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Change or fail The psychological tools you need to transform your business PLUS

Attention to retention How employer brand can stop your staff taking flight

Social learning Why the future of L&D is about collaboration

Make your experience count Professional membership of the CIPD is your badge of credibility and proves your standing in the HR and L&D industry. It demonstrates to your employer, peers and clients that you have the knowledge and skills to meet CIPD’s rigorous standards.

Take the first step to professional membership and open doors for your career.

Experience Assessment is a direct route to CIPD professional membership If you’re an experienced professional who already meets the standards set by the CIPD, Experience Assessment can offer you: • a study-free route into membership – no need for a qualification • a straightforward way to recognise your HR or L&D achievements • a flexible route that works around your busy lifestyle and work commitments.



Championing change Matthew Mee Managing director, CIPD Middle East

It’s been a really fascinating start to 2016 and one theme that is consistently resonating as we talk to our members and organisations across the region is that change is the absolute norm for our profession. HR teams have an increasingly important role to play in leading effective organisational change programmes, and one of our observations is that HR functions are being tasked to take a much more active role in business transformation, as opposed to perhaps the historical comfort zone of solely re-engineering our own HR policies, processes and practices. Leading change is complex and requires a multi-disciplinary set of skills from a new breed of HR practitioner. We need to really understand the business context, and ensure the organisation has effectively evaluated both opportunities and risks through a people, customer and commercial lens. Change also needs to be effectively project-managed, with both rigour and discipline: some might argue this is a rarer skill that needs to be embedded within, or imported into, the function. It is also important that the outcomes of change can be tangibly measured to assess the impact on business performance or return on investment: did the programme actually

deliver results? Finally, the psychology of change is of course critical and HR remains the guardian of this. As a minimum, we are now expected to ensure there is effective communication and transparency ingrained in any such project. Perhaps even more important is how well (or not) we anticipate the impact of change on complex cultural workforce dynamics, ensuring the right support systems and tools have been put in place to mitigate organisational risk or harness opportunity. I hope you enjoy the third edition of People Management Middle East, which should get you thinking about your organisation’s readiness to manage change – be it within the HR function or across your business. One thing I am sure of is that change is coming your way.

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Contents Who we are p5 News and analysis p6 Will the end of zero tax turn expats away? Case studies p10 Focus on Hilton Worldwide and Dubai Islamic Bank Debate: executive pay p14 Does it matter that CEOs earn so much? Why is change so hard? p16 What HR needs to know about change management

The new rules of retention p22 Simple strategies that stop your best staff leaving Q&A: Radhika Punshi p26 The positive psychologist on ‘Nationalisation 2.0’ The rise of social learning p28 Why L&D will never be the same again The Knowledge p30 Key workplace skills, with expert commentary The View From Here: Zahir Irani p34 People Management Middle East


Marmalade Fish is a management and learning consultancy with a presence in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia Pacific. We partner with leading businesses to deliver on their organisational ambition. Our vision is to make work better by creating high performance cultures underpinned by values, enabling employees to be at their best, more of the time. How can we help you? PEOPLE CONSULTANT Experts in Learning, Talent, Resourcing, Nationalisation and Organisational Development

TEAM DEVELOPMENT Strategy planning, team effectiveness sessions and off-sites

VALUES AND CULTURE Transforming your business through culture change and values alignment

LEADERSHIP SKILL BUILDING Developing the critical leadership skill to drive high performance

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING Revolutionising learning through discovery, exploration and action

EXECUTIVE COACHING Facilitating personal and professional development to achieve your potential

Contact us


People Management is published on behalf of the CIPD by Haymarket Network and Haymarket Business Media, both divisions of Haymarket Media Group Ltd. Registered office: Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP, UK

Editiorial email: Commercial email: Editor Robert Jeffery Deputy editor Cathryn Newbery Art editor Chris Barker Production editor Joanna Kelly Designer Richard Walker Digital content coordinator Emily Burt Online editor Mark Williams Picture editor Dominique Campbell Commercial director Cathy McDonagh Global partnerships director Nicola Fulker Senior production controller Alex Wilton Production manager Trevor Simpson Managing director, Haymarket Network Andrew Taplin Editorial director Simon Kanter Creative director Martin Tullett Account director Issie Peate Senior account manager Julia Saunders CIPD Publishing Margaret Marriott Repro by Haymarket Prepress Printed by Stephens & George Print Group

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Be part of a global community When you’re a member of the CIPD, you’re part of an international community of 140,000 members working in HR, learning and development, people management and consulting. The CIPD is the only professional body for HR and L&D in the world that awards Chartered status. It contributes to the development of HR internationally, sets and maintains HR standards, and works with governments, organisations and partners to help fulfil its broader mission of championing better work and working lives. CIPD professional membership is an achievement you can be proud of and will ensure you stand out in the workplace. It will give you status and relevance with employers and an edge over your peers. It’s a badge of your credibility: • It shows that you meet the CIPD’s rigorous standards for good practice and adhere to its Code of Professional Conduct. • It demonstrates your ability to make a difference to your organisation. • It inspires confidence in employers, clients and peers. • It proves a commitment to your continuing professional development. CIPD professional membership is respected by employers and industry, and can help improve career prospects and earning potential. It is available at three levels: Associate Member, Chartered Member and Chartered Fellow. When you gain professional membership, you can use designatory letters after your name to highlight your professional standing within the HR and L&D community.

Associate Member (Assoc CIPD) For professionals providing advice to managers across the business, and supporting the HR or L&D function. Associate membership is the CIPD’s first level of professional membership. It demonstrates that an individual has attained a recognised level of competence as an HR or L&D professional. Chartered Member (Chartered MCIPD) For experienced professionals, managing, developing and implementing HR policies that support organisational objectives. Chartered Member is the CIPD’s second level of professional membership. Achieving Chartered Member status demonstrates that the individual has the knowledge and experience to create a real impact in the workplace and make a difference to an organisation’s strategy and people. Chartered Fellow (Chartered FCIPD) Chartered Fellow is the highest level of professional membership and is aimed at experts who are leading the development of strategic HR and L&D plans that drive business performance. A Chartered Fellow is a role model for the profession and part of a select group of senior HR and L&D professionals and business leaders who drive innovative people practices to help deliver strategy. Wherever you are in your career, the CIPD and its members will support and inspire you to achieve your full potential. For more information about professional membership and how to join the CIPD, visit: People Management Middle East


Employee remuneration

Zero tax is over – but will staff stay? WORDS ROBERT JEFFERY

Experts are unsure whether the introduction of VAT across the Gulf will lessen the region’s appeal. But corporate or personal income taxes could be next The promise of a zero-tax environment is a key element of the proposition that lures talented expats to Gulf countries. But that is almost certainly about to change for good as the region prepares for the introduction of widespread value added tax (VAT) on goods. The question for employers is what effect this will have on the market at both ends of the talent spectrum. And, perhaps more pressingly, what’s next? The details are still being hammered out, but media reports suggest that VAT of 5 per cent will be enshrined in law in 2018 and collected from 2019. This comes in response to an official IMF report in late 2015, in 6

People Management Middle East

which economists prepared a number of scenarios designed to help the region’s governments soften the blow of decreasing oil revenues. VAT, prevalent in some form in almost every other developed economy, emerged as the most acceptable idea and has been quickly adopted by legislators. While there will be several exemptions to the tax – including healthcare, education and a range of food products, though imported cars may attract a premium rate – its appeal is not hard to understand. In the UAE alone, it is projected to raise around AED12bn each year for government coffers, and is generally seen as the least punitive form of tax since

VAT of 5 per cent will be added to goods in the Gulf from 2019

it does not directly deter investment and is comparatively straightforward to collect. The most immediate concerns raised by commentators are that VAT could impact on major infrastructure projects. But there is also considerable uncertainty about the effect on the recruitment and retention of expats. Martin McGuigan, head of reward consulting at Aon Hewitt Middle East, fears the worst. “One of the region’s main attractions has, for the longest time, been [the zero-tax climate],” he tells People Management. “Tax implementations would not only have a negative effect on discretionary spending, but also on the ability for people to work, move and save money.” While 5 per cent is not a profound shift, says McGuigan, pay negotiations will be affected as high-value employees seek to compensate for the tax through rises. Others are less immediately concerned: Niall Hughes, senior recruitment consultant at Morgan McKinley, says VAT pales in comparison with the ongoing lifestyle benefits available to expats, while Justin Whitehouse, indirect tax leader at Deloitte Middle East, predicts that the impact on the labour market will be “relatively modest”. The wider concern in some quarters is that macroeconomic conditions, and the symbolic end of the zero-tax environment, will usher in broader taxes and more seriously

News and analysis affect employees already enduring pay constraint and rises in basic costs. Marcel Kerkvliet, international tax partner at EY Qatar, says: “VAT should not be considered in isolation. With the new focus on government revenues, tax seems set to become a more important business issue in the GCC.” The UAE government has said that it is actively considering a tax on remittances from immigrant workers, though this is unlikely to happen in the short term because of its complexity. Corporate tax – currently levied to varying degrees across the Gulf, from a nominal zero rate in Bahrain and the UAE to a minimum of 20 per cent in Saudi Arabia – is likely to come onto the agenda, according to experts. And for the first time in a generation, there is serious discussion of the potential for personal income taxes, which would have a far more dramatic effect on both

“New taxes will affect people’s ability to work, move and save”

News in numbers


Rise in year-on-year hiring in non-oil sectors

29% Proportion of Middle East organisations planning to scrap formal performance rankings

20 000


Some food products will be exempt from tax

the size and nature of local workforces. Such taxes have not been levied since Saudi Arabia attempted them during the 1950s, with the burden across the GCC shifting since then towards direct and indirect taxation of business and transactions rather than individuals. Only a limited number of minor taxes on certain non-national workers, primarily in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are currently officially enforced, and the lack of taxpayer databases is a huge hurdle to any major shift in policy. But VAT itself wasn’t seriously on the table until last year: tax may rarely be exciting, but the stage could be set for further drama to come.

Number of young Bahrainis Tamkeen has pledged to train before the end of 2017

83% Proportion of UAE employers that fear a negative impact from the retirement of ‘baby boomer’ workers SOURCES: BAYT.COM, WILLIS TOWERS WATSON, TAMKEEN, ROBERT HALF UAE


Jamie Liddington, head of employment at Hadef & Partners in Dubai, on the latest legislation and advice affecting HR professionals

The war on talent retention Economic conditions, combined with the relative ease in which the laws of the UAE allow employees to move from one entity to a competing business, may have created the ‘perfect storm’ of talent retention challenges for employers in 2016 and beyond. Volatile oil prices have led many employers in the oil and gas and support sectors towards a period of consolidation, which has included restructures and redundancies. But as businesses start to recover from this downturn, attracting employees from competitors could be an effective means of increasing profitability and market share. Meanwhile, the UAE legal framework affords limited protection to employers that are looking for a means of prevention rather than a cure. For example, even where an employee is in the process of committing the most flagrant breaches of a posttermination restriction, there is no means of obtaining any form of injunction to stop the harmful act from taking place or continuing. The solution lies in being forewarned and taking action at an early stage. It is sensible to consider the introduction of deferred benefits schemes. These can act as a means of deterring key employees from leaving in circumstances where their actions

may constitute a breach of the employment contract, thereby resulting in the loss of unvested deferred awards. If it becomes clear that a key employee intends to join a competitor, act quickly in investigating the threat that may go beyond the employee in question and involve others who have worked closely with them. A fast and thorough investigation often improves the prospects of preventing or reducing the damage.

Clarity needed on penalty payments Article 18 of the DIFC Employment Amendment Law requires employers to pay “all wages and any other amounts due” within 14 days of the termination of an employee’s employment. Where it is proven that any wages or other payments remained unpaid at the cut-off date, a penalty payment of one day’s wages is due for each day that the employer is in arrears. Article 18 may give rise to significant payments. Since its introduction in December 2012, the Court of First Instance has not yet had the opportunity to consider Article 18. The DIFC Small Claims continued overleaf People Management Middle East


News and analysis

LEGAL UPDATE continued

Tribunal has taken an inconsistent approach to the application of the article, which has left many desiring higher court (Court of First Instance) authority to clarify matters. As People Management went to press, the Court of First Instance was expected to publish its judgment in Pierre-Eric Daniel Bernard Lys v Elseco Limited. It is hoped that this will clarify the courts’ interpretation of Article 18, which will then result in binding authority and a more consistent approach being taken by the Small Claims Tribunal.

Clamping down on excessive risk-taking in the financial sector In February, The National reported that the Central Bank of the UAE is in the process of introducing regulations intended to curb the type of excessive risk-taking in the financial sector that led to the financial crash in 2009. The announcement contained limited detail on the specific measures that are being considered, but it is thought the changes will replicate the enhanced regulatory approach adopted by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision in its latest round of reforms (known as Basel III). This includes a focus on the implementation of sound compensation practices, and encouraging methods that result in employees’ pay being made more sensitive to risk. The implementation of similar measures in the UAE may trigger the introduction of risk-adjusted pay, either by reducing bonus awards relative to risk (possibly in combination with ‘claw back’ measures) or by making the ultimate amount of deferred payouts sensitive to the outcomes of that employee’s own risk choices. 8

People Management Middle East

Businesses ‘must invest in wellness’ Survey reveals low participation in wellbeing initiatives, as companies face hike in health insurance premiums Only one third of employees in the Gulf region took part in a corporate health or wellbeing activity in the past 12 months, according to a survey that suggests the shift to compulsory health insurance has yet to translate into a more holistic view of wellbeing among organisations. Willis Towers Watson’s Stay@Work Survey reports that low participation in wellbeing initiatives is a global issue, but that in the GCC a lack of “actionable data” on how investment in employee wellbeing might pay off is a particular problem. For example, 70 per cent of

employers say stress is their biggest employee health challenge, but only 9 per cent have a stress management programme in place. As five of the six largest Gulf economies adopt a compulsory insurance model, with Oman expected to follow suit soon, there is business sense in tackling such issues, says Steve Clements, director of health and group benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “It’s quite typical to see 10 to 12 per cent

By 2018, 45 per cent of GCC businesses say they will have a strategy in place to deal with stress at work

Facts at your fingertips The latest CIPD research findings Innovation is top priority HR and business leaders agree that innovation should be their top priority for the year ahead – but they aren’t as well aligned on how to achieve this aim, according to the CIPD/Workday HR Outlook leaders’ survey. The poll of almost 300 senior executives in large, UK-headquartered companies, found that 35 per cent of HR and 32 per cent of other business leaders consider innovation to be their top business strategy. But while HR

is confident its people strategy is the way to achieve such aims, that view is shared by only a quarter of other leaders. The report also suggests that business leaders have little knowledge of the scale and scope of HR analytics in their organisation. “HR professionals need to better illustrate the insights they have at their disposal to key stakeholders outside the function, to show the value they can bring to wider business objectives,” says Jill Miller, CIPD research

adviser. “What gets measured gets managed, but only if that analytical data is interpreted and the rest of the business is engaged with the results.” ✶

Inclusive leaders get results The happiest and most productive employees work for ‘inclusive’ leaders, according to new research jointly produced by the CIPD and the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion. According to the report, inclusive leaders are

Big thinkers

Only one third of Gulf employees took part in a corporate wellbeing activity in the past 12 months


The latest round-up of inspiring ideas for HR professionals

“aware of their own biases and preferences, and actively seek out and consider different views and perspectives to inform better decision-making”. There is a strong correlation between inclusive leadership and engagement, job satisfaction and performance. “This is not just about profits and productivity, it’s about a happier workforce and making people feel valued in the workplace,” says Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research adviser at the CIPD. ✶


year-on-year medical inflation, which means that, if companies don’t do anything, they can expect their health insurance premium to double over a fiveyear period.”

The most effective leaders seek out talent in unconventional ways, such as employing those without formal qualifications or industry experience, according to Sydney Finkelstein’s new book, Superbosses. Finkelstein, who is Steven Roth professor of management at Tuck School of Business, delves into the personality traits of leaders such as director George Lucas and fashion designer Ralph Lauren and finds that they set high expectations and offer intense feedback to those they hire, but are also notable for the number of future leaders they create. One of the most effective ways to generate good ideas, and become more dynamic in your day job at the same time, is to develop an external creative interest, says author and social scientist Adam Grant. In his new book, Originals, Grant (a magician in his spare time) points out that Albert Einstein was an accomplished violinist. In all, Nobel Prize winners are 22 times more likely to act, dance or create music outside their regular pursuits. Grant believes this is because creativity stimulates innovation. Tommy Weir is one of the Middle East’s most celebrated management thinkers, but his most recent advice to businesses is deceptively simple: if you can’t keep track of time, how do you know what’s important? Weir, author of Leadership Dubai Style, recalls asking executives to keep a record of how they spend their time. They realised they were

focusing on operational activities at the expense of strategic or motivational goals. Weir advises keeping account of time in the same way you do financial outgoings: “If you have a time budget, all of a sudden you’ll become conscious of how you use time.” The shift to a multicultural workforce should be the pre-eminent concern of business leaders, according to Dave Heddle, principal consultant at organisational development consultancy Coverdale. Heddle believes that with more western businesses building a presence in China, the development of multicultural teams has crept up corporate agendas. But the sort of behavioural change that is required to deal with such new environments has failed to keep pace with the speed of business development, he adds. The majority of companies are not prepared for large-scale hacks or information security breaches, say Robert Austin and David Upton of Copenhagen Business School – and that means they are leaving their corporate reputations wide open. In an article for MIT Sloan Management Review, they urge organisations to better manage their assumptions in an age of ‘super transparency’. As opposed to searching for leaks, leaders should be vigilant about best practice, creating a climate where y bb ho questionable e tiv ea Taking up a cr vate at no in u yo lp he behaviour is can Grant work, says Adam discouraged and reported.

“We have to make hospitality cool for Saudis” Hilton, Saudi Arabia

Shedding the old stereotypes of the hotel industry is essential if Hilton Worldwide is to meet challenging expansion targets WORDS LOUISE OAKLEY PHOTOGRAPHY SIDDHARTH SIVA


People Management Middle East

have departments for business development, revenue management and commercial. These are very high-tech oriented, intellectually demanding, cool jobs. Ten or 20 years ago, these roles only existed in the banks or financial organisations.” Even so, he acknowledges that “the headcount in operational departments



Number of full-time Hilton employees worldwide

Year-on-year increase in occupancy at all Saudi hotels

Hilton Worldwide Kaaba King Fahd Gate

Makkah Hilton Towers



f Koray Genckul thinks he’s busy now, things are about to get a lot more frenetic for him. As senior director of HR for Hilton Worldwide across the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, he leads the people strategy that affects thousands of employees in 105 hotels. Within four years, that portfolio is set to double, and finding, training and retaining people to staff the new properties across the region falls squarely on his shoulders. Genckul’s keenest focus is on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where Hilton has 10 hotels and 27 more in the pipeline, many of them in secondary cities. As it looks to triple its payroll, the business has three main goals, he says: to develop capability within the location, build capacity within the workforce and create future leaders. In short, he needs to attract Saudi nationals to Hilton, and fast, so they can be developed into the mentors and managers of tomorrow. Having worked and lived in the country himself, Genckul (pictured) is quick to dismiss old stereotypes and point out how attractive hospitality careers in KSA can be. Hotels offer around 100 job titles in departments such as engineering, business development and commercial strategy. “You need people not just from hospitality schools, but from business, engineering and technology schools,” says Genckul. “We

usually represents 85-90 per cent of the workforce”, which was the impetus for the Mudeer Al Mustaqbal (Manager of the Future) programme. It aims to develop Saudi nationals in catering, front office and housekeeping managerial roles within a 12-16 month period. After being piloted in 2013 at Hilton Makkah, four candidates graduated in 2014, and in 2015 the programme expanded to four hotels in three cities and admitted its first female candidate. This year, 12 more future leaders are scheduled to enroll. “Young people nowadays are very careeroriented,” says Genckul. “They want to be general manager or director in the future, but in hospitality you probably have a greater chance of becoming a business leader if you come from operational departments. It’s not the only route, but it is the traditional one. “We have a tracking system. I think the worst thing you could do is have such high [performance] programmes, enroll people, graduate them and then never talk about them. It’s important to track these people and continuously support them in their career.” The intake has to remain small to ensure the candidates receive the training, feedback and support needed to succeed, but Genckul says Mudeer Al Mustaqbal is just one scheme in a “toolbox of programmes” that will address talent needs at all levels.

Case study

These include live days held with colleges, Careers@ Hilton Live signature events with the Saudi Commission of Tourism & Antiquities – which promote hotel careers to youth in KSA and offer job shadowing – and YourJob_YourScholarship, which will employ 50 graduates of a governmentfunded hospitality scholarship programme. There is also a concerted push to increase female representation in the company’s operations in KSA, with Genckul highlighting Abeer Fakeerh, assistant personnel manager at Makkah Hilton Towers, who acts as an ambassador for the business among fellow nationals: “Abeer has represented the female work sector in Saudi Arabia at recent HR forums in Abu Dhabi, and is a strong advocate of the economic and social progression of the nation.” He adds that the company strives to create working conditions suitable for women in Saudi Arabia, and continually works to educate nationals on the different opportunities available. “We have the right advocates who can explain to Saudi women what it is like to work for us,” says Genckul. “We’re also considering the culture and local norms in terms of working hours and locations, so that we can provide the physical environment that they would feel most comfortable working in, with the right shift times. “Today you won’t see a Saudi female team member doing a shift from 11pm to 6am, and that’s fine. We are realistic about these things and there are still many jobs that can be done during normal working hours.” This harks back to Genckul’s thoughts about the evolution of the hotel industry as offering viable and diverse careers, rather than merely service jobs. And he speaks from personal experience when it to comes to challenging the way people think about the sector: “I remember my own parents, 30 years ago, discussing whether I should go to hospitality school. My father thought I should and my mother thought I shouldn’t. She thought I would become a waiter or a receptionist and that’s how they saw it. It’s great that this perception is changing.”

“Young people think about their careers… they want to be managers and directors”

People Management Middle East


“HR is about more than talking numbers”

Dubai Islamic Bank, Dubai

How the world’s largest Islamic bank got its processes right – so it could tackle the big issues WORDS HEBA HASHEM PHOTOGRAPHY SIDDHARTH SIVA


he economic slowdown of 2015, triggered by an initial slump in oil prices, caused ripples of panic across financial institutions throughout the Middle East. But not everyone was suffering: while its rivals floundered, Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) was reporting annual profit growth of 37 per cent, and continued to actively hire. Cornel Fourie (pictured), Dubai Islamic Bank head of human resources, is in no doubt why DIB rode out the financial wobble so proficiently – it’s down to 12

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$40bn Value of Dubai Islamic Bank’s assets


of Dubai Islamic Bank’s workforce are Emiratis

sustaining leadership and maintaining performance by investing in people. “Success attracts success,” he says. “We were ranked among MENA’s top 20 ‘most in demand employers’ 2015 by LinkedIn. It means people want to work for us and love our brand. During those difficult times, our net profit increased, a clear indication that the economic slowdown hasn’t had any impact on our potential to grow.” What did change, according to Fourie, is that the organisation became more focused on recruiting in the right areas: “We don’t just recruit because we can. We recruit in the places where we want to grow.”

Case study

such as managing talent. As the world’s oldest Islamic financial DIB picked up its institution and the UAE’s ISO certification largest Islamic bank by after a lengthy, assets, DIB has 41 years HR-led process of enviable experience in an industry that has been hampered by a shortage of skills. Having worked with both conventional and Islamic banks across the region, Fourie, a South Dubai African expatriate, knows Deira International that Islamic banking skills Clocktower Airport are hard to come by. DIB, he says, would rather hire extremely capable bankers Dubai with the correct values and Islamic teach them the specifics Bank of Islamic banking. L&D activities are crucial to the Civil Defence bank’s employee retention Station, Port strategy. “One of the Saeed Dubai challenges that come up as you grow and become more international is to retain your key talent,” he says. “At junior level, Data is the next string to HR’s bow. we’ve created a high-potential (HIPO) DIB’s analytics offer reliable information programme. Last year we had 40 staff go on internal mobility and retention – but, through it, and in 2016 we’ll do it again.” to be maximised, such figures must be Under the programme, DIB enrols high- analysed, says Fourie. potential employees in leadership training If people are consistently resigning with business schools in Canada and from a certain area, for example, HR India over the course of a year. Between begins picking up a trend: “It alerts us modules, they’re encouraged to practise that maybe there is poor management, their new skills back in the business. long working hours or a lack of motivation. When senior opportunities emerge, HIPO So we use data as an initial point to guide employees can be considered. “This has us to a trend, then carry out further worked well in terms of retaining our analysis to see what we need to do from people,” says Fourie. “As long as there is an HR perspective. hope of getting promoted and you know “In the people business, it’s not just the organisation cares about you and your about talking numbers. We have to make career, it’s pretty clear people would want sense of the data so that we can then act to stay a lot longer.” accordingly.” It’s all taken HR to a place, When it comes to Emiratisation adds Fourie, where it can advise the initiatives, DIB is recognised for its business, rather than the other way round: work placement courses for Emirati “It’s a consultancy-advisory mindset. HR graduates. About 60 per cent of last practitioners need to ensure they’re part of year’s HIPO participants were Emiratis, decision-making and that they’re adding says Fourie. “I’m proud to say that we value – so that when the business says we’ve have a high percentage of Emiratis achieved growth in our net profitability, in vice president and senior vice we’re not only thanking our salespeople, president positions.” we’re thanking HR.”

Dubai Islamic Bank

“We use data to guide us to a trend, then we can carry out further analysis”

DIB’s people strategy is clearly bearing fruit. But it isn’t all about the big ideas, Fourie is quick to point out. The building blocks of strong HR are excellent processes, and DIB’s are robust enough to qualify for the ISO 9001:2008 quality management system standard, which was awarded in October 2015. Few banks in the world have attained such a certification for the excellence of their processes, with the award normally handed out in the manufacturing industry. “We are the first Islamic bank to achieve this certification in the Middle East,” says Fourie. “Quality is very important to us – we’re in the people business. Our clients, who are inevitably our staff, are looking for consistency, professionalism and simplification. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) gave us a framework to ensure that we follow standardised processes.” Achieving the certification was a process in itself. DIB’s HR team first carried out a gap analysis to find out how it sat against the benchmark set by the ISO. It then identified ‘ISO champions’ within the bank to communicate with the organisation’s 4,300-plus employees. The processes affect everything from reward to recruitment practices. And with world-class processes, HR has been focusing on key opportunities,

People Management Middle East


The debate

Is executive pay out of control?

With CEOs earning up to 100 times more than the average employee, is it time to rethink the way they’re rewarded? We asked the experts INTERVIEWS GRACE LEWIS

John Branch Head of reward practice and financial services sector consulting, Hay Group ME

The younger generation of nationals will demand change For a region that has traditionally been light on regulation and governance, the spotlight on executive pay just isn’t as bright as in the west. But I suspect this is set to change with the developing demographics of our workers. There are two generations of nationals in a lot of the big companies. Typically, founders in their 60s,

who are moving towards retirement, are sharing board space with 35-year-olds who have been educated or worked abroad. The expectations of the two groups are quite different: older, traditionalist workers’ perceptions of reward are around high-level, fixed pay and significant promises of retirement income. But younger nationals are more interested in performancegeared reward, in particular longterm incentive plans. Companies across the GCC have been a bit slow to wake up to the significance of this difference. Reshaping the total reward offer, which was designed around an

older generation, to appeal to a very different set of attitudes in the younger generation will not be easy. If change does happen, it will be driven by the financial services sector. Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the Basel agreement, which has a lot to say about compensation for senior executives, such as the fact that performance-based pay and performance metrics should be risk-adjusted. These concepts are very new to the region, and I have sympathy for heads of HR trying to adopt such processes – in some cases, their accounting systems are not up to the standard where they can easily extract this data.

Robert Mosley Chief executive, Lemon Pip Consulting

There’s no appetite to trouble the status quo The question we should be asking is: why was it that in 2015, which by any standards was almost a silent recession, senior executive pay still rose at a faster rate than that of any other category of worker? Last year, the C-suite and above enjoyed a pay increase of more than 4.5 per cent, the highest of all employee groups. The ratio of senior manager pay to junior worker pay has been widening every year for the last two decades 14

People Management Middle East

in the Middle East, and yet I suspect the workforce at large isn’t even aware of it, because executive salaries are not readily available in published documents. In companies’ defence, variable pay in GCC countries is massively underdeveloped. Typically, CEOs work towards an on-target bonus that amounts to around four to six months’ salary, whereas the same job in Asia or Europe would bring an annual bonus closer to 12 months’ salary, and in the US the equivalent of 24 months. Long-term incentive plans are virtually non-existent too,

so if you’re headed into a C-suite job and there isn’t one in place, of course you are going to negotiate a better fixed-term salary. While ‘real’ pay rises dipped to below the global average at the end of last year, I suspect this silent recession is only going to last 12-18 months. And while it is concerning that senior pay is still moving at a higher rate than the average market increase, I don’t think there’s an appetite to change the status quo. By the time organisations conduct their annual pay reviews in January 2018, it’ll be back to business as usual.

Dr Conrad Pramböck Head of compensation consulting, Pedersen & Partners

We continue to reward short-termist behaviours The feeling among the public has always been that executives get paid too much, but I wouldn’t say this means salaries are out of control. In fact, they are completely in control – it’s just that executive pay has reached very high levels. Of course, money matters – as a motivator and as an attraction and retention tool – but rising CEO pay is perhaps driven by an over-

reliance on expatriates who are attracted to the UAE in particular by handsome pay packages. Most multinational companies will promise tax-free salary, a serviced apartment, free schooling, health care coverage, transportation costs, etc, which typically only last for three to five years before ‘local plus’ contracts end most of the perks. This encourages short-term stays and short-termist behaviours, such as tougher up-front salary negotiations, which typically push up senior executive base pay. When you look at the topranked businesses across the

globe, pay increases have been pretty consistent, but I believe the inequality of salaries in the GCC is still greater than many other regions in the world. The complex disconnect between senior executives and blue-collar workers, as well as multinational companies and local businesses, is unlikely to be resolved in the next few years. In multinationals, reward for top executives is usually linked to performance: if you deliver your numbers, you get a bonus; if you fail, you lose your job. It is basically about delivering numbers, not behaviour, which means there is almost an attitude of ‘get as much as you can, while you can’.

Andrew Marshall Director of executive compensation, Willis Towers Watson Middle East

A lot depends on what happens in Saudi Arabia If executive pay is ‘out of control’, then you wouldn’t know it on the ground in the GCC. If you look at the west over the last 10 or 15 years, what’s driven the headlines around executive pay has been factors such as investor guidelines on pay design, detailed disclosure of executive pay in annual reports and accounts, listing authority rules and institutional shareholder activism, which have all raised a broad-based debate about the role of capitalism and fairness in society. A lot of that has focused on long-term incentive plans, which are almost universally

provided to executives in major companies. There is an open debate in parts of the world on how pay is calculated and distributed to senior leaders. But in the GCC, similar levels of transparency over pay are not required and long-term incentives are yet to form mainstream practice in large companies – although their prevalence is increasing. Regionally owned businesses have been conservative when reviewing executive pay, at least when it comes to fixed pay, with many freezing base salary and allowances in 2015 and likely to do the same this year given the uncertainty over the economic environment. Performance-based rewards, both annual and longer-

term, will become more important levers to align levels of executive pay with performance – an area where companies in the GCC typically struggle to implement and manage effective arrangements. Looking ahead, Saudi Arabia – which is the driving force of the Gulf economy – will become more open to foreign investment, with asset managers and pension funds from the west able to acquire equity stakes in Saudi companies. It will be interesting to see how practices develop, not just around executive pay, but also how organisations measure financial results and report business performance.

People Management Middle East




Introducing new ideas, or radical transformations, disrupts employees’ psychological balance – which is why so many change initiatives fail. Fortunately, we’ve asked the experts how to get it right WORDS STUART MATTHEWS


f a change is as good as a rest, why do so many people fear it in their working life? The very mention of something different coming down the line can immobilise a workforce, usher in a chorus of sighs and eye rolling, or see the best talent heading for the door. Yet in our personal lives, change is generally greeted positively, bringing with it new challenges and opportunities, including the potential for renewal or growth. The self-help bookshelves groan with titles telling us we should embrace or even seek out change. But something about the work environment transforms this sunny outlook into fear of marginalisation and the potential for jobs to disappear. That’s a problem, because the concept of change underpins almost every incremental gain made in business. It defines how organisations and individuals respond to technological shifts, a changing competitive


People Management Middle East

People Management Middle East


landscape or new ways of working. In emerging markets, dynamic economic and regulatory environments can drive the need for change more swiftly, whether it’s responding to a sudden shift in demand, complying with new laws or dealing with a surge in competition. HR can often be the instigator of change – it usually implements restructures, handles redundancies and should be intrinsic in M&A transactions – but it is almost always the function that needs to handle the aftermath. Change affects people in fundamental ways, and handling their nuanced reactions to it means knowing what makes them tick. “A lot of change is feared because it introduces an element of uncertainty, and with that comes self-doubt,” says Dr Lavina Ahuja, a counselling psychologist and consultant with LifeWorks, a Dubai-based personal development training centre. “People don’t like to be in a position where they don’t know what they will come up against, or whether they will be facing [unfamiliar] challenges they might not know how to cope with. We get into a place where we are comfortable and we want to stay there. When change comes along, it introduces uncertainty and doubt, and that’s what people fear.” Certainty is one of the five elements of the SCARF model devised by Dr David Rock – key psychological concepts that can either provoke threat or reward responses in individuals (status, autonomy, relatedness and fairness are the others). Ahuja suggests that to get people to conquer fears on a personal level, change should be approached as a challenge. Challenges can represent an opportunity to develop and be seen as something people achieve by pushing their limits, rather than a negative. “Challenges bring about an opportunity to grow, as opposed to something that is just seen as an obstacle,” she says. A sense of confidence is crucial in making this approach a success. Building this within employees takes thought, but being transparent about the nature of changes and giving people options are two key tools that will do the job. When change is presented in a transparent manner, it gives people a clear view of where they are heading, Ahuja explains. It avoids any feeling of being directionless and the sense of loss and confusion that can come with it. Anything that helps people understand the changes, and the need and reasoning behind them, makes it easier for them to get behind the new thinking. But the practicalities of making this happen

to Coca-Cola didn’t listen negative feedback on its ‘New Coke’ and launched it anyway – it failed


People Management Middle East

THE FOUR TYPES of changing employee Does everyone experience change in the same way? Brett Preston of Biz Group is adamant they don’t. His consultancy breaks people going through a change programme into four broad groups, as a simple way to look at how they may react to imminent change: resistors,

bystanders, helpers and champions.

Champions are pro change and may have some type of subject matter expertise, so they should be involved at the highest level of contribution they can manage. In theory, their behaviour will be infectious and encourage others to get involved. Helpers will become bystanders if you don’t give them a support role, but if encouraged they can play a useful part.

“Management often makes the mistake of spending a lot of time with the resistors,” says Preston. “That’s probably the biggest mistake they can make. In order to move someone psychologically and behaviourally from overtly resisting to being a champion is never going to be easy. But moving the 60 per cent of people who are bystanders to helper positions will offer a higher chance of success.” Preston says that once any consultation period is complete, he conducts focus groups before the actions of change get started. And that is the time to stop entertaining the resistors. “We’ve gone through all [the consultation], now is the time to start performance managing those people,” he says.

can be as challenging as the change itself. Finding a way to persuade people that change is necessary, and in their best interests, is essential. “We want people to think, feel and do what we want them to think, feel and do,” says Brett Preston, executive strategy and leadership consultant with Biz Group. “That way, they’ll apply more discretionary effort, be more engaged and more persistent. If they think and feel, but don’t do, they will be paralysed.” It’s that kind of paralysis that can strike change programmes, as the people affected by them become held in a grip of uncertainty and inaction. Preventing this comes down to clear and relentless communication. The messages have to keep being delivered to create a sense of urgency and to drive home the change programme’s business case. “This really helps people get on board a lot faster,” says Preston. “But what it can’t be is a sense of urgency where it overwhelms and I drown in panic. In extreme cases of response to change, you get the flight response. It’s probably the most common, where people see their job is at risk.” Potentially disastrous for a business, the flight response – triggered when the amygdala of the brain generates an emotional reaction before the neocortex kicks in with a rational one – may prompt what Preston calls the ‘high talent’ to head for the exit, while the ‘low talent’ will stay, as they find themselves with little alternative. “All the blood drains from the front of the brain into the back, adrenalin kicks in and you literally can’t think for 20 minutes because you’re overwhelmed,” he says. Delivering change successfully requires a delicate balance, for while it happens at an organisational level, it affects individuals and is influenced by the dynamics of small groups, broader organisational issues and the working environment. These factors make change one of the most complex undertakings in business, and it is one that is seemingly everywhere. Ubiquitous demands for fresh thinking, new approaches and altered habits can lead to change fatigue – where a workforce starts to ignore new requests simply because they have seen so many programmes fail before – or such a continual sense



“Communication and inclusion are central”


Mark Graham, Macro International of change that it’s impossible to rouse interest because it’s never clear where one change ends and another begins. “I’ve heard of many situations where a company will start something it believes to be a new change initiative, nothing happens and then it’s on to the next thing,” says Schon Beechler, senior affiliate professor of leadership and organisational behaviour at INSEAD. “There is a huge amount of fatigue overall. It’s really hard to get attention and get employees to take something seriously when there is so much coming at them, some of which is not well thought-out and some of which is absolutely critical to success. It’s hard for them to know which is which.” Beechler says it is essential to know “where people’s heads are at”, as a failure to understand the individuals you are working with can derail a change process. This is especially true for top-level management. While they have had meetings and discussions outlining the details for months, frontline employees often know little about what is ahead.

“The critical thing is for [management] to go back to the mindset of someone who has never heard anything about it,” says Beechler. “If [employees] don’t know the rationale or environmental causes driving the changes, they don’t know the consequences of not changing. Many of these things don’t get communicated by senior leaders, because they have been through it all already, and they don’t articulate it well enough to those who are hearing it for the first time.” Leaders have a responsibility to examine their own behaviour too. If it does not reflect the new situation, progress can be halted. People look up to see what those above them, in the positions they aspire to, are doing. If a visible sense of purpose can be tied to the long-term aspirations of the organisation, there is a better chance of people pursuing changes, rather than ignoring them. “Make sure the reward system is aligned with the new behaviours you are looking for and that the leaders are modelling the behaviour,” says Beechler. “Those are the two things that will sink [change] quicker than anything else.” Putting this into practice in the Middle East can bring up several challenges particular to the region. Its emerging market status means it is an environment where change is less about best practice and more about best fit. For Macro International, a facilities management firm with offices in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, change has to be delivered to more than 25 nationalities, languages and cultures. It can come quickly too, often driven by client requirements, and delivering it at the same speed is a key challenge for Mark Graham, the company’s director of corporate services. “Communication is key,” he says. “Although business is done in English, it is not everyone’s first language so this is sometimes an issue as many things can be lost in translation, including the tone and spirit of the message. Managing expectations is also key, as the rate of change can be very fast. The only way we are able to keep the pace is our ability to pivot quickly as a business.” With a need to respond to fast-moving client demands, Graham describes change as ongoing and a constant part of the company’s operation. Although the way change is delivered may depend on its type, scope and depth, there are common factors across all of the company’s programmes. “Broadly, employee engagement is key to how we manage change,” says Graham. “Communication and inclusion are central to our process. Employee motivation is very important to us as a business, and we know that even at the best of times people do not normally welcome change. We are also aware that imposing organisational changes without consultation and input from our staff could lead to a demotivated workforce, as well as greater resistance and potential failure.” The business’s HR team is involved in any change that might affect its employees’ wellbeing. It adopts what Graham describes as a “collaborative and consultative” approach, usually including other parts of the organisation – such as finance, marketing and IT – in any large-scale change effort. Smaller, project-specific changes happen through the project team with a representative from People Management Middle East




Dubai-based Al started p Habtoor Grou but has n, io ct tru ns co in the years changed over ing ad le a e m co to be ry cars, importer of luxu rests te in r he among ot

Macro’s senior management involved too. While Graham says the company likes to keep its approach to change simple, he hits all of the points that psychologists suggest. “We communicate a sense of urgency, as well as the benefits of the suggested change, and a vision of how it makes Macro better,” he says. “Then we break the change process down into smaller pieces or quick wins, and try to involve a representative from all groups affected to deliver the change.” These cues will be familiar to anyone who has been through a change management programme elsewhere in the world, but the fact is there are some regional differences that go beyond the wide variety of cultural backgrounds that can be found here. Any change programme has to consider how these will play out when it is being designed and delivered. “One of the things we found is that you have to make the ideas tangible,” says Marjola Rintjema, lead consultant for communication and change management at Willis Towers Watson. Rintjema was involved with a relocation project for a client in Bahrain. The business found it hard to appreciate the difference having a change management programme around the relocation would make: the solution was to undertake some role playing and experience a first day in a new location, where they didn’t know anything about their surroundings. “They had to play it out and then we did the same scenario again, but this time we’d given them some information,” says Rintjema. “Things like role playing and making it tangible work very well.” While the involvement of top management is important, Rintjema believes it is critical for businesses in the Middle East; because of the fairly hierarchical nature of regional organisations, people buy into change more quickly if it comes from the top. Leveraging personal relationships can also move change along, and Rintjema recommends you undertake stakeholder management around who knows who, and who can initiate critical conversations. “You have to make sure your leaders fully understand why the change is important and ask them to support the change visibly and make it personal, so that people see the boss is really buying into this,” she says. She cites the example of a client in Egypt going through a sensitive grading and salary structure change. The CEO decided to handle the communications himself, to allay any fears and reduce the chance of mistrust creeping in. He has gone through a series 20

People Management Middle East

2 3


CHANGE – one step at a time Create a strong change model. Know what you have to go through, follow clear steps and analyse who it will affect, and how. This helps create a line of sight to your goals and gets everyone on the same page.

Design the change effort so that you can get some visible early wins. This is critical once the initial push has happened and energy around the change starts to drop off. People need to see meaningful progress in a short period of time – that is what will maintain momentum and energy. Understand what motivates your people, develop empathy and make sure the design of the change programme represents that. It’s easier to get people moving in the right direction if there is something in it for them too.

4 5 6 7 8

Create a clear and consistent story to explain the change. People want to feel like their organisation knows what it is doing, and a clear message that is easily explained will help to build confidence.

Align the reward system with the new behaviours you are looking for. There’s no point pushing for change if people’s old habits still find reward in their day-to-day work.

Ensure top management is involved and buys in to the idea. Any large change simply won’t work unless they are on board. Many organisations fail here, especially when the change is driven by HR. Build capability and confidence to support the change. Timely training, plenty of time to practise and pilot programmes will all help better prepare people to execute the changes effectively.

Listen. Change programmes can be daunting, and if people are losing their jobs it can be even harder. Giving people the scope to vent and to share their worries helps takes the heat off and demonstrates caring.

of town hall meetings and has been the face of the change, making himself directly available to employees to answer concerns as they arise. “He is trusted and fairly new in his role,” says Rintjema. “People trust him because he’s a guy who walks around and knows many people and has been with the company a long time. Now that they are linking the change to him personally, there is suddenly much more credibility for this project.” Rintjema also pushes for key stakeholders to be involved at an early stage, even when the natural inclination is to go to people with a finished plan. “That is usually not the right way because, like everywhere, people like to be involved,” she says. “They like to understand what is happening and they don’t want to be told one day in advance that everything is going to change.” This can take a lot of persuasion, but changing work habits is no easier for senior leaders than for anyone else. Beginning a conversation about what needs to happen and what the objectives are is a good place to start. The alternative is to wait for change to be done to you – and we all know how that feels.

Learn practical strategies to help your organisation manage change with the Organisational Development and Change (2nd edition) toolkit from the CIPD. Revised to reflect the complexities of change in a modern business environment, the toolkit covers themes including resilience, dealing with 24/7 change and the importance of understanding leadership capabilities and styles. For more information, visit

Develop your career in HR with an internationally recognised qualification from the CIPD As employer demand for excellence in HR and people development grows, more individuals around the world are studying a CIPD qualification. Achieving a CIPD qualification will help you: • gain or advance your knowledge in HR and people development • get the skills sought by employers • achieve CIPD professional membership – a badge of your professionalism • help you to stand out from the crowd in a competitive job market.

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How to s s e b r you Retention

n io it r t t a , n r u t n w o d Even in a u o y ld u o c o s – s r e t t a still m o t n o ld o h o t e r o m g be doin ig B ? s r e m r o f r e p p o t your d n a t n e m e g a n a m t data, smar ession are the key k clearer progr c a b t h g fi R H e h t f o s t n e n o p m co W


People Management Middle East





stop st staff g n i v a le W

hether you’re a recruiter, a manager or a business leader, the chances are there’s one email in particular you don’t want to receive – the one telling you a key member of staff is leaving and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Talent retention is arguably less of an issue in the Gulf region than in other parts of the world. In a 2015 survey from Naukrigulf. com, 73 per cent of companies reported attrition rates of less than 15 per cent, which is, for most, a comfortable level of turnover (the relative complexity of leaving one Gulf business for another is undoubtedly a factor). But when a hard-to-replace employee decides to leave, it hurts. Apart from the

disruption, and the fact they may be taking valuable knowledge with them, hiring is time-consuming and expensive: some studies have put the average cost per hire of a senior staff member at more than 100 per cent of their salary, when the price of backfilling them is factored in. What can businesses do to keep the right people in the right roles? The answer sits squarely with the HR department – and it starts long before the employee has even begun to think about leaving. The very thing that probably helped attract them to you in the first place – the ‘employer brand’ that makes you stand

“HR often addresses the wrong issues. They don’t know who to retain”

out from others in the recruitment market – is the starting point. Zoe Spicer, an Ashridge Business School associate who works with HR professionals, says: “Building the right brand to attract a diverse employee population will help employers ensure they have the right mix of experience for the longer term, and broader attraction outside of the local market.” Cash is another part of the equation, of course. Salary still plays an intrinsic part in motivation, but Randa Bessiso, director, Middle East, at Manchester Business School, says employees also need support and commitment from management; a clear career path; exposure across the business; and training and development opportunities so they can reach their full potential and People Management Middle East


Retention contribute to the company’s growth. In the GCC’s predominantly expatriate job market, compensation has often been thought of as a major reason employees leave, but, in Hays’ Salary & Employment Report 2016, 37 per cent of employees surveyed in the region said they moved jobs last year because of a lack of career development in their organisation. Salary was cited by only 27 per cent of respondents. Of course, not all employees are created equal: while many may be difficult but not impossible to replace, there are some whose disproportionate worth to an organisation means they deserve special attention, says Alan Hynes, a compliance specialist for the banking and financial services sector at recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley in Dubai. “At the end of the day, it costs significantly less to address the specific needs of a high performer [than it does to] replace them,” he says, adding that targeted intervention campaigns – rather than a one-size-fits-all approach – are essential in maximising the ROI on any retention effort. “Companies should identify those employees most at risk of leaving, [especially] their top-tier performers. They need to understand the attrition drivers that are specific to the individual, as opposed to the overall set of employees.” In-house surveys, for example, can determine whether an employee would recommend the company to a friend, helping HR gain a better understanding of morale in the firm. Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC), meanwhile, has found that leaving a company is a process that begins with unhappiness in the workplace, progresses to vague thoughts of quitting and then manifests as intention to quit. It is only when the employee reaches this point that a job search begins, leading inevitably to resignation. Often, exit interviews underscore salary as the key issue for a staff member’s departure, but Dr Najat Benchiba-Savenius, OSC’s head of social and economic research, believes that, if an employee had been satisfied with their line manager, they wouldn’t have started exploring other options in the first place. “Being unhappy almost always has to do with poor immediate leadership and an employee’s relationship with their line manager,” he says. “Once they get to the stage of intention to quit, money will play a much greater role in their decision-making. By the time they do resign, money usually serves as a major factor.” Interventions in this area don’t have to be drastic, but they can be transformational.

“Being unhappy at work is almost always down to poor leadership”


People Management Middle East

How smart businesses stop losing out Company culture can be an intangible thing. But getting it right is one of the key tools in Ericsson Middle East’s retention armoury. According to Girish Johar, who heads the company’s HR operations in the region: “Having a strong focus on leadership development, diversity and employer brand helps us create a strong sense of engagement and pride in our employees.” He adds that Ericsson makes sure it is competitive from the start, but also links pay to performance so that the employees who contribute the most are appropriately compensated. “We make sure every employee goes through a minimum number of relevant training hours. This has paid off very well – we see that our people are increasingly satisfied with their learning and development within the company, which has been fundamental to our best-inclass retention rates,” he says. Ericsson also provides scholarship programmes for its employees, regardless of their formal education, in a bid to broaden the workforce’s fields of knowledge and encourage increased responsibility. David Leman, chief HR officer, Middle East and Africa, at Marriott International, says the company’s ‘Take Care’ scheme is guided by the philosophy that “if you put your employees first, the rest will take care of itself”. Comprising four pillars – career, financial, physical and emotional wellbeing – the programme has been

tt David Leman says Marrio ted imi unl ff sta rs offe access to training and development

the backbone of the company’s employee retention strategy. It focuses on managing the careers and future prospects of the workforce through clear succession planning, unlimited access to training and development, and transparency of opportunities within the organisation. Marriott also offers its staff guidance on nutrition and health, and personal finance management. “Emotional wellbeing is based around good communication, so people know what’s going on in the organisation,” says Leman. “[This entails] lots of town hall meetings. We also conduct engagement surveys and action planning, and spend a lot of time working on our leadership style. And we [mimic] the US corporate office, by having a meditation room and yoga studios.” Leman is convinced that, without the support of chairman Bill Marriott, the company’s employee-first culture would not have had the same impact. “In some firms, such programmes fall under HR alone and don’t always get the leverage that you would hope. But when it comes from your chairman or CEO, it has a lot more influence.”




















for example, great leaders, or at least [being aware] when there is a high performer who is unhappy.” And once an employee hands over their letter of resignation, there is little to be gained from offering better pay or conditions. As Mogielnicki says, “they have psychologically resigned”, and would likely not be the productive worker they were before, as they would still be looking for better opportunities. The concept of intervening early is bolstered hugely by the burgeoning suite of workforce analytics available to HR departments, says Hynes. Metrics can help you identify “attrition drivers” – the true motivating factors in staff departures, above and beyond the clichés. It could be high-burnout projects that drive employees to the edge, a mistrust of senior leadership or even the pain of commuting; travelling between Abu Dhabi and Dubai every day, for example, is not uncommon but can wear people down over time, and can be addressed through the use of flexible working. Analytics can be used to calculate what employees value most, Hynes says, whether it be work-life balance, reward and performance or rotational work projects. Data may also reveal that an organisation’s most prized talents are concerned about their compensation package. Ericsson Middle East doesn’t only look at employee engagement metrics, it also incorporates other KPIs, such as leadership quality and professional development opportunities, when monitoring satisfaction levels among its workforce. Girish Johar, who heads the Swedish company’s HR operations in the Middle East, says: “[Our


David Leman, chief HR officer, Middle East and Africa, at Marriott International, recognises the importance of training managers as a way to continue engaging employees. “We believe that people leave leaders rather than companies – a key driver of turnover is the relationship between the employee and their manager,” he says. “Transformational and supportive” leadership styles that encourage and reward staff have become the norm at the hotel giant, he says, rather than an authoritarian or dictatorial form of managing. Not every business will reach such levels of revelation. For many, the concept of building any sort of loyalty can be alien, says Benchiba-Savenius: “There is a ‘psychological contract’ with expats, which is often very transactional – we pay you, you do your job, we won’t invest in you.” Bessiso adds: “Happy employees are loyal and productive, and organisational culture plays an important role in making sure staff feel fulfilled by the work they do.” Investing in learning and development, for example, not only promotes employee engagement, but also provides companies with a pipeline of highly skilled staff members who can contribute to increasing the organisation’s competitiveness. “It is clear that all employees, including middle managers and mid-career professionals, are looking for development and growth opportunities,” she says. “But different people may look for this in different forms.” Bessiso says it is important to look at the various types of employee that can be found in the workforce. For example, new joiners often prefer mentorship programmes to help them develop with support from senior peers. Millennials also need to believe in the work they do, so projects that are meaningful, based on their values, will influence retention. More seasoned employees may look for access to formal professional certifications, MBAs or executive training programmes. There is evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, that many businesses have fallen short when trying to address employee retention. According to Robert Mogielnicki, senior analyst at OSC: “HR professionals here, as in every other region, often address the wrong issues in trying to solve retention. They don’t often know who to retain.” Common retention solutions, such as across-the-board salary increases, do not differentiate between strong performers and weaker ones, adds Mogielnicki, who says HR managers aren’t always proactive enough when it comes to addressing issues important to workforces. “The focus should be on developing early-stage excellence in,

analytics surveys are] direct feedback and we can accordingly see the pockets that have an issue and take necessary corrective actions. This is a leading indicator for us in pre-empting the problem.” Analytics can also play an important role in keeping employees engaged, says Benchiba-Savenius: “The value or contribution made by a staff member can be calculated from things like appraisal ratings. Intention to quit can be [extrapolated] from monitoring staff morale and engagement on a daily basis.” He also believes that “difficulty to replace” can be quantified using sophisticated statistical analyses. High scores in all of these metrics point to a need for urgent intervention on the part of leadership, and he recommends that HR and management step in as early as possible. As well as measuring labour turnover and its associated causes, Marriott International, says Leman, also uses analytics to keep a close eye on the hiring process. “We conduct a survey three months after hiring to discover the quality of the employee’s overall recruitment experience, and whether they have settled into their role. We also measure time-to-hire at junior and managerial level because we know that, while a vacancy may save us a little bit of money, having that vacancy for too long creates stress in the workplace and people have to pick up slack.” Encouraging the best and brightest to stay may be a daunting prospect involving ongoing commitments to in-house monitoring, investment in training programmes and mentoring initiatives for junior staff. But, as many businesses are beginning to understand after years of under-investment in this area, it really does pay to keep your best team on the pitch. People Management Middle East


“Don’t waste time following the rule book”

If you’re going to attract and retain bright young talent, you need a more agile workplace, says Radhika Punshi INTERVIEW ROBERT JEFFERY PHOTOGRAPHY SIDDHARTH SIVA


People Management Middle East


he economic outlook might not inspire much joy, but the idea of happiness has never mattered more. In February, the UAE appointed its first minister of happiness to prioritise the topic at a national level. And across the GCC, businesses are waking up to the idea that staff who come to work with a smile on their faces are not just more satisfied – they’re more productive too. Few people know more about the topic than Radhika Punshi. As the first person in the Middle East to be awarded a degree in positive psychology, she is at the forefront of helping organisations change the way they think about employees in her role as managing director of The Talent Enterprise in Dubai. Previously head of applied research for Aon Hewitt MENA, she is an expert on nationalisation and helping young people into the workforce and has co-authored four books on HR in the region.

People Management asked her what she sees happening inside local organisations, and why happiness is far deeper than its dictionary definition. How would you characterise the state of nationalisation across the GCC? Are local nationals better prepared for work than they used to be? In the past, we depended on expatriates because there wasn’t the available talent among the local population. That situation is changing very quickly – there are a lot more young nationals coming into the workplace with better levels of education. A lot of ‘old school’, traditional employers – and HR people too – aren’t necessarily ready. They’re not thinking about how to attract, engage or retain that younger generation. They’re too busy following the rule book or al-kitab. At the same time, young people still lack motivation and crucial employability skills.

Interview People talk a lot about nationalisation, but it’s not the same old discussion any more. This is Nationalisation 2.0. It’s not about what percentage of nationals you have in your organisation. In the long run, nationalisation strategies need to be sustainable to truly build knowledge-based economies. It might be that you have fewer nationals, for example, but you have a better quality. A lot of businesses will struggle with that shift.

And there’s a misalignment in expectations between employers and local national employees. Young nationals come to work with high expectations and yet the 25-34 age group reports some of the lowest levels of employee engagement in the region. They’re not prepared for the world of work, and at times, yes, they do have a sense of entitlement. They also lack critical workplace skills such as grit, resilience, a growth mindset, selfconfidence and social skills.

“Some firms must look like Jurassic Park to young people – they’re not allowed on social media”

Where do those misalignments come from? This is a complex issue and is affected by our education systems as well as the fragmented structure of our labour markets.

Young people don’t feel prepared for work. Six out of 10 students don’t believe their education is relevant and even more end up working in areas different from their academic specialisations. When it comes to work, companies often haven’t fully thought through their employer brand and working culture for millennials. Young people end up working in organisations that, to them, must look like Jurassic Park – they’re not allowed to access social media, they need to work fixed hours in the office and some may end up with oldfashioned managers who don’t know how to deal with younger people. The role of the public sector is also interesting because not only is it the largest employer in most GCC countries, it’s also the regulator. At times, it can distort the balance within the labour market because of the level of salary, benefits and incentives it offers, often competing for national talent. How are more progressive private sector employers approaching nationalisation? It’s nice to see more and more employers taking a long-term view of the skills issue; some are working with universities to design courses that develop the skills they need, and they’re starting to offer their own traineeships and apprenticeship programmes that recognise the gaps in education.

How would you sum up the concept of positive psychology? All of the positive social sciences are quite new and it’s amazing that they’re fundamentally shifting how we make the most of human potential – how do we get average people to be their best selves, and get organisations to thrive? It’s not ‘happiology’ or self-help or big yellow smiley faces. It is a science, linking aspects such as neuroscience and physiology to outcomes of happiness. A lot of research talks about three types of happiness. One is the pleasurable type of happiness. The other two are deeper and longer term, centred on meaning and purpose, and accomplishment and achievement. Organisations can learn to focus on longer-term wellbeing and happiness, shifting their orientation from the momentary pleasure that might come from a rise in your salary to something much more meaningful such as an alignment to the purpose of the company, or a deep sense of empowerment and achievement. We are beginning to understand the link between happiness and the sort of outcomes that really matter to businesses, such as elevated productivity and performance, higher levels of creativity, better decision making, positive health outcomes and employee wellbeing. HR can start to understand the organisational, environmental and psychological factors that lead to high performance and begin to apply them elsewhere. What does that mean for the notion of employee engagement? Our research shows that close to 40 per cent of variance in engagement is down to the individual – their personal strengths, motives and values – and has nothing to do with the organisation. There has also been a significant shift away from a standard once-a-year survey to more ongoing weekly, monthly or even daily measures of motivation – engagement is a ‘state’ of being and an annual survey runs the risk of becoming outdated as soon as it gets completed. People Management Middle East


Social learning:

What can staff teach WORDS EMILY BURT


…staff can connect with each other in an instant…

ntil recently, developing (we’re social animals, after all) to find new skills in the workplace answers to specific questions or meet invariably meant an in-house broader developmental needs. That could training course, hosted by mean putting people in contact inside your either an organisational or organisation – recognising the huge expertise external expert (and probably you have sitting untapped within your own featuring a weird ‘trust’ exercise as a warmfour walls – or opening their eyes to external up). But today, while a more traditional information that might help them. model still has its place, L&D is undergoing “Social learning is the semi-formal layer a quiet transformation. that surrounds formal learning,” says author In a working landscape where the answer and consultant Julian Stodd. “Formal to any question is only a few clicks away, and learning occurs in a defined time and place, where you can hold a Skype conversation with a story owned by an organisation. A with an expert on the other side of the face-to-face course is formal learning, but a world in seconds, the concept of waiting for conversation between colleagues about that allotted ‘learning’ slots looks course is social learning, where the same increasingly anachronistic. information is communicated through People are absorbing different channels.” knowledge in new ways, Imagine you’re an L&D professional and social learning in an engineering business. – a product of this A staff member is having development, and by trouble operating some measures the a specialist piece of most exciting advance machinery. You could dge wle kno Turning staff in workplace learning call in an expert (which will cost p hel into a wiki can for some time – is rapidly money and delay workflow), employees solve altering how we develop and but you might find that there is workplace challenges share knowledge at work. someone inside the organisation who has The definition of social learning depends the answer. And if you can capture what they on who you ask, but broadly speaking it have to offer and turn it into a wiki, their is about connecting people to each other thoughts will be immediately available to


People Management Middle East

anyone with the same problem in future, and can be added to by others. Perhaps your managers have a problem dealing with difficult reports. You could put them through a formal programme that might help alter their behaviour, but it could take months and might only impact a small number of people. It could be much more effective to source online videos offering role-play scenarios and create a simple, informal course of video study that could be shared internally (or, better still, invite one of your more competent managers to host a lunchtime talk on the topic and film it for use on your internal social network). The shift away from a top-down model comes partly in response to changing business landscapes. The popularity of flexible working means employees can now go weeks without setting foot on the office floor, and the increasingly youthful workforce is hooked on new technologies. The CIPD Learning and development 2015 report showed that L&D professionals anticipate an increased use of user-generated content – learning materials such as blogs and videos, collaborative technologies or even sharing ideas in ‘lunch and learn’ sessions – over the next few years. “Learning does not simply equate to training or education,” says Jane Hart,


The days of didactic learning are numbered…

n your h you? …and learn without being in a classroom…

founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies and a prominent social learning blogger and author. “The majority of social learning happens through social collaboration – working with your colleagues in your organisation – and now it is frequently underpinned by social technologies.” The centrality of technology to both business and personal life has played a fundamental role in the growth of social learning. According to the CIPD survey, three-fifths of L&D professionals expect their use of e-learning courses to grow, while more than 30 per cent see their use of virtual classrooms and webinars rising, and a further 25 per cent predict an increase in mobile device-based learning in the near future. But social learning is not synonymous with digital culture, or social media. Instead, technology acts as a facilitator: anyone in possession of a smartphone is now capable of learning at a time and place that suits them. Employers can use the tools available through smart devices to create self-sustaining platforms of learning, and connect workforces spread across industries, working environments and skillsets. Having this connection, and space for collaboration, is crucial to confronting global workforce challenges.

…it’s L&D, but not as we know it

“Interaction has always been part of the learning process,” says Andy Lancaster, head of learning and development at the CIPD. “Cavemen and women learned to make fire through social interaction, and children learn largely through social processes. Part of L&D’s role in the future will be to act as a connector, finding communities and plugging into them.” In the Middle East, one of the biggest challenges facing training departments is cost. “It’s going to be a difficult year for businesses in the region because of the falling oil prices – budgets are being cut and this is one of the reasons that people are turning to online learning solutions,” says Paul Michael Gledhill, founder of Dubai-based XpertLearning. “But e-learning and social learning can’t just be introduced with the sole intent of saving money; if you think of it that way, it will never be successfully implemented.” Companies that rely on foreign talent find social learning can be crucial to the cross-cultural development of their workers. “The challenges of

“In the future, L&D will act as a connector – finding and plugging into communities”

connecting global communities are huge, because when you deal with learning in a global sense you’re not just talking about geography, but legal, ethical and moral boundaries,” says Stodd. Businesses can be slow to successfully adopt this culture, because social learning thrives on the breakdown of established leadership structures. As the way employees absorb knowledge changes, managers must learn to adapt the way they communicate. “When it comes to social learning, the only leadership is the type a community can afford you,” Stodd says. “To really develop social leadership, organisations must be willing to relinquish control of the conversation. If you enter a social learning space with a formal learning authority, you won’t succeed.” Adopting a leadership role in creating these spaces can be as simple as setting up digital forums where employees can discuss issues and tackle workplace challenges, or encouraging them to take advantage of each other’s specialisations in the industry when solving problems. “Social learning is about books, simulations and assessment,” says Gledhill. “A lot of it is validated through digital platforms, but defining it is a question of advocacy: finding materials you like and recommending them to others, having conversations about them. Then it’s about sharing things across platforms such as blogs and social media – so it becomes not just a commentary but a process of sharing content from a learning perspective with a community.” This is where social media comes into its own, creating a global classroom where people can share and engage with learning programmes that are relevant and interesting. Organisations such as global professional services company Accenture are proactively engaging with these concepts. The company has ‘connected classrooms’ and uses a digital ‘on the go’ learning platform so that employees can connect and learn anytime, anywhere, through mobile and tablet devices. However, the complexity of social learning means a lot of businesses, particularly at a regional level, are yet to fully engage with its demands. “It has to be about people using each other’s capabilities,” Gledhill says. “Organisations must develop a framework to explore social learning, and trainers must understand that, while social learning won’t put them out of a job, it will encourage them to rethink the way they deliver learning.” People Management Middle East



Your quarterly run-through of essential skills, with expert commentary


Run a downsizing programme

and justifiable way. “Deciding which on future requirements around factors individuals should be made redundant such as skills, knowledge, experience, is not something that should be mindset and potential. Equal taken lightly. Both HR and opportunity for internal line management should be applicants to apply for roles Businesses can find themselves needing involved. Performance ratings within a proposed restructure to lose staff for various reasons, including and capability levels – using should be provided, with cost containment, a change in strategy competency assessments – can early communication and or a restructuring, when functions are help make those decisions in regular updates.” Losing the wrong team outsourced externally or because of an objective manner,” says Ravichandra also member can prove mergers and acquisitions. But no matter Khayzaran. points out that utilising costly in the long run what the scale or the reason, HR must Gaj Ravichandra, from HR performance data kept be integral to the process. consultancy Kompass, agrees: “A clear by the organisation is vital for making Organisations should embark on a process for selection should be based selection decisions, but should not be downsizing mission with the end in the only source of information. “Potential mind, which means considering what the to fit into the new role or team will be just future business will look like – whether as important,” he says. that centres on a particular team, a However, Khayzaran says there may department or the entire operation. still be times that staff are let go in favour What staff and employers think about redundancy Examining future objectives allows of less qualified local citizens: “In the business leaders to align their manpower Gulf states, it can be difficult under 47% of employers believe it demands to ensure the company has the labour law to reduce the number of should be compulsory right number of employees with the right country nationals within a company.” for organisations to skills, knowledge, experience, mindset There are some situations where provide career transition services to staff being and potential. the input of HR in making the initial made redundant While downsizing decisions is not necessary, such as when often means making an entire team of people lose their jobs redundancies, it through a department moving to another 80% of staff who have been can also involve geographic location, or when roles are made redundant say they implementing a made redundant because of technology used support when it was hiring freeze and or outsourcing, for example. In these offered by their employer retraining existing situations, HR can help ease the stress staff. “This can for the staff members involved. Khayzaran: a hiring help you build the While adhering to relevant labour freeze is an alternative 39% to making redundancies workforce you need laws is important, treating departing of employees identify without damaging employees well is also key. “In addition to the feeling of failure as the biggest effect of your employer brand by making offering the usual benefits of a severance redundancy redundancies,” says Samir Khayzaran, package, favourable reference and general manager UAE and head of reasonable notice period, partnering with strategic workforce planning (Middle a recruitment company to help find new More than 60% East) at Korn Ferry Hay Group. positions for the individuals affected can of employers say the greatest benefit of offering Where redundancies are required, go a long way to easing their transition career transition services is ensuring staff leave HR must ensure this is done in a fair on favourable terms out of the company,” says Khayzaran. SOURCE: HAYS


How to ease the pain


People Management Middle East

The Knowledge



Understand (and act on) an engagement survey Engaged employees take fewer sick days, stay with a company longer and contribute to profitability and business growth. Regular engagement surveys can show how engaged staff are but, once you have collected the data, how do you analyse it and capitalise on the results? According to Thom Janssen, practice leader, organisational surveys and insights at Willis Towers Watson in the Middle East, the demand for engagement studies has increased over the past five years as HR departments mature and leaders recognise the impact of employee wellbeing on the bottom line. “Engaged employees provide better customer service, deliver higher-quality work and help drive productivity gains

The rules of engagement A snapshot of employee motivation in the Middle East



of employees in the Middle East are engaged

of the workforce are ambivalent about their employer



are actively disengaged

are highly engaged


Key drivers of employee engagement


Career opportunities


Managing performance




Organisation reputation

4 Pay

by bringing their best thinking to work,” as possible. “Conducting a survey says Janssen. is like visiting a doctor,” says Ashish An engagement survey, where Ahluwalia, a consultant at Korn Ferry employees are asked to respond to a Hay Group who specialises in employee range of questions anonymously, can engagement and effectiveness. “The real give you a good picture of how motivated benefits of the survey are only realised your staff are. By analysing the responses, when the business implements an action and cross-referring them with other data plan around the results.” and research such as focus groups, Elias Dib, partner at Aon you may uncover issues that are Hewitt Middle East, believes preventing your employees from a well-designed survey can performing at their best, and be highlight the drivers of able to implement any necessary engagement a company should action plans. improve over the coming year, Janssen warns that it is easy and that this, in turn, should for companies to get “lost in the impact on organisational forest of data” generated by a performance. “When Ahluwalia: businesses survey. He suggests that clients reviewing engagement must follow a survey with an action plan focus on the three or four most survey results, important areas of the results. organisations should be Drilling down to a micro level with open to potential criticism and not ignore the analysis can be beneficial. “Looking issues that may seem too difficult to solve. at data at a micro level allows us to Most importantly, once a plan has been assess how certain groups are affected in finalised, they should communicate it different ways. For example, analysing effectively so that they are managing the difference between male and female employee expectations,” he adds. responses can offer an organisation Ahluwalia agrees it is important to trying to improve its proportion of publicise the results and any resulting women in the workplace useful feedback action plan to staff in a timely fashion. about how to attract and retain them.” “Organisations should be aware that If the analysis reveals a pattern, it may by conducting surveys they raise be possible to dig deeper to understand employee expectations, and failure the issues involved. Qualitative research to act on the findings will make staff techniques, such as focus groups, can be disillusioned with the system. This not carried out as a follow-up, and data can only affects future surveys but, more be cross-referred with other information importantly, future initiatives lose held by the business. If particularly low credibility,” he says. engagement is found in a certain Engaged employees team, for example, contribute to HR could look an overall goal through past exit interviews and performance reviews to see if there have been corresponding issues, such as problems with a particular line manager. It is essential to act on the findings as quickly People Management Middle East


With more than 17 million members, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is LinkedIn’s fastest expanding region. And with 86 per cent of LinkedIn members in the United Arab Emirates alone open to job approaches via the site, businesses ignore social recruiting at their peril. Hiring used to largely rely either on word of mouth, or on candidates who were responding to job advertisements. But while specialist job boards and agencies still have their place, particularly in function- or sector-specific recruitment, social networks have turned traditional dynamics around, allowing employers to build a group of connections they can actively target with roles. Through platforms such as LinkedIn – the pre-eminent online professional network – and others, employers can reach out directly to the far larger number of passive potential recruits outside their networks whose profiles meet the description of their ideal candidates.

LinkedIn is helping firms in the Middle East cut their time-to-hire


People Management Middle East

“LinkedIn offers the platform on which a global talent pool is available for hirers to consider, even if they are not actively looking for a job at that moment,” says Nada Enan, senior marketing manager for LinkedIn MENA. In the Middle East, the number of LinkedIn members has expanded from five million in October 2012 to more than 17 million today. The site launched Arabic as its 24th language option and recently unveiled an upgraded mobile app in the region. “Social recruiting has really taken off,” says Enan. She explains how telecoms company Zain Kuwait is engaging with top talent on LinkedIn. “Through targeted campaigns on the site, Zain was able to trim its time-to-hire by more than 30 per cent. Its follower base grew by 139 per cent in one year, and 24 per cent of new recruits now come from within this follower base of nearly 20,000.” While there are free services businesses can take advantage of, Andy Headworth, founder of Sirona Consulting and author of Social Media Recruitment, says they should consider paying to use LinkedIn’s premium

Talent: the facts Where do employers go to fill their vacancies and what challenges do they face?

Most reliable sources of quality hires, according to employers

43% Professional social networks

42% Internet job boards

32% Employee referral programmes

Main obstacles to attracting top talent

46% Finding candidates in high-demand talent pools

43% 39% Compensation Competition Source: LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends 2016

products to access functions such as InMails, where emails can be sent directly to individuals outside of a company’s existing followers. However, one of the dangers of contacting potential candidates directly is that your approaches could look like spam. To avoid this, Headworth suggests keeping messages short and relevant to the individual concerned. According to LinkedIn research, 81 per cent of respondents would be more open to hearing from companies they are already following. Businesses can increase their follower base by adding a follow button on their website, cross promoting their company page in LinkedIn groups and on other social platforms, and encouraging employees to include a link to the company page on their own LinkedIn profiles. “Businesses are waking up to the fact that their current employees’ professional networks can be the best way to find the next star hires, and this is driving them to invest in accessing these networks intelligently,” adds Enan.



Use social media for recruitment

The Knowledge


Improve your internal comms

Internal communications channels are vital for getting key messages out to employees, and when done well can be highly effective at creating a cohesive sense of community inside businesses. From email newsletters and printed magazines to announcements posted on company intranets and, increasingly, internal social media networks, they can create dialogue and boost engagement. But how can organisations ensure their communications are noticed and have an impact on time-pushed employees? Emma Reynolds, co-founder and CEO of consultancy E3 Reloaded, believes there is one key mindset shift that can transform the way internal communications are received and perceived – and that is to treat employees like customers. “Businesses spend countless hours understanding each of their customer segments. Then they use that understanding to develop messages and choose communication methods they know will appeal to the segment they’re

targeting. The same applies to internal communications,” says Reynolds. She argues that companies are only just scratching the surface of what’s possible with internal communications: “Businesses are yet to master how to get attention and engagement in a world of information overload. Organisations assume they have the attention of their employees, which leads to bland and predictable communications: sending PowerPoint presentations over email, producing dry company newsletters and issuing generic broadcasts. In reality, attention must be earned.” To succeed in delivering effective and engaging internal communications, Reynolds believes businesses should look at how marketers operate. That means getting to know your audiences and tailoring messages to each segment. But most businesses rely on the channels that are easiest to issue in bulk, which means emails, newsletters and intranets. “Unfortunately, most employees, who are dealing with ever-increasing volumes of information, have been conditioned to ignore these channels. They are no longer effective,” says Reynolds.

How to communicate better Tips for successful internal communications from Emma Reynolds, co-founder and CEO of consultancy E3 Reloaded h

e wellclo, hi, ome

1 Know your audience Build a deep understanding of the people you’re communicating with. Not just their demographic profiles but their day-to-day realities, work habits, motivations and pain points. Once you have this, use it to tailor your tone, messaging and channels. p on once u ... a time

3 Less data, more storytelling Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to activate our brains. When we engage with a story, not only is the language processing part activated, but also many other areas. Stories allow thoughts, ideas and messages to be planted. Communicating in stories, as opposed to facts, has a huge impact on engagement.

2 Earn attention The average human attention span is 8.25 seconds. With the volume of information we’re all processing, attention must be earned. Do this by surprising and delighting your employees with your internal communications. !!@#**!!


4 Watch your tone Take a look at the language in your employment contracts, review policy materials and examine past corporate memos. Reflect on the tone of these communications. More often than not it is overly complicated, robotic, condescending, long or boring. If you want people to engage, ensure the tone is engaging, human and authentic.

Applying some creative thinking to the process can help. How might you create an experience for employees through your communications? Reynolds: evoking How could you emotion can help grab surprise and delight employees’ attention them? How can you evoke emotion? “These are all great questions to ask when thinking about the form your internal communications take. We are increasingly seeing a demand for digital content, including video and web.” Reynolds highlights a financial institution she recently worked with to communicate the importance of compliance around financial crime. “We launched an office takeover in two buildings, reaching 10,000-plus staff. We went to great lengths to make them ‘feel’ something, not just broadcast bland messaging. The content was emotive, human and, in some cases, shocking. We definitely got their attention and made it easy for them to engage with the campaign. It was a huge success.” Enterprise social media networks such as Yammer are also increasingly common in workplaces. They allow people to create groups and make and comment on posts in a work context. While it is another avenue for pushing internal messages, businesses using such platforms must be aware that it opens up the possibility of two-way conversation and employee criticism. But Reynolds says this should not be shied away from. “Businesses are petrified of negative feedback from employees. We see businesses going to huge lengths to eradicate the risk of anything negative being said. But the reality is that feedback is an opportunity to improve. And by taking feedback and making changes, companies are sending a signal to their employees that their input is valued. Negative feedback can actually be a catalyst for improved engagement if dealt with properly,” she says. People Management Middle East




The GCC needs more female leaders – and its own version of Steve Jobs

Women are making a huge impact in the Gulf’s healthcare sector

The Gulf region is under pressure – both understood for some time – but now economically and politically. It isn’t that they have access to education, they hard to understand the factors that are ready and willing to make a real are driving this growing sense of social and economic contribution, unease, but what is infinitely more which could arrive just in time. difficult is working out just how I have seen this first hand in GCC economies can diversify my role at Brunel University. We effectively and sustainably. have created a ‘PhD without The answer, I believe, is a residence’ in partnership with move to technologically driven Bahrain’s Ahlia University, societies where intellectual which allows people to capital is valued every bit as undertake research and much as tangible, physical access a degree from their Professor and goods. And that requires two home country. This is a real chair of sustainable things in particular: smart, alternative to lone, part-time business dynamic people at the top, and PhD study, which limits access operations, Brunel greater opportunity for women. University, UK to supervision and resources, The aspirations and and is a key indicator of the way capabilities of women in the education is changing, both Middle East are changing fast. They inside and outside the workplace. are intellectually curious and often Many of those who have benefited from entrepreneurial – those things have been the programme are women. Our first


Zahir Irani

34 People Management Middle East

cohorts of female graduates are already in senior roles in government, business and the military. Creating even greater numbers of female leaders is crucial to future economic prosperity. These women don’t need to work for men to forge opportunities – plenty are setting up their own businesses, with considerable success – but they are now enjoying greater support from many senior figures within governments, notwithstanding the odd pocket of resistance. They are transforming the healthcare sector in particular, and making an impact in countries as diverse as Kuwait and Lebanon, where the rate of progress among female executives and entrepreneurs is striking. This is only one part of the picture, however. We need a cadre of people at the top of organisations – of both genders – who have the qualifications, intellectual capability and sheer charisma to drive real change. That’s not necessarily about creating more graduates, but it does mean having a strong and visible set of dynamic leaders, in both the private and public sectors, who set a strong example and inspire others to follow their lead. Where, we might ask, is the Gulf Steve Jobs? It doesn’t fall on any one company or function to offer the answer, but HR has its part to play. As HR moves away from a model of manpower management, we see a dawning realisation inside organisations that people can make a real contribution to business growth. HR is developing fast – so why shouldn’t it be the function that nurtures the curious intellects we need to emerge? And who knows, perhaps it will contribute a few visionary business leaders of its own.

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People Management Middle East: Issue 3  

The CIPD magazine for the Middle East