What Do We Need To Become a More Innovative and Competitive Economy

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While writing this article local newspapers across the country have been reporting that the UAE has been rated number one globally in 50 indices covering vital community and service sectors, this is according to the Global Competitiveness Index for the year 2017 – 2018.

The country has recently been achieving top rankings in the Arab World in areas such as Ease of Doing Business, Competitiveness, Human Development and Innovation. However, the UAE has made it clear that it has its sights at not only competing regionally but globally across various areas, and especially in the space of Innovation.

But let’s pause and think about this for a minute: “How can we expect to embrace Innovation and aim to compete globally in this space if we are too afraid to step out of our comfort zones, and we fear the unfamiliar. Innovation requires us to enable Creative, Courageous Character of Leadership.”. These were part of my views during a panel discussion in front of a group of local university students and graduates on the topic of predicting how the future would look like in the next 50-100 yrs during the National Science & Innovation Festival in Dubai.

I explained to the audience what I believed is the caliber of talent and business leaders let alone our country, but the world needs today. I had written about this back in 2011 in an article titled ‘Vitamin C for Today’s Leaders’ where I reflected on the lessons of the 2009 global downturn and the failings of some of corporate leaders who were at the helm of their organisations. In the article I prescribed that what desperately need talent that has or can deal with the 5 Cs (Hence the title Vitamin C, cheeky right?). These are:
-Talent is not afraid to step out of their COMFORT zone
-Talent that displays COURAGEOUS leadership
-Talent that is CREATIVE
-Talent that displays CHARACTER of leadership
-Talent that is CONSISTENT in its habits, practices and messaging

I found that these are the skills we need to nurture in our talent so that we enable them to be able to deal with the complex challenges the world is confronted with today, and lead the economy to become more sustainable, competitive and innovative.

Should We Be Optimistic About 2017?

2017

First, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope your dreams and aspirations are fulfilled in 2017.

I won’t sugar-coat it, 2016 has been without a doubt quite a tough year. Ask a common person in the street about the year, and chances are the answer will start with a deep sigh. Corporate leaders and entrepreneurs alike seem to be entering 2017 just like a

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A lot of us feel like this entering 2017

punch-drunk boxer would enter the championship round of a boxing match after being floored several times during the fight. Tired, beaten up, bruised and hopeful the round would turn their way by some lucky punch. In retrospect, the corporate community in the region has every reason to feel that way. Businesses have had to deal with challenges posed by a blend of regional and global economic and Geopolitical uncertainties. While people -or Human Capital as the HR community fondly likes to call them – were confronted with the resulting implications, such as slow creation of jobs, downsizing by some companies in the region, employers holding back salary increases and incentives, mergers, etc.

On a more encouraging note, 2016 has seen a number of growing trends in relation to the human capital practice in the gulf region that should provide reason to be optimistic of what the future holds (Yes, I confess I’m an idealist which makes me a sucker for any signs for optimism).

For example, governments as well as private sector institutions are showing strong interest in ‘enabling entrepreneurship’ and ‘innovation’ as a necessity rather than “things that are nice to show support for” or “give lip service” to. Local university graduates and job-seekers are also demonstrating eagerness to not only become entrepreneurs, but also innovate.

A growing number of employees I have been speaking to who are un-engaged or

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Many professionals in the corporate world have either taken the leap of faith or considering to

demotivated in their workplace are no longer keen to push on with their companies and instead are increasingly taking the ‘leap of faith’ and start their own ventures (also known as the refugee-effect in academic circles).

The public sector in the gulf which had earned a notorious reputation of –in a lot of instances- hiring local and expatriate “dead weight” (Yes, I said it) has become more vigilant and selective about their hiring process as well as who they keep. In fact, the public sectors in countries such as the UAE have been making significant strides in becoming as competitive, lean and innovative as the private sector and at times even more so.

There is an increasing interest in adopting technology across the human resource ecosystem and at every stage of the Human Resource journey in organisations.

Last but not least, the education sector and industry are having a more serious

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There is an amazing buzz whenever you visit the Sheraa Entrepreneurship Centre in Sharjah

conversation with each other with the aim of bridging the gap between both sectors. One example of a succesful platform doing this is the Sheraa Entrepreneurship Centre which was launched in 2016 in Sharjah. (see pic inset)

What have you seen as emerging trends in the employment and Human Capital markets in 2016 which can potentially have a positive impact going forward in 2017? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Note: The following link is an interview I had with Abu Dhabi TV last week (It’s in Arabic), where I discuss some of the thoughts and Ideas I shared during the ‘Nationals in the GCC Private Sector Forum’ in Dubai. I had shed light during the forum on some of the interesting programs and solutions I offer employers to help with some of the challenges they face when adopting Nationalisation in their companies. In brief they are:

  • How we help employers identify and design their own unique Nationalisation Strategy that is long term, inclusive and has buy-in across all levels. Also how we use this to enable the Nationalisation Manager to deliver on their goals.
  • What is the ‘bottle neck’ standing in front of implementing nationalisation in organisations, and how are we addressing it (hint: It’s the Manager)
  • How are we looking to answer the age-old popular question posed by many fresh graduates: “How can I be experienced as required by employers, if NO one gives me a chance to gain experience?”

Feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn or reach out to me on my email: Talib@talibbinhashim.com if you are keen on learning more about what we do.

My interview segment starts at the 32nd minute of the video, so press forward to view it:  Click on this link

 

Part 2: Three Ingredients for growing a successful business in the UAE

Different cultures together

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.

 

Until then, wishing you a successful day!

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.