws will change soon in order to increase the number of Emiratis in the private sector in the UAE.  There is no set date for these changes but given the target of increasing number of nationals in this sector to 5% by 2021 max, I would expect something after the summer period.

Two interesting pieces of information caught my eye in the article which was published in Gulf News, which I think private sector employers should pay close attention to, these are:

The government has set a target to employ 50% of the Emirati workforce in to the private sector.  If we could ‘guesstimate’ that the total size of the Emirati workforce is a minimum of 200,000 (I am being modest here), If achieved this will still be a significant increase from the existing number of nationals in the sector.

400 selected professions in 2,000 private companies will now have to give priority to Emiratis when recruiting.  400 professions is not a small number and It’s important that private sector employers take note of this when preparing their workforce plans, we are already seeing professions in areas such as Health & Safety and Compliance for example as being earmarked as ‘Emirati priority’ roles.

Note: If you are looking for help with your approach in Emiratisation, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Click here to read the article

Besides Foreign Investors, Students are set to benefit from the latest Visa changes in the UAE

University Students

On the back of the announcement by the UAE government to offer 10-year visas to investors, and professionals with specialist skills.  Another segment that is set to benefit from the sweeping changes: Students.  Specifically “exceptional” students.  To be frank, I have always found that its disheartening to see students in universities worry about their future here after they graduate.

This reminded me of a study conducted in 2016 by leading HR Consultancy Aon called the Qudurat Wave report which was conducted with Dubai International Academic City.  A key finding from the report was this:  ‘Seven out of 10 university students intend to stay in the UAE after graduation’

Other interesting findings from the Qudurat Survey were:

“Only 17 per cent Emiratis surveyed for this year’s edition of Qudurat Wave study opted to work for the public sector as compared to 53 per cent in the previous edition”.  While this result is encouraging, the question that begs an answer is what happens to Emirati students after graduating that changes their career preferences significantly towards opting for a career in the public sector only?

“One in five expats chose to go down the entrepreneurial route post their studies”.  I for one, expected at least Two out of Five expats to prefer the entrepreneurial path.  Could the students’ concerns over the challenging economic climate globally and regionally be the reason why there is less an appetite to set up on their own?

Click here to read the full article and results