Al-Futtaim Group, which oversees a number of car, retail and technology brands, recently launched a management development programme to fast track its most promising Emirati employees. Zuhair Al Haj, the company's head of human resources, explains why the company launched the scheme and how it works.
Al-Futtaim employs more 20,000 people in the region. How many are Emirati?
We have 480 Emiratis. But we employ a lot of construction workers and [there are] other jobs like this. At the end of the day, you can't find an Emirati who is going to be a carpenter or [do] this sort of general job. Without these jobs, Emiratis make about 8 per cent of the workforce.
Your employee development programme is called Intilaq. What does this word mean?
It is an Arabic term which means start - but start with speed. You do not walk with intilaq. You use this term to describe a team running or racing a car.
Why launch this scheme now?
We know that there are a lot of new graduates coming out of the universities in the Emirates. Eight months ago we started visiting many of the universities, asking for their support and to get the CVs of Emiratis who are scoring high in their final year. We hope they can be put into high managerial levels at the end of this programme.
Only 20 graduates get accepted into the programme. What does their 18-month programme entail?
Each graduate spends six months in two different departments. The trainee selects the third division where they want to develop [for the final] six months.
So the graduates get to decide which one of Al-Futtaim's divisions they get to work in?
We have a talent development manager who is exclusively assigned to the graduates and helps them decide which division they eventually work in. We have seven divisions: automotive, electronics, engineering and technologies, retail, financial services, general services, real estate. The graduates are then assigned to senior managers in the division itself to give them fast-track delivery of knowledge. It's really up to them to select where they go.
Was your scheme created in response to the Government's renewed push to employ a higher number of young Emiratis?
We are not following a government quota. They are giving companies the freedom to employ Emiratis as an option. We now have Emirati students who are coming every year from the UAE, Canada, the US, the UK and Europe that are all well educated.
Is the private sector becoming more attractive to Emiratis?
The government sector is fully loaded with Emiratis and the problem is that getting a promotion or a challenging position is becoming difficult. The private sector is the new sector for graduates because they can develop their career faster. If they want to move to the government sector after that, I'm sure there will be opportunity.