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What’s the point of wellbeing?

Unpicking the business case for investing in your people Improved retention of key employees

Reduced sickness and absence


Improved morale Greater productivity



1% 2% 2% 3%

9% 4%


Increased employer brand perceptions


Reduced medical insurance premiums Increased productivity

Enhanced awareness and prevention of mental ill-health

Better financial planning and support

Greater awareness of health and nutrition

Fewer accidents and injuries


Money talks

Are economists optimistic about the GCC’s future?

Forward thinker

Author Malcolm Gladwell on why it’s time to hire smarter


Taking the healthy option First of all, best wishes for 2017 to all our members and HR professionals working across the region. The CIPD and People Management teams are delighted to bring you our first edition of PM Middle East for 2017. And given the somewhat challenging and turbulent year we’ve just left behind, we thought it would be poignant to start the year with ‘positive resolutions’ and take a look at the organisational health and wellbeing agenda. So how about we all sign up to making that extra effort in 2017? It is the Year of Giving in the UAE, after all, and what better place to start than thinking about how we can look after ourselves and our colleagues a little better in the year ahead? I had the pleasure of acting as a panel judge for two health and wellbeing awards in 2016 (the UK People Management and Daman Health Awards) so, having read more than 40 organisational case studies on this topic, I can see there is some significant progress being made. It’s great that both globally and regionally, organisations are building momentum as they seek to address, and prioritise, the important business agenda of employee wellbeing.

Matthew Mee Managing director, CIPD Middle East

What is clear is that companies are now starting to think more holistically about their wellbeing strategies. There are some great local examples, encompassing a broad spectrum of component parts, and it’s really good to see teams placing greater focus on ROI metrics and an all-round better understanding of how interventions impact on business performance. There is still a long way to go for sure – so I hope some of the case studies and interviews you are about to read will inspire you to instigate and drive change. I wish you all a happy, prosperous and, most importantly, very healthy 2017.

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What’s the point of wellbeing?

Unpicking the business case for investing in your people Improved retention of key employees

Reduced sickness and absence


Improved morale Greater productivity



1% 2% 2% 3%

9% 4%


Increased employer brand perceptions


Reduced medical insurance premiums Increased productivity

Enhanced awareness and prevention of mental ill-health

Better financial planning and support

Greater awareness of health and nutrition

Fewer accidents and injuries


Money talks

Are economists optimistic about the GCC’s future?

Forward thinker

Author Malcolm Gladwell on why it’s time to hire smarter

Who we are p5 News and analysis p6 Do end-of-service gratuities still work? Case study p10 Focus on Sharjah Police Debate: employee engagement p12 What’s the best way to measure happiness? The power of wellbeing p14 How smart organisations tackle employee health

Q&A: Malcolm Gladwell p22 The iconic author on the GCC’s challenges The neuroscience of change p24 Why understanding brain chemistry pays off for HR 2017: the year ahead p28 Economists give their views on what happens next The Knowledge p30 Key workplace skills, with expert commentary The View From Here: Judith Barton p34 People Management Middle East


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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

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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 benefits

Does end-of-service gratuity have a future?


Enhanced benefits are increasingly popular among employers, but not everyone is convinced It’s a retention tool that has served businesses well for decades, but there is an increasing clamour for GCC organisations to move beyond the traditional end-ofservice gratuity (EOSG). A recent survey by Willis Towers Watson suggested that the need to hang on to talented professionals in the face of greater global mobility has prompted growing numbers of employers to go beyond mandatory benefits, offering supplemental defined contribution savings or pension plans. Just under half (49 per cent) of the organisations surveyed said they were enhancing end-of-service benefits because of the need to retain top talent or, in some cases, to keep up with local or industry best practice – a 4 per cent increase on 2015.

However, many of these enhancements are currently only for high-level management. One of the main issues is that an EOSG alone is not enough to retire on. It is also seen as a high-risk benefit, as many businesses keep employees’ gratuities in the corporate bank account and use the money as working capital until it is due to be paid – which means the risk of an organisation not having access to the gratuity when it is required is very real. And the EOSG will depreciate if it is not put aside as an investment, which is why financial advisers advocate trust funds, pension schemes or contribution schemes to help employees save. But not all companies are enhancing gratuities. “Some firms are keen on the

“A change to a pension would require a large cash outlay”


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current model because, rather than being required to invest money to safeguard future employee benefits, they can utilise that money for their own gain,” says Sam Instone, CEO at AES International, a financial advisory company to expatriates. He says the reason a different model doesn’t exist yet is because it is only expats who are affected: “It hasn’t really come to the attention of those who can force change.” Hannah McDermott, HR director at Gerson Lehrman Group and People Plus Middle East, says there are other reasons companies are sticking with the traditional gratuity. “While there are alternatives that may prove to be beneficial in the long term, a change to a pension would require a very large cash outlay all at once – and few organisations are sitting on sufficient cash to pay all employee gratuity today,” she says. However, with current market conditions, McDermott believes employers would be wise to provide an enhanced EOSG. “The UAE remains a transient workplace, with the majority of companies not veering away from the legal minimum. But encouraging loyalty through enhanced benefits is one way to protect business operations and should be factored into annual business plans,” she says. While the working population of the GCC remains comparatively transient, mobile professionals are now generally


News and analysis staying longer, which may make it more worthwhile for employers to offer additional benefits. But although the EOSG is very similar across GCC countries, there are some minor differences. “In Bahrain, unlike the UAE where there is a formal statute allowing for pension plans to replace EOSG, the trade-off of EOSG versus a defined contribution or defined benefit plan with future payout is not expressly recognised,” says Steve Brown, managing attorney at Al Ruwayeh & Partners in Bahrain. Even where pension schemes or contribution systems are permitted, a pension can be very difficult to administer and police because of the transient population who will eventually return to their home country, he says. “We believe that a move away from EOSG in Bahrain and the GCC may be unlikely except in relation to high-level employees at multinational companies,” says Brown. “The nature of expatriate work in the region – usually for limited stints of two to five years – and the risks associated with retirement being linked to the GCC economies, which are foreign to the workers served, would make such plans unpalatable to most workers. If a GCC-wide expatriate pension programme were established, this may assuage some of these Hannah McDermott: fears, though the employers that economic concern provide an enhanced would likely EOSG will benefit persist. However, mobility of a pension entitlement back to the workers’ home countries would be instrumental in the success of any such programme.” While there are risks involved in the security of employees’ EOSGs, Instone says there are rumours that Dubai’s International Financial Centre is “contemplating the introduction of regulations to force companies to invest to fulfil end-of-service liabilities… If successful, such regulations could then be rolled out into the federal zones.” Businesses across the wider region would be encouraged to follow the same path, says Instone: “At the moment, where there is no legal obligation on an employer to ringfence assets to meet liabilities – in Dubai and Qatar, for example – employees are vulnerable.”

News in numbers


Number of jobs set to be created by Oman’s private sector in 2017

11% Percentage of senior business leaders in Qatar who never promote female nationals

892,000 Increase in net employment in Saudi Arabia in 2016

1,000 Number of jobs the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation was tasked with creating in the UAE in just 75 days SOURCE: OMAN GOVERNMENT, OXFORD STRATEGIC CONSULTING, JADWA INVESTMENT, MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND EMIRATISATION


Jamie Liddington, head of employment at Hadef & Partners, gives an overview of legislation changes in the GCC that HR professionals need to know about

The future of disputes in the Jebel Ali Free Zone The Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) – the umbrella organisation that oversees the administration and functions of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts – giving its member companies and people living, working and investing in the Jebel Ali Free Zone access to a suite of dispute resolution services, including the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) of the DIFC Courts. The MoU states that Jafza and the DRA will cooperate “towards the creation and adoption of bespoke employment law dispute resolution provisions for Jafza and its member companies”.

It is not yet clear how the authorities propose to achieve the aims set out in the MoU. At present, the Jebel Ali Free Zone Rules and Regulations largely reflect the UAE Labour Law. Where disputes exist between employers and employees within the zone and cannot be resolved by Jafza mediation, the matter is referred to the Dubai Courts to apply the Jebel Ali Free Zone Rules and Regulations and the UAE Labour Law. If the initiative proposed under the MoU is to proceed, it will need to be clarified whether the SCT would resolve employment disputes by reference to the legal framework that applies within the Jebel Ali Free Zone, or whether employers and employees would be given the chance to opt into DIFC law. This bold and innovative development is likely to provide significant benefits to employers and employees alike, as the SCT continued overleaf People Management Middle East


News and analysis

LEGAL UPDATE continued

Youth City 2030, an annual event organised by Bahrain’s General Organization for Youth and Sports, aims to equip young people with essential skills for the workplace

offers a fast and efficient means of resolving disputes. If the initiative is successful, it is likely that similar agreements would be put in place with other free zone authorities in due course.

EOSG awarded for periods of employment outside the UAE Employers in the UAE would be forgiven for thinking they do not have to pay end-of-service gratuity (EOSG) to an employee for a period of employment outside of the UAE – but it’s not always that simple. In a recent ruling from the Dubai Court of Appeal, an individual who was employed by a UAE branch entity for one year received EOSG for the total period of his employment with the group, which totalled nine years (eight in Europe and one in the UAE). The employee was initially employed by the ‘parent’ entity, which exercised a great degree of control over the UAE branch (a branch of the same entity) including management, finances and human resources. In fact, the UAE branch was no more than an outpost set up primarily for conducting sales in the country, which were carried out by only a handful of staff. When the employee was asked to relocate to the UAE, all documentation referred to an assignment and preservation of continuity. The Court of Appeal upheld the Court of First Instance award in favour of the employee by awarding EOSG calculated to include the entire nine years of service. The employer has appealed to the Court of Cassation and final judgment is due in the first half of this year. 8

People Management Middle East

Developing young people can bolster Bahrain’s economic prospects Collaboration between universities and private and public sectors is key Bahrain’s growing population of young people has the potential to provide a welcome boost to its economy, if talent is harnessed in the right way. According to the Oxford Business Group (OBG), the ‘youth bulge’ – the percentage of those under 25 – is challenging governments across the Middle East. The

World Economic Forum has warned that the region is facing a critical period in which the current demographic structure can either turn into a “youth dividend” or a “youth liability”, says the OBG. In Bahrain, 35 per cent of the population is under 25, and within that demographic more than 20 per cent are

unemployed, according to World Bank data. One of the main concerns highlighted by various studies is that young people are not sufficiently prepared for the challenges of finding a job, and lack the skills to make them work-ready. However, in Bahrain there are specific initiatives underway that are looking to address

Facts at your fingertips The latest CIPD research findings

Goals alone don’t boost performance Goal-setting can improve workplace performance, but it’s not always clear-cut, according to a recent CIPD report. It works best when the goals are clear, specific and challenging, while remaining achievable and applied to relatively straightforward tasks. Interestingly, the report found that, as many jobs involve complex tasks, for less predictable work unspecific

‘do your best’ goals could be more effective than clear and challenging ones. But for goalsetting to be effective, feedback – a rating or assessment – is crucial. This doesn’t necessarily mean the formal annual performance appraisal should be retained – it must be seen in a broader light, as conversations about what employees have learned and how they can improve take them mentally to a very different place to talk of achievements and results. ✶

More support needed for managing absence Despite most organisations now recognising the important role line managers play in managing absence, employers don’t always help them manage it in the most effective way, found the CIPD and Simplyhealth’s 2016 Absence Management survey of UK organisations. Compared with 2015, last year saw a decrease in the number of companies saying they

these issues. Last year the Arab Labor Organization organised a forum in collaboration with the Free Foundation of Bahrain Trade Unions, with the aim of qualifying young people to find suitable jobs by narrowing the gap between the outcomes of learning and the requirements of the labour market.   Tamkeen, an organisation tasked with developing Bahrain’s private sector, recently revamped its basic skills certification scheme. Chief executive Dr Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi says: “We have brought back the successful Basic Skills Certification Scheme, as part of our efforts to create opportunities for Bahrainis to develop their employability skills to make Bahrainis the employee of choice for semi-skilled and skilled professions.” Amin A Nasr, regional business development manager at recruitment firm Clarendon Parker International, believes the skills gap has reduced as young people have steadily been receiving more training. “The key to success is the continuous coherence between universities and the private and public sectors. Bahraini youth are the support and the future of the economy,” he says.

train line managers in absencehandling or provide online support or a care conference with HR. “Line managers take primary responsibility for managing short-term absence in 57 per cent of organisations overall, rising to 72 per cent of the public sector,” says the CIPD survey of HR professionals. “Given the wide research evidence base about the importance of the line manager role in creating a great place to work, this misalignment needs to be addressed.” ✶

Big thinkers The latest round-up of inspiring ideas for HR professionals

Successfully engaging employees can offer a quick win if you believe in the concept, says Qatari author and HR practitioner Sharoq Almalki (below). She is optimistic about engagement in Qatar in light of the government’s focus on developing people as the country’s most valuable assets, as stated in the Qatar National Vision 2030. Speaking to The Peninsula, she said some sectors had taken a more progressive step than others, but that the country cares about investment in human capital. The critical business lesson that ‘the hardest part is not to become successful – it is to stay there’, forms the basis of Rasmus Ankersen’s new book, Hunger in Paradise. Taking Nokia’s stratospheric rise and fall as an example, Ankersen says that when companies become successful, they often end up fighting themselves rather than their competitors, and forget what is important to their customers. “Success and power change the perspective through which people see the world, and often in ways that are counterproductive to sustaining success,” he says. Adding a bit of science to the interview process could remove some of the variances in people’s judgements on character and lead to more effective recruitment, according to Dr Tomas ChamorroPremuzic. In an article for Fast Company, the professor of business psychology at University College London

and Columbia University says employers can make a start by curbing the amount of ‘chitchat’ in interviews, providing a standardised environment and process for all candidates, and focusing on a factual and data-driven evaluation of their skills, rather than trying to psychoanalyse them. Professional services firms are increasingly facing problems from clients that are so complicated no single expert could solve them, says Heidi K Gardner, fellow at Harvard Law School and former McKinsey consultant. In her new book, Smart Collaboration, Gardner says that, for these problems to be solved, specialists have to work together to integrate their separate knowledge bases and skills to devise unified solutions. “Smart collaboration is different from the mere assembly of experts’ individual pieces, after each has contributed to a ‘divide and conquer’ approach,” she says – it requires repeated interactions over time. When dealing with people, leaders need to show empathy and sensitivity, says Eduardo Braun. In his recently published book, People First Leadership, Braun paints a picture of the new CEO – ‘chief emotions officer’ – who he believes should align people behind a vision by generating emotions such as a sense of purpose, pride and trust. To do this, a leader needs certain attributes, including humility, curiosity and the confidence to try new  things. 

Sharjah Police

“Harnessing our passion means better performance” to help us assess our officers’ skills and personalities, so we can match them to the right tasks,” he says. Dr Antoine Eid, CEO of Beirut-based Leapership Consultants Group, was brought in to introduce Sharjah Police to Emergenetics, a brain-based psychometric assessment that highlights thinking and behaviour, giving a clear understanding of how people live, work, communicate and interact. The nature-versus-nurture debate is as old as psychology itself but, according to the thinking behind the programme, a combination of genetic tendencies and behaviours that have been “modified through socialisation” contribute to who we are at work and what sort of potential we have. The idea of psychometric testing may not be new, but it is unusual for an Emirati police force to use it (Sharjah is believed to be the first), and certainly to entrust key promotion decisions to its results.



eveloping a future pipeline of leaders is critical for most organisations. But in the police service, where leaders are required to display a level of organisational commitment not usually expected of most other professions, it takes on a new significance. In policing, leaders must possess a wide variety of skills, such as the ability to gather and process knowledge required to make informed decisions, communicate clearly with different stakeholders, use authority properly and understand when to command and when to delegate. They must have the skills to motivate and help their subordinates shape the future direction of their careers, while adding value to the organisation. Sharjah Police and its commander in chief, Brigadier Saif Mohd Al Zari Al Shamsi, faced the same challenges as other forces when it came to choosing and developing leaders. But it opted to address the issue by implementing 10

People Management Middle East

a comprehensive, and unusual, programme that combines psychometric assessments with training and development. “The UAE government has a ‘people first’ ethos. Investing in people is an important component of the country’s development strategy,” Al Shamsi tells People Management in his office at police headquarters in the third largest Emirate, around 40 kilometres north of Dubai. Building a leadership pipeline is also a critical element of this nationwide strategy, he adds. And when it comes to identifying leadership potential in cadets and young officers, Al Shamsi strongly believes that guesswork should be taken out of the equation as much as possible. “It requires a scientific approach, and Dr Antoine Eid (left) this is why we worked with the force decided to work to introduce a system with a consultant of psychological testing


How an Emirati police force ditched its ‘boring’ testing to nurture its future leaders using the power of neuroscience

Case study

Some of the officers considered to have high leadership potential are also selected to join a brain-based leadership development programme at Cambridge University in the UK. “Police officers are not new to assessments. Throughout their life in the academy and during their career they undergo a series of assessments, such as IQ testing and abstract reasoning, which, according to them, are extremely boring,” Al Shamsi says. The other downside of traditional assessment tools, according to him, is that they fail to provide the kind of indicators managers need to get a clearer picture of their officers’ aptitude and ability. “The training and development workshops are customised based on the results of the assessment. They are designed around the participants having fun, but learning at the same time. So far, the feedback has been positive,” he says. At the end of every workshop, a report is prepared detailing the strengths and weaknesses of each participant. It also makes recommendations about which roles officers will be best suited for. “Through the report, we’re able to identify who is a better fit for administrative work, for example, and who will do better in the field,” says Al Shamsi. “Aside from giving us data to predict who can assume leadership roles, we have also noticed the programme has benefited our officers on both a professional and personal level. Two of them told us how they are able to interact better with superiors, subordinates and people outside the workplace because they now understand how nature and nurture influence human development. “In a law enforcement institution, where there is a fixed structure in hierarchy and the order of command is very clear, there is a tendency to spend a lot of time and energy trying to change behaviour. But I believe harnessing people’s strengths and passions can lead to better performance.”

“We’re able to identify who is a better fit for admin, and who will do better in the field”

The process measures four thinking attributes – analytical, structural, social and conceptual – and three behavioural attributes: expressiveness, assertiveness and flexibility. “It is important for us to look at thinking and behaviour separately,” says Eid. “Based on 30 years of neuroscience research, people have certain aspects of their personality that are more difficult to change, and then there are aspects of human behaviour that are easier to change. “By understanding these elements, an organisation’s management can focus training and development initiatives to address specific goals, and assign people to the right positions.” Al Shamsi says around 80 officers, including graduates of the Sharjah Police Academy and lieutenants being considered for promotion, have undertaken the assessment and training. He hopes it will also be adopted more widely in the academy: “Our plan is to eventually incorporate this into the curriculum, so we can identify potential leaders as early as possible. This will complement other existing programmes to help us further develop future leaders.”

The programme is carried out through a series of assessments, followed by group training and development workshops that promote experiential learning by incorporating interactive activities, games and simulations of real-world situations.

Sharjah Police Arabian Gulf


Al Buhairah Police Station


People Management Middle East


The debate

Is engagement still a valid concept? HR professionals are often told that raising engagement is the holy grail of business performance. But does pursuing it truly pay off ? INTERVIEWS GEORGI GYTON

Brett Smyth Founder, Engage Me Online, Middle East and Africa

HR has lost sight of the bigger picture If we define employee engagement as a workplace approach where companies strive to create the right conditions for staff to thrive, I think it is something everyone in the business should be focusing on – not just HR.   I earn a living helping companies create a culture of engagement, so I am undeniably biased. But I

believe that the HR community has lost sight of the bigger picture in our desire to implement metrics and analyse engagement to the nth degree. At its core, employee engagement is about three key things: appreciation – we all want to know that our efforts are not going unnoticed; advancement – most of us would like to advance in our careers, either in the form of promotion or skills development; and remuneration – not many of us have the luxury of working for free, so we need to be rewarded for our time, energy and skills to make a living. These core ingredients need to be in place to build the foundations of engagement. When they are,

businesses can look to include other elements such as health and wellbeing initiatives, a comfortable work environment and positive relationship-building among employees. It is an added bonus – but admittedly a luxury – if employees are able to match their own life purpose to that of the organisation they are working for. But companies are ultimately fuelled by the people who run them and they should do everything in their power to ensure that employees are engaged, committed and willing to go the extra mile.

Dr Mona Mustafa Associate professor, faculty of business and management, University of Wollongong, Dubai

Engagement is crucial if we want to be more agile Employee engagement is at the core of having motivated and satisfied employees. With the frequent changes that organisations are facing, it is essential to communicate and keep staff up to date with inside information. This could include challenges that the leadership team is facing, or the direction of the company. Employees want to be in the circle of trust, to be in the know. Communication is therefore key 12

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in enhancing employee engagement, as a lack of clear information can lead to low morale and a decrease in productivity. And engagement is becoming more and more important as businesses are becoming more agile. Smart working, agile working and activity-based working are new terms that we are hearing more and more about. For example, we are seeing a change in office design that encourages collaboration and

engagement among employees. Ample room for productivity and opportunities for collaboration and engagement are designed into everything from meeting rooms to collaborative spaces. More engaged companies are opting to ditch cubicles and replace them with spacious open areas. These offices promote comfort and collaboration – and that promotes engagement and motivation too.

Karin Vidic HR director, EMEA sales, Steelcase

Disengaged employees can damage sustainable growth Employee engagement leads to better business outcomes. It’s that simple. When a staff member has an emotional connection to their company, they are more inclined to hit their targets and deadlines. They will go the extra mile, even when the boss is not looking, and they will deliver enthusiastic contributions to team brainstorms, as opposed to thinly veiled indolence. Engagement also

has a direct impact on absenteeism. While organisations might be able to absorb the effects of both engaged and disengaged staff, many business leaders don’t realise how significant the engagement concept is. A global engagement report commissioned by Steelcase in 2016 observed 12,480 workers in 17 countries, including the UAE. It found that not only does employee engagement positively correlate with employee satisfaction, but one third of workers in several of the world’s most important economies are disengaged. This can create a crisis for businesses that need to be agile and resilient. Disengaged employees can damage an organisation’s sustainable growth. By addressing the most basic needs of individuals – physical, cognitive

and emotional – leaders can show that they care about their employees’ wellbeing, and increase profitability, productivity and retention in the process. Is there too much focus on engagement? Essentially, no. I believe it has a direct impact on a company’s success and profit as a whole, fuelling organisations during times of economic growth, as well as, critically, when market conditions are uncertain and volatile. But, as with anything, there needs to be a balance and influencing engagement is not easy. It relies on several factors, such as being aligned with the purpose of the company, enjoying working with the team, having a coaching leader and working in an environment that provides choices to match the work being performed.

Elias Dib Partner, Aon Hewitt Middle East and Africa

Businesses don’t make the link to financial performance Despite musings to the contrary, employee engagement is a scientifically valid concept. Aon Hewitt has found that leaders and managers are 30 per cent more likely to act on engagement if they have seen the direct effects it has on business performance. However, not many organisations have linked engagement to financial

performance because of a lack of access to relevant KPI datasets. By establishing internal evidence, there is an opportunity for companies to drive management efforts towards improving engagement. Case studies we have carried out, backed by KPI datasets, demonstrate clear links with performance. At one large organisation, we found business units with top-quartile engagement results had more satisfied customers and a lower turnover rate compared with units in the bottom quartile of engagement. Our research has also shown a strong association between engagement and revenue: business units with top-quartile engagement results

have less deviation from their revenue budget. The winning companies have created a culture of engagement in which it is possible to identify a clear correlation between engagement levels and business performance, including customer satisfaction, sales, operating margins and total shareholder returns. They have successfully created a workplace experience that does not just revolve around pay but around a robust and comprehensive employee value proposition, positively affecting performance and profitability.

People Management Middle East



People Management Middle East



of employees say it is their employer’s responsibility to encourage health and wellness

Investing in employee health pays dividends in the long run. So why are so many business leaders still not convinced?


A comprehensive wellbeing scheme can lead to an average 30 per cent fewer compensation claims



A dedicated wellbeing programme can lead to an average 28 per cent reduction in sick days

People Management Middle East


amad Medical Corporation (HMC) is taking on a huge wellbeing challenge. As the primary provider of secondary and tertiary healthcare in Qatar, HMC and its 25,000 staff carry a significant responsibility for the health of others. With three new hospitals soon to be added to the nine already under management, the country’s biggest employer is about to get bigger, and its HR team wants to ensure that everyone is well looked after, both in their jobs and beyond. A coordinated and integrated employee wellbeing programme on this scale is a massive undertaking. Like other local organisations investing in the wellbeing of their people, HMC is in the early



of MENA professionals smoke, though 63 per cent of them do so less during work hours


of GCC nationals say they have health problems that prevent them from doing things people their age can normally do


stages of feeling out what will work and, crucially, what employees want. “We completed a unique assessment within the business to make sure that what we’re doing is what people actually need,” says Ms Fatima Haidar, chief human resources officer. “We are really focused on getting input from employees across the business, making sure they are involved in steering the project.” Patient-facing staff can have some of the toughest jobs going, so HMC aims to ensure the right support structures are in place. This includes keeping administration to a minimum outside core work, making all HR services available online and running a dedicated staff clinic to tend to employee medical needs. That so many of the people HMC caters for are directly involved in caring for patients is a pivotal business

performance challenge. “When you are faced with stressful clinical work, you are obviously more likely to put patient needs in front of your own,” says Ms Haidar. “In HR, our number one goal is to make sure the people who are in front of the patients every day get the support they need. Healthy employees create a healthy organisation and patients will benefit from this.” As HMC develops its wellbeing strategy, it will help people with their fitness and nutrition, and take heed of their professional development requirements – better communication skills among managers boosts workers’ wellbeing – and spiritual needs, a factor Ms Haidar describes as ‘central’. The programme will break the whole issue into three streams – organisational health, occupational health and individual health – each of which will be tackled in a data-driven way. “We’re


Obesity affects 42.3 per cent of Qatar’s population, the highest prevalence in the world




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“The wellbeing agenda is critical in retaining and attracting talent”

Cooper outlines the components he believes make up a wellbeing culture: socially, emotionally skilled line managers; wellbeing audits to find out where the problems lie; employee assistance programmes for those who aren’t coping; and flexible working. The return on investment comes in a reduction in stress-related sickness and enhanced productivity: unsurprisingly, healthy employees produce more. “Line managers are a critical component here,” says Cooper. “We just don’t have the middle managers to manage people in the new economy, where we’re doing more with fewer people. They need good interpersonal skills – the ‘soft’ skills people always talk about.” Other challenges include beating the mindset that working long hours means you are more effective and productive. From a wellbeing point of view, Cooper believes companies should let people work flexibly if they can. “Most of our jobs aren’t in manufacturing now, so there’s no reason that we can’t, and even in manufacturing it is possible to allow people to work flexibly if you manage it.” While we might view wellbeing as primarily a reactive discipline – for example, by looking after staff suffering from long-term conditions – being proactive about issues like flexible working is just one tool employers could deploy to tackle underlying issues that negatively affect wellbeing. Whether it’s used to take the stress out of coping with sick children, avoid the rush hour or just get to the gym, it is a zero-to-low-cost change that can have a big psychological benefit, including boosting perceived trust (when US university MIT introduced flexible working, 62 per cent of staff reported an ‘improved feeling of trust and respect’). For international payments company Mastercard, taking a flexible working approach has been one of the key changes to the way it manages people. “We’ve reviewed some of our policies that play in the wellbeing space and now espouse a flexible working culture,” says Scott Tierney, Mastercard’s senior vice president of human resources for the Middle East and Africa. “People are much freer to choose their working hours, SUPERSTOCK

already doing a lot of work in these areas, one of the new frontlines in the war so the first exercise is to set a benchmark on against the waistline – a point not missed what we are doing now, and how effective by insurers, which have gone on record it is, to make sure it works as a coherent suggesting employers need strategy,” she says. “Then we will be able to set to take the initiative realistic KPIs and measure ourselves against to help their those. As a government organisation, we are insured staff get very aware of our responsibility healthier if they to ensure we are maximising want to control every riyal we spend premium costs. in the best possible Wellbeing, in way. That means we this way, can be have to be working described as a moral effectively and imperative – taking efficiently 24 hours a holistic view of a day, seven days a health is simply week – and to do the right thing that, having a healthy to do as a good workforce is critical.” employer – but That a medical there is also a cold, organisation is taking hard business case the lead on a holistic view that you get more of wellbeing should not be out of people when a surprise. The surprise they feel at their best. is that relatively few “It used to be business leaders feel that businesses saw compelled to follow wellbeing as a soft, their lead, because fuzzy thing at best,” wellbeing is becoming says Professor Sir Cary a macro issue. Cooper, psychologist, The GCC region has With high rates of obesity president of the CIPD and some of the highest rates of obesity one of the world’s leading and diabetes, employers in the GCC could benefit in the world – a 2014 report by authorities on workplace hugely from introducing medical journal The Lancet found wellbeing. A turning point healthy eating initiatives obesity rates at double digits across in this attitude came in all six Gulf states – and it fares the aftermath of the global little better in diabetes, with data from the recession, when one of the driving forces in International Diabetes Federation pointing many countries was the public sector, which to the disease afflicting 23.9 per cent of the had to act to reduce epidemic levels of stress adult population in Saudi Arabia, 23.1 per to increase productivity. cent in Kuwait and 19.8 per cent in Qatar, “Lots of organisations in the private compared to a global average of 8.3 per cent. sector, meanwhile, see turnover as the Employers stand to issue that forces them to look at this,” says be among the biggest Cooper. “They became so mean and lean losers if these public that if they lost any more people, they health concerns simply wouldn’t be able to carry on. They continue to worsen, needed a strategic approach to wellbeing – courtesy of increased and, beyond that, they needed to create a sick days and rising wellbeing culture. health insurance “A wellbeing culture helps reduce premiums, pushed stress-related sickness, and in particular up by the cost of presenteeism – which can cost twice as managing chronic much as absenteeism. It also enhances conditions. This productivity; it’s no surprise to discover makes workplaces that healthy employees produce more.”

Mastercard’s Scott Tierney says the company has embraced a flexible working culture as part of a raft of changes designed to improve the lives of its employees

patterns and locations. We’re very amenable now to people working from home for parts of days or whole days. It could be for business or personal reasons.” Taking this approach to measuring performance via output, rather than time in the office, is part of a suite of changes aimed at improving the lives of employees. Others include a review of leave policies that saw a global minimum of four months’ maternity leave introduced in any region that didn’t mandate more. In the Middle East, this amounts to a huge increase, well above most

legal requirements, and it was accompanied by a boost to paternity leave, which rose from five days to eight weeks overnight, with flexibility built into how that leave can be taken. “The maternity/paternity leave policy had a hugely positive impact in our part of the world, where market practice is generally still quite basic,” says Tierney. More directly linked to health and wellbeing is Mastercard’s health insurance in the UAE. Tierney says the cover it offers its team is both broad and deep, and cites instances where it has been fine-tuned to the

needs of the team at little additional cost in terms of annual premiums. Regulations around health insurance have been gradually strengthening since 2006, when Saudi Arabia was the first Gulf state to make it mandatory for expatriates. Since then, other nations have been phasing in similar rules, with late December seeing Dubai extend a deadline for companies to provide essential cover to employees, to cope with a last-minute surge in applications. GCC governments are keen to increase healthcare expenditure People Management Middle East


WELLBEING Learning mindfulness techniques can help employees manage stress better

while getting it off their books and into the private sector. According to a report from Alpen Capital, GCC governments funded 70.3 per cent of total healthcare spending in 2013, higher than the 60 per cent average around the world. It’s important to remember, too, that healthcare expenditure in the GCC currently tracks behind the global average, running at 3.1 per cent of GDP compared to 10 per cent. As the population grows and healthcare improves, the rising costs of provision, especially for expatriate workers, will be pushed on to the private sector. Already, regulations around health insurance are continuing their phased movement toward greater stringency, and the cost of premiums – often beyond the means of low-wage employees – will fall on employers. Premiums could then become a very real and measurable wellbeing indicator, especially for larger organisations. Equally, prospective employees, especially those with families, could see good healthcare provision as a deal-breaker, prioritising companies with good health and wellbeing benefits in the job hunt. At Mashreq Bank, which introduced a comprehensive approach to wellbeing a little less than two years ago, early indicators are that the programme will have a positive Cary Cooper says financial impact, as managers are a key component in well as improve the better wellbeing health of employees. “We are starting to see the kind of bottom line impact that we predicted in terms of premiums paid, but we expect this to increase significantly with time,” says Ashok Gopal, head of talent management. “Now, we’ve impacted a significant part of the organisation; as we reach more people, the bottom line impact can only increase.”

Mashreq’s award-winning programme was developed after considerable research, during which it became apparent that typical approaches were based around single events, rather than long-term sustainable change. “Programmes that existed only focused on one part, typically the physical, rather than taking a comprehensive view of wellbeing,” says Gopal. “Research of the market told us things we could learn and incorporate, but there was a lot more where we would have to start from scratch.” The result was the bank’s own creation intended to take care of wellbeing by focusing on three elements: eat, move and sleep. It set out to tackle nutritional choices and make healthy options available, encourage activity and exercise, and diminish the ‘macho’ status accorded to those who get by with little sleep.

“Wellbeing started to become part of the organisational vocabulary”


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The aim was to encourage the entire company to be engaged with the issue of personal wellbeing. “At a time when organisations were cutting back on costs, we invested a lot in our wellbeing programme,” says Gopal. “We were trying to do all the kinds of things that would promote change; we wanted people to experience change so they would become hooked. They would, of their own accord, do things that would impact their own wellness. We wanted to make the activities long enough for people to experience that impact and be motivated to make it part of their lifestyle.” This approach saw the company deploy the power of competition and teamwork to encourage more walking, via a three-week step challenge, for example. A ‘buddy up’ scheme was introduced in the gym, where people worked together over a month. Other initiatives included flu vaccines for all staff, while lunchtime sessions from nutritionists emphasised the right eating decisions and small sub-groups with particular needs – such as diabetes management – were given special attention. Ultimately, though, all these efforts still come down to individuals.


The ‘macho’ culture of working life was said to be a key factor when Lloyds Banking Group CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio was signed off work for stress

“Perhaps most importantly, wellbeing started to become part of the organisational vocabulary,” says Gopal. “It is safe to say that irrespective of their current state of wellbeing, a big chunk of people are paying much greater attention to their wellbeing. Our target is to make sure every employee sees a focus on wellbeing as being part of their contract [with the bank] – not legal, but almost a psychological contract.” But while plenty of businesses are increasing the focus on physical health, the same cannot always be said of mental health. This remains an issue that is much less talked about, partly because of the historical social stigma attached to the impact of stress and depression. But there are other issues too. “One of the other reasons perhaps it’s neglected is that there really isn’t the capacity to deliver programmes targeting the more psychological aspects of wellbeing… the preventative interventions that focus on shaping and changing the way people think

or look at the world, such as resilience training and stress management. It’s a really big piece to overlook,” says Dr Justin Thomas, associate professor of psychology at the UAE’s Zayed University. Thomas suggests this is partly down to the tension that exists for any organisation that offers to help staff deal with stress, because it is in part an admission that its workforce is stressed. This is misplaced, says Thomas, who argues that stress is a natural phenomenon and that there is never going to be a stressfree workplace. “I think the best thing to do is acknowledge that some people will find certain situations stressful and ensure that the workforce is kitted out with the cognitive resources to deal with those situations when they arise,” he says.

That might mean training in the techniques of mindfulness, which at its heart is not about avoiding stress but rather changing our relationship with it and the types of thoughts we have when stressed. “It isn’t the stress itself, it’s what we call the secondary stress, our response to the primary stress that gives rise to additional stress,” explains Thomas. “There will always be people who say things or do things that we interpret in such a way that it gives rise to negative emotions in us.” The idea of resilience teaches people how they can respond rather than react. It lies at the heart of mindfulness, which is why it has become almost an industry standard for forward-looking companies that are trying to empower their employees to better manage stress in the workplace and outside it. “It takes practice,” he says. “It’s easy to talk about it, but it’s a very different

“As we reach more people, the bottom line impact can only increase”

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Why competition works

“They needed a strategic approach to wellbeing, and a wellbeing culture”

answer to making wellbeing work was the desire to beat the colleague next to you? Multinational companies are increasingly tapping into the competitive streak, by setting up challenges that pit staff against each other.

That could mean competing to stop smoking fastest or clock up the most miles on an exercise bike, or it could mean using wearable technology to create ‘league tables’ of employees who walk the most.

Technology firm Flabuless is using the idea to push traditional corporate wellness programmes beyond gym memberships and exercise classes into a more sustainable future. “It works like a frequent flyer programme, where you earn points based on how healthy and active you are,” says co-founder Jaya Maru. While rewards for Setting up challenges that good behaviour are pit staff against each other key, it is competition encourages employees to that has driven get involved in wellbeing engagement, encouraged by video-game style features in an app – known as gamification – that can pit one department against another in a quest for rewards, rankings and reputation. And there’s a sensible rationale for addressing the issue: a 2015 survey by Oman Insurance Company and health specialist Bupa indicated that 89 per cent of UAE consumers want to live a healthier life, while 58 per cent said work commitments were the main barrier to doing so.

thing to do it, ‘presenteeism’, which, says Thomas, sees so a big part of people who are not ‘firing on all cylinders’ mindfulness drag themselves into work every day, where is really about they end up having a more negative impact cultivating on an organisation. those abilities. “As a holistic package, taking care of Employers that psychological wellbeing is money well appreciate the spent,” says Thomas. “It really does benefit will carve save in the long term, but it’s not out the time for just an economic concern. If employees to employers are concerned take on board those abilities.” about other human beings, To make it happen, Thomas says there about how respectful need to be more role models in workplaces and purposeful and who are less stress-reactive and instead show engaged they how to behave in patient and compassionate feel with ways, even when there are the external their world pressures that trigger stress. This echoes of work, Cooper’s concerns about the shortfall of talented middle Implementing generous managers armed with the necessary maternity and paternity leave policies can make soft skills. It is also necessary to a big difference to staff combat the emerging epidemic of


Your investment in wellbeing will only pay off if employees are sufficiently engaged with the idea to get involved. But rather than appealing to their self-interest or their desire to contribute to the greater corporate good, what if the

those psychological variables are all really important for a good employer to get right.” The last word, fittingly, goes to Cooper, who has seen businesses finally wake up to a message he has been extolling for years. “From an HR perspective, the wellbeing agenda is critical to talent retention and attraction,” he says. “Organisations that create a wellbeing culture, where people feel valued and trusted, have manageable workloads, realistic deadlines and good work-life balance and are managed by praise and reward rather than fault-finding. They are more job-satisfied, healthier, perform better, are committed and will go the ‘extra mile’ to deliver a quality product or service.  “It is our duty in HR to create this kind of culture, and it is within our ultimate mission.” People Management Middle East


“It shouldn’t be shameful to fail at your job” The way we recruit is all wrong, says bestselling author and thinker Malcolm Gladwell – and that means we need to be more experimental in how we hire INTERVIEW ROBERT JEFFERY


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How would you explain the election of Donald Trump, given that it took so many people by surprise? I don’t have a good explanation, only that we’re clearly at a moment when the rules of politics are being rewritten. What we thought was a well-managed Hillary Clinton campaign turned out to be largely irrelevant – she raised much more money and had a much more sophisticated organisation behind her, but that didn’t seem to matter. Meanwhile, Trump was communicating

directly with his followers through those latenight tweets. I hope it doesn’t happen again, and I don’t think it will. Does it make you question your faith in the wisdom of the crowd? Over the long haul, I believe in the wisdom of the crowd, but that doesn’t mean every decision made by the crowd is good. It means that, collectively, 250 years of decisions will be good, but you have to hold the door open for these anomalous moments. At the HR Summit, you argued that millennials are different to the generations before them. But don’t most 22-year-olds, for example, have essentially the same aspirations as 22-year-olds of previous generations? Of course, fundamentally, 22-year-olds are 22-year-olds. But generations have different ideologies that are shaped by the world they grew up in. The generation that grew up in the depression was marked by that for the rest of their lives, as you would expect. You wouldn’t expect a 65-year-old today, who grew up in the affluence of the sixties, to have a similar mindset. People are generally similar but they have particular differences and it’s useful to know what those are.

“Trials should be commonplace – why do we feel so invested in our predictions? If people are lousy, move on”

You’ve been thinking about how we recruit. How would you do it, in an ideal world? I would like to see far

more experimentation – trial periods, for example. It shouldn’t be a shameful thing for someone to try out a job for a few months. It should be commonplace. And if it doesn’t work out, that shouldn’t be a stain – it should just be fine. There are certain things you can only know about someone when they’re through the door; I don’t know why we feel so super-invested in our initial predictions. If [people] are lousy, move on. I’d like to see a world where the job market was sufficiently flexible for it to be common for people to try something before they find what they want. Are you optimistic about the ability of Gulf economies to diversify successfully? I’m always optimistic. Historically, the record of people who try to transition from resource-based economies is not good, so that gives me pause. At the same time, the international market for oil is not going to just stop. But the oil-dependent states have a limited amount of time to reorder their affairs – they have a pretty aggressive task ahead of them. People Management Middle East




ournalists, by and large, operate under the radar. As the messengers, rather than the makers, of the news, they rarely achieve anywhere near the level of fame of those they write about. But every so often, there’s an exception to the rule – and right now, that comes in the form of Malcolm Gladwell. The 53-year-old Canadian is arguably the most influential journalist on the planet, and certainly among the best read, though, while he dabbles in Twitter and runs a popular podcast, it’s notable that most of his acclaimed work has come through long-form articles in The New Yorker (where he remains staff writer) and a string of bestselling books that make academic research and cultural phenomena accessible to a broader audience. Gladwell’s skill as a storyteller is legendary. In Blink, he vividly explored how we use ‘thin slice’ experiences to make intuitive decisions. In Outliers, he popularised the idea that proficiency in a chosen field comes from 10,000 hours of practice, whether it’s The Beatles or Bill Gates you aspire to emulate. In his next book, he says, he will return to ideas he explored in earlier articles around how we make recruitment and progression decisions, whether inside organisations, in education systems or in our regular lives. People Management caught up with him when he spoke at the HR Summit in Dubai to find out more – including his thoughts on events in the US.

The neuroscience of change Why addressing the threat response in our brains is the answer to solving HR’s toughest task WORDS GEORGI GYTON



s there a sentence more terrifying to hear, as an employee, than: ‘You’ll be seeing a few changes around here’? Even confident, high-performing individuals can be struck dumb by the prospect of their certainty and security being usurped by something new, no matter how benign it turns out to be in reality. In one sense, that’s an odd reaction because – no matter how we define it – there has never been more change. Organisations open up, close their doors and alter their business models faster than ever before, abetted by globalisation, digitalisation and cut-throat competition. We are beset by restructures, office moves, changes of process and new colleagues. Yet no matter how much change we experience, it never fails to trigger a threat response. 24

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In short, where the business leaders who mandate change see an opportunity, everyone else sees danger. Change management theory often notes research from Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, which found that 70 per cent of large-scale change programmes inside companies fail to meet their goals. His colleague, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, believes this is because businesses fail to plan ahead and anticipate the human factors: “The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategise around them,” she has said. You can’t always make people comfortable with change, but you can minimise their discomfort. And the key to that is to understand what’s going on in our heads

when change comes knocking. “If you look at it structurally, the network of the brain that is involved in noticing changes and deciding what to do – the prefrontal cortex – is one of the most energy-demanding, easily tired and easily overwhelmed parts of the brain,” says Dr David Rock, director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work. “That means changing how we do even the simplest of tasks is a very complex process. This region is connected to every other part of the brain, and essentially works like a gating function, meaning everything slows down when you have to use it.” According to Rock, the brain tries to habituate everything it can, to avoid having to use the prefrontal cortex if possible. “Any kind of change, even using a different

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computer, makes you slow down, so we are built to automatically detect any kind of effort as a threat and any kind of energy reduction opportunity as a reward.” However, threat responses actually reduce the resources available to the prefrontal cortex at the time when you need them most – so when change comes, the act of not liking it makes it even harder to process, says Rock. And if the brain is already in a threat state, small threats seem like big threats, and even neutral occurrences can be threatening: something as simple as someone asking how you are can be taken the wrong way. That means people with a strong baseline of threat are not comfortable with change. But not everyone reacts to change in the same way. A minority of people thrive in a changing environment and are bored without it, while for others even being asked to swap seats at work can be an issue. Individuals’ varying reactions to change largely correlate to their point on a threatreward continuum. Rock suggests this may relate, in part, to early experiences: people who have had their physical and emotional needs met by their parents generally feel safer, while those with more troubled upbringings have higher cortisol levels and a general sense that life is dangerous. “Before you try and curb resistance to change, you need to get to the bottom of why the resistance is there,” says Khaled Al-Mobarak, president of Mawj Training & Consulting, who worked on implementing the largest IT project in the history of Saudi Aramco. “The main reason for resistance to change is lack of awareness. People want to know what’s happening and why.” Communication, in this context, is key, as is ensuring you do not try and implement too many changes in too short a time – failing by over-reaching will only bolster organisational resistance. Breaking down change into manageable chunks, says Al-Mobarak, is more effective. It’s also crucial to understand the person who is affected by change as much as the change being introduced. “You change one person at a time,” says Al-Mobarak – and that person could be experiencing pressures and stresses outside the workplace that you are only exacerbating. One aspect that is often ignored is our emotions, adds Linda Jarnhamn, founder of HRinspireME – a hub and consultancy that brings together neuroscience, HR and change management in the Middle East. “Our thoughts and behaviours are all

“Define what the future will look and feel like, but mainly describe the opportunities” 26

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directed by our emotions, which are often counteract the threat. For example, if an generated non-consciously. Yet many change organisation is introducing an open-plan management programmes assume office, Rock suggests there will be a natural the opposite threat to status – that we are (particularly conscious, for individuals rational with their own individuals,” offices) that she says. can be offset “Most change by increasing communication autonomy, is directed offering people towards the the chance ‘rational’ part to work from of the brain – home. “Our the prefrontal research shows cortex, which that if you can is responsible identify the for things key threat, you like planning, can reduce it at analysis and organisational level by offering decision-making. a – ideally However, unexpected – communication reward in one is received of the other through a domains,” different route Aruma George of RSA Insurance gives her says Rock. – the limbic tips for successful change leadership But with system –which change so is responsible for things seem different to Develop effective near-constant, our emotions.” what they are used to. communication giving people According to strategies – This can also trigger a organisational leaders ‘fight or flight’ reaction, so false hope Jarnhamn, we need to focus on recognising stress points that a calm, unconsciously providing insights and and alleviating them are steady state attach meaning clarity, keeping channels what make an approach will eventually to change successful. of communication open return isn’t through and ensuring messaging the best way emotions that we Trust employees to be is consistent. a part of the process forward, he experience, based rather than just at the Ensure leaders are says. Instead, on memories receiving end. visible and accessible – it companies from previous, is crucial that leadership is should focus on real or even Filter through the honest, transparent and helping people hypothetical must-dos, and do consistent in its approach during times of change. them well. accept the fact events. It’s that constant this gap – the Put the customer first Identify critical talent adaptation is a uncertainty – change mustn’t be a and devise a strategy to normal part of between the reason to go back on the retain them, as well as life. “Any time meaning and the promise a brand gives its alternative strategies for you go from interpretation customers. replacements if necessary. uncertainty to – that is often Keep things positive Make timely certainty, even the main cause despite the challenges – interventions, and keep in the smallest for change employees can tell when things simple. variable, you resistance. create a strong Rock reward response,” Rock says. “But if you synthesised his ideas about individual don’t know if something will be a threat willingness to change in the ‘SCARF or a reward, it’s safer to classify it as a threat, model’ he developed in 2008. “You can and generally a strong threat, because in think about change in terms of how it’s the absence of information we fear the going to affect people’s status, their sense of certainty, their sense of autonomy or worst.” That means communicating as much control, their sense of relatedness and their information as you can, specifically aimed at perception of fairness,” he says. addressing areas of concern. Thinking about which of these areas Is it possible to become permanently inured will push employees’ buttons helps lead to change? Rock believes you can become you to positive ‘nudges’ in some of the other ‘comfortable’ with it, aided by positive domains that will create opportunities to emotions at work, support from colleagues

Leading successful change


and a sense that you are being treated fairly. It’s also possible for organisations to become institutionally resilient, through the way they structure work and the culture they encourage. Start-ups such as Netflix and Spotify, for example, embrace a culture of change. The latter organises its employees into cross-functional, project-based groups rather than formal teams, to ensure people are rotated regularly and aren’t necessarily managed by the individuals they answer to every day. Aruma George, HR director at RSA Insurance in Dubai, says that while we cannot deny that change can be both complex and daunting, businesses that avoid it can easily be left behind. “If the employee or the organisation is not quick to shift perspectives and ways of working, they may be unable to gain ground, and may lose out to the competition,” she warns. George believes companies that recognise change as a regular occurrence prepare their staff to respond to it more effectively: “That does not necessarily mean that it will be a seamless process, but it does pave the way for change to be implemented more quickly and with minimal disruption, to safeguard employee productivity as well as the business’s sustainability. Resilience does not mean blind acceptance. Change, if not done for the right reasons, or if not thought through, would not be successful.” One of the most important roles HR professionals play during the change process is rallying employees and organisations behind a common vision for the future and away from the immediate consequences of change, says George: “While change is rarely initiated by HR, it is often perceived as being owned by HR, primarily because success or failure is determined by how employees respond.” That means HR has a critical role to fulfil in “guiding change leaders on employee communications, engagement and processes to achieve the desired outcomes”, says George. “Communication is a key tool. Decisionmakers and change drivers within the organisation need to be clear on what is communicated, how it is communicated,

Project management consultancy Atkins in Dubai says communication with staff is key when implementing big changes

how frequently and by whom.” A clear, consistent message across the business is vital, as employees will pick up on anything that doesn’t resonate with the official line. Because of the complex psychological reactions that arise in the wake of a change initiative, it is imperative to constantly communicate with staff, explaining the ‘case for change’, says Guy Arguin, regional HR director for the Middle East and Africa at design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins. “Define, as much as possible, what the future will look and feel like, and how it will impact on everyone’s role – but mainly describe what opportunities this new working context might bring,” he says. “It’s really about providing new points of reference to help people figure out where they fit. The more clarity that can be provided, the better.” Atkins’ future is centred around its global design centre in Bangalore, India – a facility that grows significantly by offshoring many transactional tasks from the Middle East HR team. “HR is now able to focus on the more strategic elements of the HR offering, allowing us to partner more closely with the business; there is a rich pool of well-educated talent in India and it also means we are open for business for a longer period in the Middle East because we have the sixth day overlap,” explains Arguin. “It’s a big change for the Middle East HR team, but we have been able to redirect most people on to more value-

added tasks, which has resulted in greater job satisfaction– and most have embraced the change wholeheartedly.” Arguin says constant communication with colleagues helped reduce the element of uncertainty and provided clarity on what the new environment would be like, and how it would impact positively on individual roles. “Daily support and formal training were also key success factors, and we have arranged regular visits, in both directions, to ensure a solid introduction to how we work.” Atkins’ change has been successful because it has been positioned as a positive story. But even change borne out of misfortune can avoid falling into Kotter’s 70 per cent. The key might be to avoid thinking of it as change: with so little staying the same, telling people they are undergoing a formal change is not just bad for their brains, it’s probably self-evident. And given that another change will be along in just a moment, it’s demoralising and inaccurate to claim change has a beginning and an end. Rock, for one, says it’s time to normalise change rather than call it out: “There is a big move for companies to develop more of a growth mindset and to think more deeply about the science of change, which is exciting to see. There is a lot to learn from the science, which will allow us to move through change better.” It’s unlikely even the best science will ever make us love change. But it can certainly make the fear a thing of the past. People Management Middle East



UAE Outlook The UAE has the most diverse economy in the Gulf region, and “the feeling is things will get better from here rather than worse”, says Chris Greaves, managing director of executive search group Hays in the UAE. But with global trade facing possible obstacles next year – Brexit and a Trump presidency are obvious storm clouds – the country has vulnerabilities. “World trade is more depressed than it was a few years ago, which is a potential risk for Dubai as it is very trade dependent,” says Dr Hannes Baumann, a Middle East specialist at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

Saudi Arabia Biggest challenges “No doubt the federal sector has been going through severe belt tightening and is facing more budget cuts in 2017, so that is still playing out. In Abu Dhabi, there is not much hiring, so it’s more about replacement than expansion,” says Greaves. And the sheer size of the government sector means that its relative gloom is seen as holding back other sectors.

Best-case scenario If energy prices stabilise, the trickle-down effect will insulate the UAE from any significant economic shocks, which is likely to further reinforce its position as a regional Biggest opportunities for 2017 powerhouse. It may also attract new investment from “We are seeing enhanced hiring multinationals unhappy with activity. This is because of the volatility in Europe and the US. introduction of VAT, so there’s a beefing up of tax advisory teams. Worst-case scenario And we’re seeing a marked Any form of regional conflict is increase in the IT sector in two a concern for local businesses, areas: online payments systems and cybersecurity,” says Greaves. which will be keeping an eye on The feeling is that the UAE is well- the bigger picture in 2017. And placed to recalibrate its economy the UAE’s scale, and its ambitious growth plans, mean it is under to take advantage of such pressure to deliver. growing sectors over time.

COUNTRY FACTS (see key opposite)


9.1m 2%



Outlook “Saudis will tell you everything is stable, but historically speaking every time the king changes, [other] things also change,” says Naser al-Tamimi, an independent Middle East analyst. The succession of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to power has ushered in a number of younger princes – such as deputy crown prince and defence minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman – and these political shifts will continue during 2017. The country’s reduction in oil output, announced in November, is being seen as historic. But what happens next?

are a foreign company you’d logically look there.” Biggest challenges Political instability is always a threat, though there is nothing new in this regard. More significant, says Karasik, is the potential for lower oil prices to lead to a broader slowdown in economic activity that could affect the country’s credit rating.

Best-case scenario As long as oil stays above $60, Saudi Arabia will be able to continue balancing the budget and begin to think about longer-term deficit Biggest opportunities for 2017 reduction (perhaps via the planned Saudi Aramco IPO). “The situation is so fluid that It will also give the government to make a macroeconomic room to manoeuvre as it makes prediction is to hope for the best,” says Dr Theodore Karasik, tough economic decisions. senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics. Al-Tamimi says: “Saudi Worse-case scenario A faltering oil price could lead Arabia is more promising than to unease. And economic other Gulf states as it’s a big country and has said it will open diversification simply might not happen fast enough up mining, tourism, education to satisfy markets. and other sectors, so if you

57% 31.5m $646bn 16%


2017: Where is the e

The oil price may be (almost) stabilising, but uncertainty still abounds. Qatar Outlook This year is being viewed as a turning point for the Qatari economy, with most experts forecasting greater fiscal freedom linked to a recovering energy sector and a broader sense of optimism. An uptick in the economy will be a boon for the real estate and infrastructure sectors, as many projects had been put on hold. Qatar is investing $200bn in infrastructure to achieve its Vision 2030 development, and has the 2022 World Cup on its horizon too.


People Management Middle East

Biggest opportunities for 2017 “The government will implement projects that are important for the 2022 World Cup,” says al-Tamimi. Some $4bn is being invested in football stadiums for the tournament alone, and the hospitality sector is also expecting a boost. Higher oil prices could spell an end to a period where Qatar had to hold back on its development because public budgets had been squeezed. Biggest challenges “It is still tough for foreign investors; a lot of work needs to be done to encourage them. In energy, there are not any new discoveries to bring in more companies, so contracts will

remain the same,” says al-Tamimi. “I don’t think the situation will be different in the next two years.” Best-case scenario Liquefied natural gas prices (which are crucial to the future Qatari economy – it is the world’s largest exporter) are unlikely to drop further, which means the country should stay resilient for the year ahead. Worst-case scenario The geopolitical situation affects Qatar more than other countries, given its economic, social and political links, so it will be hoping for a year free of significant GCC instability.


3.3% 2.2m





Outlook “Kuwait has the strongest balance sheet in the Gulf, but a fractured political environment means growth is likely to remain sluggish over the next couple of years. The government will struggle to push through its latest development plan, which is aimed at improving the business environment and boosting investment,” says Jason Tuvey, a Middle East economist at Capital Economics. This investment is needed to give the country the ability to swiftly respond to shifts in demand for oil. Kuwait is politically complicated, with the opposition winning almost half the seats in the National Assembly in November 2016, which could hamper development. Biggest opportunities for 2017 Tuvey says he has pencilled in GDP growth of just 1 per cent in 2017, but most commentators are more bullish. Kuwait has a growing financial sector and has proved resilient in the past, given its relative economic strength. Biggest challenges The government plans to limit growth in the public sector


Outlook Economic growth is expected to remain weak for at least a couple more years, according to Tuvey, with the lack of cash reserves an ongoing issue. The country is unlikely to abandon the dollar peg, which would be viewed as a watershed moment, but the currency is seen as more fragile than its neighbours and KEY ill-prepared for the current oil price. On Population the plus side, Oman is hoping to capitalise GDP 2015 on strong trading relationships with Estimated 2016 the rest of the region, GDP growth and is optimistic of maintaining Non-oil economy’s its political and share of total GDP social stability. Proportion of local

wage bill and push ahead with subsidy cuts. “Tight fiscal policy and slow progress on the development plan will hold back growth in the non-oil sector,” says Tuvey. Best-case scenario “If oil prices rise to $60 a barrel by the end of 2017, Kuwait’s current account and budget positions are likely to return to surplus next year,” says Tuvey. That puts it in a much more enviable position than some of its neighbours.

Worst-case scenario “Oil production has picked up this year, but Kuwait’s ageing oil fields and lack of spare capacity mean growth in the sector will slow,” says Tuvey. Against that backdrop, longerterm economic diversification is imperative.

nationals in private sector

37% 13%



Biggest opportunities for 2017 Oman has taken a hit over recent years, with high inflation, restrained salary growth and tight government budgets, al-Tamimi points out. But as the oil price recovers, projects that were cancelled or scaled back can be brought online again and multinational companies will


begin to see the opportunities in the country. Biggest challenges “Current account and budget positions had been deteriorating for several years and large twin deficits have now opened up,” says Tuvey. This will limit economic diversification efforts, such as encouraging Omanis to enter the private sector. “Compared with the other Gulf countries, austerity is likely to be harsher and continue for much longer,” he adds. Best-case scenario If the squeezing of government expenditure eases, analysts believe a new wave of growth could be unleashed. Worst-case scenario The recent poor health of Sultan Qaboos has brought the issue of succession on to the agenda, Tuvey points out. That could be a tricky discussion at a sensitive time in the country’s development.

44% 12%



e economy heading?

We asked leading economists and academics to make sense of the numbers WORDS PAUL COCHRANE & KEITH NUTHALL

Bahrain Outlook “Bahrain faces problems because of the low oil price but also its unique internal dynamics. The outlook is positive but mixed,” says Karasik. Demand for political reform is expected to continue. “Tensions continue to rumble between the population and rulers,” says Tuvey. An uncertain oil price is a potential flashpoint in such a delicate situation. Biggest opportunities for 2017 Bahrain is serious about economic diversification

and has begun to empower government agencies and private investors to encourage entrepreneurship. It already has a strong track record in the nonoil sector, with a dynamic financial sector serving the region’s energy industry and investors from Asia, Europe and north America. Biggest challenges “Further subsidy reform is likely, so spending will continue to be scaled back and there will probably be further measures to raise non-oil revenues. Against this backdrop, growth is likely to be extremely weak. Worryingly, this bleak outlook comes

against the backdrop of political uncertainty,” says Tuvey. Best-case scenario There is cause for hope. “I think the macroeconomic situation could improve, and overall things will look positive. If the oil price stays stable, credit ratings could improve, if not in the first half of 2017 then the second half,” says al-Tamimi.

Worse-case scenario Political instability among the younger generation is a concern for local commentators; Bahrain is regarded as one of the more volatile countries in the GCC in this regard.

18% 1.3m




People Management Middle East



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


People Management Middle East


Why proximity matters

“It's prudent to prepare for more resistance to change than you initially imagined"




The average office move contains every element required to induce panic in employees. There’s the unfamiliarity of new surroundings, the potential for your place in the pecking order to be threatened and the sheer uncertainty about what’s going to happen next. Throw in the fact that many office moves aren’t just about a change of venue – they’re likely to be aligned to a change in process or IT systems too – and it’s vital to consider how you deal with the human factors involved. The first and most common mistake with relocations is not involving HR from the outset. If a move is led by the facilities team or IT, it’s unlikely you will be considering some of the most important aspects early on – the impact of the move on wellbeing, the ability to optimise performance and opportunities for collaboration, for example. It’s also unlikely enough thought will be given to communication: telling people what’s Christine Bruckner: HR happening, must communicate with staff from the outset when and why makes all the difference, as does actively listening to their concerns and suggestions. Dr Christine Bruckner, director of global design and architecture

firm M Moser Associates, says HR advice, which we give ourselves as has to communicate with employees well, is to listen actively and respond from the outset. She advises effectively. It’s essential that the identifying ‘champions’ office is treated as an important within the business business tool and that it is who can help deliver understood that investment in key messages and garner the office, if done correctly, feedback from employees, has just as much impact as the as well as setting up a task right computer paired with force to run the project the right software.” and taking note of issues This runs counter to the such as staff concerns, trend seen among many larger practical coordination businesses for ‘showpiece’ HR should be and scheduling as part of offices that contain play areas, involved in every a broader risk assessment. juice bars and even slides. aspect of a move “It is always prudent While there might be value to be prepared for more resistance to in incorporating elements of fun at change than you initially imagined,” work, and making says Bruckner. “Above all, the best employees feel more welcomed, comfortable and creative, there’s also considerable evidence that many ‘gimmick’ elements Harvard University research found that engineers of office design who shared a physical office were 20 per cent are significantly more likely to stay in touch with each other digitally, which led to projects being completed 32 per cent underused. And, of more quickly course, installing a fussball table is very little help if Face to face employees are stressed because of the working conditions, or feel they aren’t being listened to. “People first, buildings second,” Email stresses Bruckner. “The focus of interior architectural workplace design is ultimately creating the right work environment in which people Allen curve can reach and exceed their own potential, work optimally, experience overall health, comfort and wellbeing, More Less Physical distance and ensure the continued and future success of the business.” SOURCE: HARVARD UNIVERSITY



Make your office move a success

The Knowledge


Reduce your timeto-hire

interview process. It tests their desire to work for the company.” One easy way to streamline the process, he suggests, is to try to complete the first few stages of the interview process in one day, rather than spacing them two to three weeks apart. You Finding the right balance between the could also consider moving part of need to fill a job vacancy quickly and the process online – if assessments ensuring you’ve got exactly the right are required, these could be hosted individual for the role is a recurring on an online platform and take place conundrum for recruiters. The problem before interviews. is particularly acute when hiring a Perhaps the most effective way specialist, or where the war for to reduce your time to hire, talent is especially fierce. however, is to back away from The cost of a bad hire is, the need to find the ‘perfect of course, also a significant fit’ for each role. If skills are reason for taking your scarce or your employer brand is time, and surveys from lacking, it may be more sensible various sectors have shown to hire someone with the right businesses are pickier than attributes and attitudes to ever. Google was at one point develop into the role, even Suhail Al-Masri: create a talent pool of highaveraging 20 interviews for if they lack the experience potential employees each engineering candidate or qualifications you were it recruited, though it now hoping for. “If there are a admits this was excessive. But Grant lot of candidates searching for a new role, Torrens, business director at Hays, you can afford to be more specific in your says: “Companies have their reasons for requirements,” says Torrens. “But holding putting candidates through an extended out for a 100 per cent perfect fit in a tight Apple is the latest large firm to go on a major recruitment drive, opening new stores in the UAE

Who’s hiring Biggest year-on-year growth in hiring in UAE Healthcare 60% Retail/trade and logistics 55% IT and telecoms/ISP 49% Lowest year-on-year growth in hiring in UAE Production/manufacturing, automotive and ancillary 1% Hospitality -5% Oil and gas -24% SOURCE: MONSTER.COM

candidate market could mean you never fill the position. “If there is a candidate shortage in a skill or competency that can be trained or nurtured in a short period of time, it may make commercial sense to hire that person rather than wait until the perfect match arrives.” Consider, too, that in the rush to find the right candidate, you may overlook your existing employees: could one of them be retrained or given a new opportunity, even if it doesn’t seem like an immediately obvious option? Plenty of Middle East businesses are actively creating and nurturing internal talent pools, says Suhail Al-Masri, VP of employer solutions at “For example, creating a talent pool of highpotential employees helps the company during succession planning. These talent pools also have to be coached, mentored and trained on an ongoing basis.” But it’s important not to cut into hiring processes too much because of the high cost of getting recruitment wrong, such as training and onboarding expenses, he advises: “Regardless of the type of selection system in place, the hiring process should have a clear, defined and disciplined structure (complete with skills and competencies assessments, behavioural assessments, ratings, etc) where every person involved should have a clear idea of which competency is being identified and assessed at every step.” People Management Middle East


Many HR professionals start the day with a familiar groan when they sign into their email account and see how many messages they have to deal with. It’s a common problem, says Cyrille Jégu, personal productivity coach, not least because the number of emails being sent continues to increase even as other technologies such as instant messaging become popular among business users. “Often, we’re not focused,” says Jégu. “We move from one email to the next without making a decision about what to do.” If that sounds familiar, take heart: there are several simple steps you can take to clear out your inbox and keep it under control. The first step is to decide that you will handle each email only once. “Decide what to do straight away,” says Jégu. And remember that the delete button is your friend, he adds. If the email needs immediate action that you can complete in less than two minutes, either send a quick reply or forward it to someone else for action. If it’s not as urgent, either delete it, file it for reference and later reading, or file for later action. For HR professionals, these deadlines could be linked to project goals, such as ‘new positions filled’ or ‘probation completed’. For those with serious email backlogs of more than 1,000 messages, Jégu suggests putting everything that has arrived after a certain date – for example, three months ago or more – into an archive folder. You may never do anything with these emails, but you will still have access to them in case of need. Then go through the remaining emails,

“It's a big relief – the pressure goes down immediately when email is under control”


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At the beginning of his first term as president, Barack Obama told told his mail team he would like to read 10 letters a day – the White House typically received 10,000

starting with the most recent, and make an immediate decision about what to do with each one. Jégu has helped many people empty their mailboxes and says it is a huge stressbuster when they see it is possible to do it: “You cannot imagine the relief they feel. The pressure goes down immediately when email is under control.” To help keep your mailbox under permanent control, try to unsubscribe from mailing lists where possible, or set filters to organise incoming mail by sender or company to help prioritise responses. There are cultural changes

The growth of email 143 billion business emails are sent every day, up from 89 billion in 2012

89bn 2012

143bn 2016

you can introduce into your routine that will also help: walking over to speak to a colleague about a problem can avoid getting drawn into a long email chain with them, while switching to instant messaging technology can also encourage more efficient conversations. It’s worth remembering that email is generally Cyrille Jégu: don't forget the delete far less effective button is your friend than other more personal means of communication. “The best way to communicate is always face to face,” says Mohammad Irfan, executive director of Xpand Middle East, a sales and business development consulting firm. “If this isn’t possible, make a phone call. The written word is considered less personal and less important, and you could find your letters and emails go unanswered for some time if you don’t at least follow up by phone. This is certainly the case with email. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, don’t really do serious business by phone, so a personal visit is your only option.”



Cut down on email overload

The Knowledge


Explain the value of HR to your CEO Enlightened businesses are acutely aware of the difference an empowered HR department can make to the bottom line – by ensuring employees are engaged and optimised, corporate values are realistic and understood, recruitment and workforce planning needs are attended to and the organisation has a strong strategic view on where it is going and the people who will get it there. But if HR doesn’t have regular access to the very top of the organisation, it’s possible that the CEO may not understand what the function is delivering, or what it is capable of. Charles Caldwell, HR director and a consultant and futurist who has worked with a range of businesses, suggests there are three key ways to address this imbalance. And they all start with having a strong grip on data. First, make your CEO aware of external trends in your sector. “One trend might be rising attrition or changing demographics within an industry that could be signalling a potential future shortage of available talent,” says Caldwell. “Another could be the shifting technology landscape for talent acquisition.” Next, demonstrate in-depth knowledge of employee trends your leaders may be unaware of. “There are many traditional people metrics that companies measure, but HR professionals need to be creative about looking at deeper metrics,” says

“If you can tell a CEO why these people are leaving, they will take notice of HR's value”

Caldwell. “For example, a traditional staff surveys but also to internal metric is attrition, but you could look social networks, says Caldwell. They deeper and break down the are building complex pictures attrition into years of tenure, of the real ‘influencers’ or even revenue generated. within organisations who A statistic such as ‘10 per solve problems, generate cent of the sales people revenue or reduce we lost in the last year attrition. By feeding generated 40 per cent of into such information, the company’s revenue HR departments can from the previous year’ could revolutionise the way they be material. If the statistic think about succession planning is significant, and you can tell a and broader talent management. CEO why these people are leaving, Finally, HR professionals need they are likely to sit up and deep insights into how By studying take notice not only of the business strategy and deeper metrics, HR statistic, but of HR’s value.” results connect to people, professionals can help companies curb Many businesses today as well as a granular high levels of attrition are listening not just to knowledge of how the business operates. Caldwell cites his past experience with a company that had increasing sales quotas but severe attrition, with most new sales staff leaving after less than 18 months. “It was very obvious that there was a problem and 76% it was even more obvious where the problem sat. But no one wanted to confront it.” After intense study of attrition Proportion of Middle East businesses and tenure data, Caldwell predicted that believe people analytics are that 93 sales people would leave the ‘important’ or ‘very important’ following year. He spent the next nine months interviewing staff to find out why they were leaving, then showed 32% the management team the year-to-date attrition. He was almost exactly right: 92 individuals had left. “Fortunately, this was a show Global companies that feel they have stopper for the the technical capability to handle executive team,” people analytics he says. “Huge efforts were made to arrest attrition % 8 and within six to 12 months Charles Caldwell: HR it had dropped can transform the way dramatically. firms manage talent However, none Global businesses that say they are capable of this would of creating predictive models relating to have been possible without data their employees analytics and creating a compelling, SOURCE: DELOITTE believable story out of the data.” 

Grappling with data

People Management Middle East





Finding the right coach for your needs is essential for a successful experience

Coaching is a recognised technique buyers have highlighted that consumers in the development of individuals’ are becoming more diligent in their performance, as skills and knowledge are enquiries. It is perfectly acceptable to ask deepened and goals are set. But choosing about coaching qualifications (ILM Level a coach who can help you achieve those 7, for example, is a highly recognised goals is one of the most crucial aspects programme), the number of coaching of the process – and one of the easiest hours undertaken, supervision to overlook. arrangements and membership of First, before you embark on the a professional body such as the process of selecting a coach, you International Society of Qualified need to ensure you are clear about Coaches or the International the outcome you are looking Coach Federation. for. That is the most frequent Good coaches will include cause of disappointment or, the client in the design of the at worst, failure. If you are contract that will regulate not clear what the ultimate their contractual relationship: Judith Barton aim of the coaching is, it will setting the boundaries; Founder and be almost impossible to set specifying the roles of both director of coaching any meaningful matrices to parties; and describing the and mentoring at the British School measure its success. What is methodology to be used. The of Coaching it you want to achieve? What critical aspect of the contract needs to change? What do you is confidentiality – this should need the support of the coach for? Does be discussed and the parameters agreed the coach need to have wider skills or with you. If there is an organisational knowledge to draw on? sponsor, they are likely to want to be Determining the purpose of the involved in this discussion. All parties coaching can also help decide the type of coach required – for example, a business, leadership or executive coach, to name a few. Don’t hesitate to ask the prospective coach to ‘pitch’ and explain how they define coaching, the type of coaching they undertake and what their particular label means. You might want to ask about a coach’s background and experience, or ask them to describe coaching interventions they have been involved in (beware, at this point, if they break confidentiality by naming individual clients), and the tools and methods they use. At present, coaching is an unregulated industry and anyone can describe themselves as a coach. Recent surveys of HR professionals and other coaching 34 People Management Middle East

should be clear – before the start of any coaching assignment – on what is to be shared with whom, and for what purpose. A coaching assignment should also, of course, have a beginning, middle and end. While it is impossible to predict at the outset the number of sessions necessary, it should be possible to make progress in three coaching sessions. Refining your initial desired outcome is more often than not the focus of the first session. Think, too, about environment – can the coaching session take place away from your place of work, which signals that a special time and space is being created for coaching? And finally, it is critical for any organisation or individual to recognise that coaching takes time. Before hiring a coach, ask yourself if you are prepared to protect the time to allow the session to be as successful as possible. If not, consider the signals it may send to the organisation – and how it might minimise the impact of your investment. Before hiring a coach, it’s important to establish what you’re hoping to achieve

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