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.

Part 3: Three Ingredients for growing a successful business in the UAE

colored pencils

 

Success Ingredient # 2:  Stay Relevant by aligning your organisation with the market needs and the underlying Culture of the UAE: 

I recall once catching up for coffee with a successful serial entrepreneur and business coach who had founded and sold around half a dozen entrepreneurial ventures for impressive amounts of money.  Impressed by what he had achieved, I was curious to understand what really his secret to success was and so I asked him.  ‘Alignment’ he answered confidently.  He went on to elaborate to me his answer and explained that to him he always believed that a sustainable business strategy can only be realized through aligning a) What will your customers buy; with b) What are you producing or offering.

As obvious as this might sound, I can say that this simple strategy is often ignored by most business leaders and entrepreneurs who are too immersed and emotionally involved with their products and services.  I see it all too often, international companies who enter the market with their existing products and services with little or no research to validate the market need for what they aim to sell or promote in the country. I find it rather naïve to assume a simplistic and a rather condescending notion that “just because it works where we come from, it should work here in the UAE”.  Yet, many businesses set up in the country believing in the same notion.  As a result many of them fall victim to the ‘pipe dream’ of conquering the UAE market with little or no effort invested in understanding the market and adapting accordingly.

I often advise clients to look at aligning four components as part of their business strategy when entering the UAE market, these are: (1) Their products, services and business strategy (2) The market and consumer needs in the UAE (3) The employees their hire in the UAE and their human capital practices (4) Finally, The underlying values, beliefs and interests –otherwise known as culture- of their customer segment in the UAE in addition to the overall government’s direction and strategy.  The government’s strategy –usually announced or found with the various government departments- provides a highly useful indication to where the country is headed to, what sectors are targeted to play a key role in the country’s present and future, the existing opportunities as well as possibly a gist of government legislation to come.


Wasta, taming the elephant in the room to work for you

elephant-in-the-room

Most of the people who have settled in the region are familiar with the term ‘Wasta’.  Wasta literally translates to; a mean or instrument used to help an individual or a group reach a desired position, or attain something.  It can also mean to gain leverage or influence on an issue.  The ‘Wasta’ is most often an individual with the required connections or ability to influence a decision or decision maker.

So much has been said about the ‘Wasta’ phenomenon – privately, yet so little has been written about it.  The term has gained notoriety to some as it is usually associated with the attainment of unfair advantage to win something regardless of the merit or qualification of the party attaining the advantage.

Obviously, not anyone can have or become a ‘Wasta’.  The prerequisites one would need to have in order to qualify for a ‘Wasta’ are; be known as an individual who is trustworthy, reliable, has strong knowledge of the local community’s culture and be well-connected to people of influence.  With this in mind, ‘Wasta’ can be viewed in a more positive light by its advocates.  Its personal nature makes it a less-risky and ideal means of influence in a tight-knit and -to a good degree- reserved community.  A community that puts high regard on personal relationships and trust when taking decisions. These decisions can range from the selection of a spouse, decisions on employment and senior level appointments all the way to business relations.

Businesses can tap in to the power of ‘Wasta’ to help identify opportunities, promote their strengths and services directly to the right people and at the same time build valuable long term relationships.  One way to do this is to seek the right partner locally who can play the role of engaging opportunities and applying influence where needed on your behalf.

Another way that has become increasingly common and adopted mainly by a number of forward thinking multinationals is hiring and empowering the right local talent in strategic roles within the organisation.  Banks for example –local and multinational-have applied this strategy with much success.  This has helped banks demonstrate how committed they are to the local community and the government, build strong and long term relationships with local clients and even roll out products and services that are catered to the needs of their customers making them more relevant and versatile to change.

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.