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:
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
It fosters Creativity: We encourage participants to use their imagination and creativity to build scenarios and think of possible ideas
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.
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.
A year after the Ministry of Labour had its name changed to the ‘Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation’ (MOHRE); the Ministry came out last week announcing a series of new initiatives it is rolling out to drive Emiratisation in the country, and from the looks of it, the MOHRE has its sight on the private sector. The MOHRE took this opportunity to also share what it has observed as some of the critical challenges and realities surrounding the current state of Emiratisation. There’s so much of information spread out across the Arabic and English publications that I thought it would be helpful for employers if I shared here a summary of what I think should matter to you as an employer.
So, let’s start with what I believe is the most important announcement:
Say bye, bye to the Qouta system and prepare for a shift to the ‘Points System’: Well, not just entirely yet for now. The ‘Quota system’ has been for so long the target of much criticism by employers. I’ve stopped counting how many times I’ve been asked my opinion on the quota system, and each time I’ve dissapointed many with my response, that as a short-term solution, the quota is a “necessary evil” or a “safety pin” until we resolve the other fundamental challenges such as the education system, attitudes of Emirati jobseekers to working in the private sector, etc. The MOHRE is now ‘piloting’ a Points System across a select number of companies. The ‘Points System’ basically aims to not only measure success of Emiratisation solely on the number of Emiratis a company hires, but rather on a variety of other achievements such as the training initiatives the employer offers Emirati employees, the efforts the employer demonstrates in hiring nationals in management and specialist roles (business critical roles), the work environment and the company’s demonstrated leadership commitment to Emiratisation. From what I gather, the employers selected to be part of this ‘pilot’ will automatically become members of an ‘Emiratisation Partners Club’ and will be categorised as a ‘Platinum, Gold and Silver’ member according to each employer’s performance according to the new points system. I expect most of you are eager to get an answer to that burning question: “Are there any incentives offered to employers adopting this system and what are they”? I don’t have an answer to that quite frankly, but all I will say is “watch this space”.
No New Employment Visas will be issued to employers unless they can show that there are no qualified Emiratis who qualify for the role: This obviously applies on companies that qualify for the Quota system or the new Points System. To show how serious the Ministry is, the senior officials of the Ministry have been working on linking the process of issuing visas with the current database of jobseekers with the Ministry.
The Ministry has set a definition of who is considered according to its system a ‘Jobseeker’ and accordingly will be given priority in the system: This most probably means that only Emiratis who fit the definition will be accounted for according to the Ministry’s system. The Ministry has set 11 criteria defining an Emirati ‘Jobseeker’ who will be provided priority support by the system. I won’t get in to all of the criteria, but it excludes for example Emiratis who are retired, business owners and Emiratis who are still employed.
Finally, Jobseekers will be classified according to their “seriousness” in seeking employment: I have to confess, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’ve seen my fair share – it looks like the Ministry also has seen its fair share too – of jobseekers who are either not serious about finding a job, extremely fussy or just don’t know what they want. However, I also know that the phenomenon of ‘passive talent’ is a common characteristic among jobseekers across the world and particularly ‘millenials’. I feel we need to be able to differentiate the two from each other rather than throw them in one category and find creative ways to engage ‘passive talent’.
The Case of ‘Non-Active’ Emirati Jobseekers: The Ministry shared that out of the approximately 9200 registered jobseekers in its database, only 2700 are considered ‘Active Jobseekers’. This is quite concerning. The Ministry cited that ‘Non-Active’ Jobseekers were the ones who either failed to update their CVs for more than 90 days, failed to attend phone calls by the recruiters at the Ministry, failed to show up for interviews and basically managed to do everything that would make a recruiter cringe. Interestingly, the Ministry has come out to openly criticise Emirati jobseekers for not being active enough and rejecting job offers continuously, and has hinted that it will deal with them appropriately.This means the Ministry acknowledges the size of the challenge at hand.
Around 65% of employers cited that Emirati candidates lacked the language and communication skills required for the workplace
Women consisted approximately 82% of the registered Jobseekers: Besides the fact that Emirati women are more proactive and serious about pursuing experience and careers (I confess, we men need to pull up our socks), my experience is that there a number of cultural factors as well behind Emirati men’s lack of proactiveness in jobseeking.
What happens now?
Well, I believe it is high time that besides jobseekers, employers need to be proactive about setting themselves up to hire Emiratis, rather than wait to see if the current(or even future) legislations will affect them or not. There are various ways your organisation can begin to explore Emiratisation proactively. If you are interested and want to learn more and are looking for help in this area, please feel free to drop me an email at: Talib@talibbinhashim.com or send me a LinkedIn message.
Last week marked 5 years since we completed one of the most fulfilling recruitment assignments in my 9 years of work in this field. We had been asked to help hire UAE nationals across Dubai Metro’s Green Line which was to be inaugurated by a visit by the Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid. This would be the first time the Dubai Metro project would be unveiled to the world. I realised after my first meeting that the task at hand was going to be a challenging one. The opening of the Green Line would be in less than 5 months’ time and the company needed to identify, hire, on-board and train up UAE nationals who would man the metro and the various stations by the time Sheikh Mohammed visited to launch the project.
We agreed that failing to hire these nationals on time would leave a bad taste to the launch of a ground-breaking project like Dubai Metro. We worked closely with the employer, and put in a lot of effort and time to eventually gather the first batch for the first Open Day, a group of approximately 120 local job-seekers. Two more batches would follow after that. In the end, after a series of Open days in different locations, presenting to job-seekers, interviewing the interested ones and speaking to parents of some of the younger job-seekers.
The Opening of the Green Line was a success, and it was even better given the fact that across the different stations, young Emirati employees could be seen as Station Agents, Station Masters and Ticket Inspectors among others.
The experience of hiring locals for Dubai Metro was an eye-opener to me personally. It helped me further understand the challenges private sector employers face in attracting and retaining local talent, it also left me with lessons some of which I use as anecdotes today when I talk to employers seeking to hire nationals. However, most importantly to me the experience shattered a number of myths that have been floating in the market when it comes to hiring locals. Here are 3 things I learned hiring locals for Dubai Metro:
Don’t underestimate the importance of your ‘employer brand’
A lot of the multinational employers who come with a strong reputation globally tend to assume that their existing brand is sufficient to woo local job-seekers and as a result put little or negligible effort in communicating what is the distinctive ‘employee experience’ their organisation has to offer and what does their employer brand stand for in the bigger context. For local talent, understanding the company’s ‘employer brand’ and ‘employee experience’ helps them buy into the idea of committing to a career in the organisation. It also provides them with a powerful narrative they can use to deflect family and society pressure to look at a job in the public sector as an alternative. Contrary to common belief local job-seekers can be very pragmatic, outcome-oriented and selective about the career choices they make. In my workshops I teach employers that there are a number of things local talent look for in an employer’s brand. In the case of Dubai Metro, since the employer was in fact a multinational company; we worked on building an emotional link between their careers with the employer and their potential role in being part of building a progressive economy and society.
Dispelling the myth of work and salary expectations’ of local job-seekers.
Whenever I speak about Emiratisation in public forums or behind closed doors, I can’t help but notice employers roll their eyes. It doesn’t take them so much time to jump at me with the “yeah, but we can’t afford the high salaries local job-seekers ask for”, or “we work really long hours, and locals surely wouldn’t accept this”. Granted that yes, high salary expectations and an eagerness to work in the government sector is a challenge when it comes to hiring nationals. However, the biggest injustice we can do is to generalise this perception. During our interviews with the locals applying for work in the metro, we were surprised to find local job-seekers who were earning salaries of 6,000 to 10,000 dirhams in their existing jobs (a far cry from the $7,300 the media had claimed to be the expectation of a university graduate). I often help employers understand that the salary expectations of local talent are really influenced by the law of ‘supply and demand’ of talent in a specific region or industry, the region they are recruiting from them as well as the exact economic scenario at play when an employer is hiring. This is another interesting topic I’ll address in future articles.
Beyond common perceptions, many of the local job-seekers have real stories and struggles.
In my years working with employers, I’ve observed that quite often hiring managers and recruiters tend to ‘pigeon-hole’ local job-seekers as well as employees into a hole that reads “Not interested in hard work, will definitely ask too much for a salary”. However, what employers must do is scratch the surface and try to understand that these are ‘real’ people with their own unique stories, motivations and aspirations which they bring to the table. During one of the Open Days recruiting for the Metro I remember the divorced single mother of five kids, who attended the interview and was honest with us about the reason she had applied for the role, she needed the job to support her children rather than rely on hand-outs. In fact, more than half of those who attended the interviews were Emirati women. There was also the degree holder who had been out of work for two years at least, and shared with me the emotional toll of being unemployed in a society with a lot of expectations. I met a number of job-seekers who drove all the way from places such as Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah to apply for the jobs, but had no idea how would they work out the shifts. All they wanted was a job that would provide them a decent living and give them the chance to be part of something meaningful.
At times I’m reminded by the important role we all played in changing the lives of this group of enthusiastic locals when I take the metro and one of the locals we helped hire comes to say a quick hello looking sharp dressed in a suit. I couldn’t help but feel proud when one of the Emirati women called me 2 years after she started working for the metro to tell me how she was now in-charge of one of the stations.
If I would sum up all the lessons I learned recruiting locals for this particular project, it would be that as employers, recruiters, line managers and even policy makers we need to bring ourselves to not get caught up in all the simplified stereotypes which surround locals, and seize to perceive them as a number or a percentage on a piece of paper.
I’ll leave you all with some of the statements of the Emiratis who were hired in the metro as reported by local newspaper The National:
Sumaiya Abdul Rahman, 32, a mother of three who has also been employed as a stationmaster, said: “This is my dream job. I am in charge of the whole station and its equipment, and responsible for staff.”
Mohammed Humaid, 34, said he applied because he wanted a new challenge.
“I decided to give the Metro a chance,” said Humaid, 34, who is also a trainee stationmaster. “It’s a new industry in the region and everybody likes to be part of the latest and advanced technology – especially a nerd like me.” Humaid’s wife is expecting next month and he thinks the Metro’s shift work will allow him to help his wife raise their child without the need of maids.
Kawthar Al Kitani, 28, said job satisfaction was far more important to her than salary. “Even though this job pays me a lot less than my previous one and I have a lower position, it doesn’t matter to me,” “What matters to me is that they care for their employees and their career development.” Ms Al Kitani said
This article is dedicated to my friend, partner and Mentor Nathan McCole who worked tirelessly with me to help these UAE nationals pass their interviews and join successfully. Nathan volunteered and asked for no fee to train and prepare groups after groups of candidates for the railway test they would have to sit as part of the hiring process. Sadly, Nathan passed away earlier this year. Rest In Peace.
Have you ever had the experience of being stuck for hours in the Transit Area of a busy airport before? Either way, I’m sure you’re not a fan of being stuck in the Transit Area of some airport especially if you’re stuck for more than a couple of hours. (Well, maybe with the exception of a comfortable and luxurious Transit Lounge). Ever wondered why people dread being in the transit area of an airport so much? Maybe it’s because travellers feel pressured to get to their destination as soon as they can. Maybe it’s the awful feeling of being alone and a stranger in a busy and crowded airport. Could it be because most people seem to be not too friendly and have created a sort of bubble around themselves? Do all these sound familiar to you? Here’s a question for you; could your workplace be like a busy airport’s Transit Area like the one I described? Think about it for a moment.
I for one know for a fact that I have seen quite a few Transit Areas within companies. And I am sure that many of you can relate too. How was it working with a team member who seemed to find their comfort working in their own ‘bubble’? How frustrating was it that a department in your company seems to only be comfortable working with “their own”? Ever wondered why your young new joiners seem to lose all the energy they came with when they first joined and now seem to be demoralised? Now imagine instead of being stuck in that dreadful Transit Area in the airport, you were offered to shift to a nice, comfortable and friendly Transit Lounge.
The ‘transit lounge’ mind-set was first coined by Prof. D. Muna in which he warned of the implications such a mentality has on productivity, motivation, retention and employee happiness. The phenomenon is even more common in the GCC region due to the highly diverse workplace and the gap between expat and locals socially.
The Tranzeet (the local pronunciation of transit) Lounge is a place that reflects what I envision how the UAE workplace should look like; a busy airport’s transit lounge full of employees brought together by a clear unifying purpose, employees who feel engaged each, employees who gain an appreciation and understanding of each other’s cultural backgrounds and, most importantly, understand the culture of their local colleagues.
This is not a UAE cultural orientation service, neither is it a workshop about ‘culture’ and ‘diversity’. It’s a platform where issues, challenges and solutions are explored together in a safe environment while participants get the opportunity to learn and work together to put together practical solutions for their workplace’s unique challenges. The process is structured towards helping your employees go beyond perceptions and towards finding creative ways of creating a happy and productive workplace.
If you feel your company can benefit from this program, feel free to drop me an email and schedule an initial meeting to understand better how we can help
“Strangers in a new culture see only what they know.” –Unknown
Success Ingredient #1: Stay Competitive by selecting and enabling the best People to work with
In his book ‘Good to Great’ Author Jim Collins argues that “hiring the best talent” should actually be the first priority business leaders need to focus on when looking to grow their companies, asserting that this should even happen right when the organisation is working on shaping its vision. Collins believes that “Great vision without great people is irrelevant”. Personally, I learned this early during the time I had just set-up my first consultancy practice called Next Level in 2006. I knew that due to the fast growth in the economy, the emergence of a diverse private sector and the growing number of youth population entering the market that being in the ‘people’ business could possibly be a good bet. I just didn’t know what area of the ‘people’s’ business I needed to operate in. I would be lying to you if I claimed that I woke up one day, had an epiphany and knew exactly what areas of business and services I would focus on. I believe that as I employed as well as collaborated with like-minded people in y area this helped me further shape my vision and carve my niche. The type of people I’m alluding to are people who have their ‘finger on the pulse’ and ear in the market. They understand what customers need, have a pretty good idea what should be done to cater to those needs and are skilled in engaging customers effectively.
Why culture does matter when doing business in the UAE
The unique characteristic of the UAE market makes it important for business leaders to have the best relevant feet on the ground first, identifying opportunities and regularly engaging your company’s target audience. Consider the fact that the country is one of the most culturally diverse in the world which often requires a culturally relevant personal approach. I often hear people naively describe the culture in the UAE as a ‘melting pot’, the problem with ‘melting pots’ is that by its design all cultures should ultimately be reflected in one common culture, and that is the culture of the dominant group. The truth is that the culture in the UAE is more of a ‘salad bowl’ (also known as mosaic); cultural groups exist separately maintaining their practices and maybe even institutions. You can see this play out in organisations, in some instances in specific business sectors and even in a single community. What about the Emirati culture? You might ask. Well, the best way I can describe the consolidated efforts by the local community as well as the government to protect and ensure the representation of the Emirati identity and culture across various avenues is that the Emirati culture beyond being one of the ingredients of this ‘salad bowl’ is meant to be the salad ‘dressing’ that covers it all and provides the dish much of its distinctiveness. What I’m trying to convey here is that the mosaic nature of the UAE culture requires companies to select people who have the best cultural fit as well as experience if they are to increase its chances in tapping in to more opportunities available.
Making the case for working with Emiratis
Those who know me and are familiar with my work know that I am a huge advocate of encouraging employers to hire and empower local talent. On one hand, I am a big promoter of ‘meritocracy’ as a culture in the workplace. I believe companies should take on people who can demonstrate clearly talent, ability and value they bring to the business. The truth is that my passion for employing and empowering locals in the UAE, and advocating a principle of ‘hire on merit’ might strike some sceptics as a puzzling paradox due to the wide-spread perception that local talent are generally just not “qualified”, or “motivated enough” or are just “too expensive” to take on. However I believe that it is to the contrary, that the right and empowered–with special emphasis on the word ‘right’- Emirati talent can bring enormous value to your business especially in the long term. This key point brings me to my next ingredient of the recipe for growing a successful business in the UAE which I will share in my next post.
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.
I am excited to announce through this video the strategic partnership between my company TBH Consultancy and Dubai Scholar Consultants, a consultancy firm led by Organisational Development specialist Mubeena Mohammed. This partnership culminates months of brainstorming, discussions and work on some of the traditional practices to implementing ‘Emiratisation’ and localisation in the region.
Using an innovative and strategic approach as well as Transformation and Organisational Development expert Roland Sullivan’s “Whole-System Transformation”™ methodology; the purpose of this partnership is to help employers shift their view of Emiratisation from simply an exercise to fulfil quotas and HR targets to a process:
1- That transforms Emiratisation as part of your company’s DNA and culture here in the UAE.
2- That helps drive your organisation’s strategic and business goals and not only quotas
3- That is inclusive. Meaning it’s not only the responsibility of your HR and Recruitment team, but includes the internal stakeholders
4- That can adopt innovative and sustainable strategies to address common challenges faced by your organisation using progressive approaches such as empowering change agents, brainstorming through creativity labs and others
Me and Mubeena help employers achieve the above by either consulting your company and working with you throughout the journey, or facilitating a workshop to enable you to adopt our methodology on your own.
If you are a company looking to devise your own unique and potentially innovative strategy for Emiratisation (localisation), or eager to review and enhance your current strategy and could use our support to achieve this; feel free to reach out to us and we will be more than happy to meet you and explain how we can help.