In multicultural workplaces such as those in the Emirates, where many employees are here for the short term, building a team seems like a tough proposition. But to succeed, companies must mine their "people advantage", says a new report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Klaus Kessler, a senior partner and managing director with BCG in the Middle East, explains why.
What are you saying in the report?
There are three imperatives for executives in the fast-growing economies. First, growth plans cannot rely on an unlimited supply of qualified talent. Talent needs to be grown over decades, mainly focusing on domestic opportunities - HR departments are strongly requested to shape recruiting plans. Those plans should first of all deal with the identification of pools. Second, in the short term, the domestic supply cannot match the demand, therefore adding expat talent is key and will make the difference for some time to come. Liaising with and appreciating the performance of non-locals and promoting them will be a key to success. Third, one has to anchor a spirit of 'nothing is more important than our human assets' throughout the organisation.
How many Middle Eastern companies were studied?
We did not include any companies from the region. Middle East companies have made significant strides in the field of HR, but are still not in the league of playing globally and hence are not facing the challenges of global companies. The research insights can enable them to learn from best practice and to anticipate the challenges lying ahead. The UAE is a great example of how well integration has worked. But two areas need improvement: transparency in feedback and emphasis on the value of collaboration.
What does that entail?
Just two ingredients: make sure that individuals improve continuously and have a sense of 'we are doing better together than separately'. Middle East companies can still improve in the way they are providing feedback. This is not just related to the frequency of the feedback, but also relates to a greater need to focus on individual development needs. Too often the feedback is related to the execution of past activities and less to what it takes to succeed at the next level. Collaboration is key as well - we need to focus on getting the most out of 'the overall', instead of just looking at departmental success. This is a big challenge: rotate personnel, decide on investments jointly, make sure that your own decisions benefit the realm of others. Best practice organisations leverage their employees and encourage them to ask themselves continuously: 'How do my activities add to the value generated by others, be they individuals or departments?'
In a multicultural place it is difficult to form a team. Do you agree?
Language barriers exist, but team members feel much more inspired when working with people from different countries. People are encouraged to learn from each other in a multicultural set-up. The multicultural aspect is a clear advantage for the Middle East to form adaptive organisations.